If you haven’t been paying much attention to how you use energy, you may be wasting a lot of it—along with your money. If you have been paying attention, you’re doing yourself a huge favor; and guess what! You can save even more! But, like everything else, the amount of money and energy you can save with energy efficiency depends on many different factors.
At EMS, we understand each business has different operating conditions, financial limitations, and energy demands. In this article, we will explain the factors that ultimately affect the amount of money your business can save by upgrading to new energy efficient equipment.
For some types of equipment, energy efficiency has changed dramatically due to technology advances in just the last few years. For example, LED’s can save as much as 90% of the electric costs of incandescent lights, with paybacks of a few weeks to a few months. The change has been so dramatic that we have had clients upgrade their lights, and then upgrade their lights again three years later with more recent technology, each time paying off the system in 2 years. In one facility we worked with, replacing all the lights cut their electric bill by 2/3, but that is because lighting was their major electric use.
On the other hand, pump efficiencies have not changed that much in a decade or more, but pump controls have. With pump control changes we have saved our clients as much as 70% of their energy costs for water pumping. Your energy savings from upgrades can vary significantly, depending upon the technology you are currently using, how you are using it, and what technology options are available.
Applying a technology may make a big improvement at one company, but may only have marginal improvements at another company. At EMS, we are constantly evaluating and testing new technology to determine what technology is available, what technology is mature enough to safely implement and what technology makes sense in which conditions.
Hours of Equipment Use
Savings also depend upon how the equipment is used. Replacing a light in a closet will not usually save much money or energy if you rarely go into that closet, perhaps only saving you less than $1 per year. However, if a light in a retail store or in a three-shift production facility is replaced, the savings can be quite significant. Consider an innocuous old ‘Exit’ sign that uses only 30 watts, but uses those watts for 8,760 hours per year, costing $25-30 per year. Switching to an LED ‘Exit’ sign would reduce that cost to $0.70 per year. Multiply that by the number of ‘Exit’ signs in your facility and the savings will add up!
When looking at larger energy users, like refrigeration and some HVAC equipment that run 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, savings will really start to accumulate.
While operating hours are important, it is not just the total operating hours that dictate the energy savings. It is also the duty cycle—or loading on the equipment—that determines its energy use and the savings opportunities. An air conditioner may operate 24 hours per day for six months of the year, but its energy use varies with the time of day and month of year. The energy use also depends upon what the equipment is doing when it is not loaded. Older electronics used to consume almost as much energy while off as they did while on. Current electronics devices use much less energy when not operating.
Another important factor is the application of the equipment. Equipment is installed to serve a particular production or service requirement, but that requirement changes over time. If you look around, you will probably find at least some equipment that is either never running, or is running above or below capacity. Equipment that is running at different levels from which it was originally sized usually operates less efficiently. This change often happens gradually such that you may not notice how far out of specifications you have gotten. You might think that if it is still working, you are saving money by not replacing it, but you actually may be paying far more than you would if you replaced it.
We have replaced 50-horsepower pumps with 10-horsepower pumps not because the pumps are much more efficient, but because the lower horsepower pump was designed for the application as it is now, not as it was then. The payback for this change was less than two years.
Savings in Plain Sight
When you work with energy efficiency all the time like we do, we are often able to find savings that have been hiding in plain sight for years. Between your knowledge of your operation and our experience with energy, we have found lots of ways to save. These savings not only reduce energy and maintenance costs—sometimes they improve your working conditions, your responsiveness to changing conditions, and your employee morale.
Take a look around your operation with an eye for improving your efficiency and you will be amazed at the opportunities to save with energy efficiency. If you aren’t sure if you are seeing them all, please reach out to us. A commercial energy audit is a great way to uncover these opportunities. Energy audits provide a clear breakdown of how, where, and when electricity is used in your building, as well as the current electric costs and how electric rates apply to the facility and its uses. An energy audit determines the most effective lowest-cost means of reducing energy use. It presents a specific list of potential modifications with engineering and financial analyses that, if implemented, will yield energy savings. We guarantee we can help, or the audit is free.
For more information about the ways an energy audit will benefit your business, check out this article: