“Depending on the size of your organization and facilities, you can lower your electric bill by thousands of dollars every month just by following a few easy steps to increase the energy efficiency of your offices,” said Brook Stahley in his article, “10 simple ways to reduce business energy costs” for SunPower.com.
Thousands of dollars each month? Is that really possible?
Stahley was specifically addressing businesses located in offices, but many of his ideas are valid for manufacturing plants — for instance, “Get an energy audit.”
There are several resources for energy audits:
1. You can do a self-audit. SmartWatt.com has a checklist in its article, The DIY Building Energy Audit – Plastics Manufacturing.
2. You may quality for a free audit from the Federal government. “Small- and medium-sized manufacturers may be eligible to receive a no-cost assessment provided by the Department of Energy Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs).” According to its website, there are IACs at 31 universities around the country which conduct “energy assessments to identify opportunities to improve productivity and competitiveness, reduce waste, and save energy. IACs typically identify more than $130,000 in potential annual savings opportunities for every manufacturer assessed.”
Criteria to qualify for an assessment by an IAC include the following:
- Within Standard Industrial Codes (SIC) 20-39
- Located less than 150 miles of a participating university
- Gross annual sales below $100 million
- Fewer than 500 employees at the plant site
- Annual energy bills more than $100,000 and less than $2.5 million
- No professional in-house staff to perform the assessment
3. Check your utility company’s website to see if it offers free energy audits to its commercial customers.
Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the mobility industry, chose the third option. The company contacted its local electricity provider, Consumers Energy, and signed up for a free energy audit.
“Consumers Energy did a plant visit along with Flodraulic Group, a full-service pneumatics and hydraulics distributor,” said Dave Sanford, Operations Manager for Team 1 Plastics. He said that the audit revealed several ways that the company could save money on its energy bill. For example, “they proposed that Team 1 purchase a new air compressor to replace our oldest one. That would not only save on electricity, but there is a rebate available for that item as well.” Sanford said, “When our old compressor fails, we will replace it with a more efficient one – taking advantage of both energy savings and the rebate.”
Consumers Energy not only offers free audits, it also offers rebates to a company when it makes “certain energy saving improvements” to its facility. Sanford said that Team 1 Plastics has taken advantage of several rebates — receiving $7,500 in 2019. “The application process was easy to understand and follow, and the rebates were received fairly quickly.”
Other recommendations from the energy audit included the installation of LED lights – which Team 1 has done – and the use of programmable thermostats to reduce gas usage – which Team 1 is investigating. Not surprisingly, these items two items were also on Brook Stahley’s list: Install light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs and Install programmable thermostats.
Another item on Stahley’s list, Purchase energy-efficient office equipment could be easily adapted to the manufacturing environment by eliminating the word, “office,” changing the suggestion to simply “Purchase energy-efficient equipment.”
That is something that Team 1 Plastics has been actively doing. Sanford said, “Over the last few years, we have been replacing our hydraulic injection molding machines with new more energy-efficient electric molding machines. We currently have 27 injection molding machines, and only four of them are hydraulic.”
Sanford added, “We’ve been more focused on energy savings so if there is a piece of equipment that we need to purchase, we’ll look for ones that are more energy efficient and that have rebates. For instance, Team 1 is considering adding up-blast fans in the roof of the production facility to help reduce the heat in the summer months and increase air quality. If installed, these will have VFD (variable frequency drive) motors which reduce the cost to operate the fans, and there is a rebate for them.” Sanford added, “Having a rebate is not the only deciding factor on what to purchase, but it does give us some options and, at the end of the day, if we can qualify for a rebate, that makes it even better.”
Besides the energy audit, Sanford said that Team 1 Plastics also had a utility bill audit “to see where we could save money.” The company contracted with Tenurgy, “a Michigan-based telecom and utility expense management firm.” Sanford said the utility bill audit caused Team 1 Plastic to switch its energy plan with Consumers Energy to one that saves the company an average of $3,000 each month.
Team 1 Plastics also committed to participate for five years in Consumers Energy Commercial and Industrial Demand Response Program, which “compensates your business for temporarily reducing energy use and lowering demand on the energy grid,” according to its webpage. Sanford said that 2019 was the first year which the company had participated, and “it was a success. By participating in this program, we have the opportunity to receive a $8,400 credit each year for the next four years.”
Was Brook Stahley correct in his claim that “you can lower your electric bill by thousands of dollars every month”?
The answer from Team 1 Plastics’ perspective is a definite Yes!