Volume 11, Issue 7 - September 2010


Want to Save a Cool $40 Grand?
by Tara Taffera

4 Companies Find Out How
Many companies talk about saving money and being green, but don’t always translate talking into doing. DWM/Shelter talked to four different companies who will save at least $40,000 in utility costs through significant improvements made in their facilities. While all used different strategies, all experienced significant savings. So no matter what your business, if you have a manufacturing facility where you’re spending thousands of energy costs, learn what others have done to make improvements.

1. Thermal Industries (a Division of Atrium), Pittsburgh, Pa.
What they did: Replaced all plant lighting
Estimated annual savings: $50,000 (650,000 kilowatt hours)

Todd Rascoe, vice president of operations at Thermal Industries, is thrilled with the estimated $40,000-50,000 the company will save in energy costs this year. Yet cost wasn’t the main driver when the company started researching new lighting for its 165,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. (Thermal's parent company, Atrium, did file for bankruptcy in January of this year, restructured its balance sheet and reached an agreement with its lenders to reduce its outstanding debt by more than $350 million; or more than 50 percent of its existing debt. However, Rascoe says the lighting improvements is not a bankruptcy matter and was part of the company's long-range planning process since early 2008.)

Tips for Your Plant
Thermal Windows vice president of operations Todd Rascoe has some advice to offer other companies considering electrical savings upon his recent experience:
• Know your consumption of electricity;
• Learn about state grants available;
• Be patient when it comes to working with utility companies. “It is an arduous process, but well worth it,” he says; and
• Constantly evaluate your factory. “The factory changes continuously so always look at this (factory layout, i.e., placement of thermostats) during your continuous improvement process,” says Rascoe.

The 1950s block construction building had fluorescent task lighting and says the company wanted to make an improvement from the lighting that placed a yellow cast with more updated lighting with brighter white light.

“All employees now have a much easier time looking at their work on the plant floor,” says Rascoe, who adds that less concentration is required when employees can see more clearly.

He explains that employees frequently work with shades of materials that are similar so now the varying shades stand out to the plant worker.

“They are saying their jobs are easier and the quality of work has improved,” he adds.

Thermal Industries completed the lighting transformation in May 2010. The installation took about six weeks to install 1,000 fixtures, and was all done on off shifts.

Rascoe says the new lighting offers a 50 percent reduction in energy costs. The company also
reduced the total number of lighting fixtures in the building as the general plant lighting provided effective light without the need for additional task lights. This is huge, particularly given the fact that Pennsylvania will experience a 30 percent rate increase in power costs in 2011. Thermal’s utility provider, Allegheny Power, encourages its commercial customers to decrease their energy usage.

And, as an added bonus, Thermal received a $40,000 state grant to aid in the undertaking of this project (see box at below).


Reaping Rebate Rewards
The monthly cost savings from plant improvements is worth the investment itself, but to make this scenario even more attractive many energy companies also offer grants to its commercial customers. Take the time to research what your utility offers, and here is a look at a few programs of which DWM/Shelter magazine readers took advantage.

Allegheny Power, Utility Provider to Thermal Industries
Allegheny Power offers Watt Watchers for its commercial customers, a commercial and industrial rebate program for its Pennsylvania customers.

According to the organization’s website, the law (Act 129) requires utilities to develop cost-effective plans to reduce electricity consumption by 1 percent by 2011, and by 3 percent by 2013. Additionally, the Act requires a 4.5 percent reduction in peak demand by 2013.

In response, Allegheny proposed and received approval for energy efficiency programs for residential, commercial and industrial customers.

Act 129 calls for the programs to be funded through customer rates. Customers who take advantage of one or more of the new programs have the opportunity to offset that amount and save much more over the years.

2. Sunset Moulding Chico, Calif., Facility
What they did: Installed ground mount tracking solar electric system.
Estimated annual savings: Will stabilize energy costs and will produce more than one million kilowatt-hour of energy annually.

In an effort to provide predictable energy costs at its Chico, Calif., facility, Sunset Moulding Co. recently completed the installation of a 565kW single-axis ground mount tracking solar electric system. The project was financed, constructed and operated by Pacific Power Management while Sunset Moulding Co. has agreed to purchase the solar electricity through a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA).

With rapidly rising energy costs, the solar installation will help stabilize the power costs for manufacturing at this site, according to the company. The system will produce more than one million kWh of energy annually while reducing the company’s carbon footprint by displacing more than 96 million pounds of carbon dioxide and provide enough power to supply 7,973 homes over a 25-year period.

“Pacific Power made it easy for us to make the decision to go solar. We wanted to be as green as possible for our environment while still being prudent with capital expenditures,” says John A. Morrison, CEO of Sunset Moulding. “By entering into a PPA with Pacific Power we were able to accomplish both of these objectives and have the added advantage of stabilizing and reducing our energy cost[s].”

The company is headquartered in Yuba City, Calif., and operates three manufacturing sites.

3. Amesbury Group,Textile Facility, Statesville, N.C.
What they did: Completed a compressed air reduction project and changed plant lighting.
Estimated annual savings: $41,000 annual electricity cost savings in the extrusion department and $32,000 in lighting improvements.

Recently the Amesbury Group’s Textile Facility, part of its Sealing Solutions Division, completed a compressed air reduction project that will yield a $41,000 annual electricity cost savings in its extrusion department.

The process began when Joe Henry, engineering manager at Amesbury Textile in Statesville, N.C., was appointed as the green corporate coordinator for Amesbury Group’s manufacturing plants located in Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Minnesota, South Dakota, California and Juarez, Mexico.

“We wanted to know what we could do to make our products greener, make the environment greener, and save energy at our facilities,” says Henry. “Energy, solid waste and recyclability are our three major initiatives at every facility nationwide.”

A review of the textile facility in North Carolina revealed a huge energy drain from the use of compressed air in the blow-off and drying of plastic extrusion window insert. The production process involves running hot plastic through a die to create the desired profile, then extruding it into a quench bath for cooling. The product was then dried by the plant’s 100hp air compressor with its nozzles configured to provide 360-degree air coverage over the thin, grooved extrusion.

“The compressed air worked, but required nearly three quarters of our total plant air consumption for just these extruders,” says Henry.

That led him to search for alternatives to compressed air, and ultimately to Sonic Air Systems Inc. based in Brea, Calif. Sonic designs and manufactures high-velocity air blower and air knife systems for a variety of industries.

“We did an ROI analysis, and Sonic did their analysis, then we compared the results. We wanted to make sure we were very close to each other’s estimates. We were,” says Henry.

“The system will pay for itself in a little over one year,” he says. “That’s a 76 percent savings in energy costs by switching from compressed air to blown air. This is something we can take to every one of our facilities that extrudes.”

“Energy and cost savings were number one,” adds Henry. “I went into this thing to reduce energy by 20 percent, and we are [saving] more than that. Management is very excited about the energy savings.”

Soon, the solution will replace compressed air at all of Amesbury Group’s ten facilities, starting with Bandlock in Ontario, Calif.

Amesbury didn’t just save money through the compressed air project. It also replaced all of its 400 watt high pressure sodium and metal hay lights to 135 watt T8 fluorescent lights. That saved the company another $32,000 at its Statesville facility and the company also will make this change at all of its facilities as well.

Henry says the lighting especially is something many manufacturing facilities can implement.

“Customers often ask us about our green initiatives and we always talk about our lighting and blower project,” says Henry. “It absolutely gets them thinking about their own facilities. The lighting is almost a no brainer.”

Advice on Compressed Air
Going through the process himself, Henry offers an important tip.

Record a lot of data. This is imperative to make sure this makes sense for your facility. A lot of people don’t realize how much air costs. Look at what you are consuming and spending on air compressors and what the payback would be.

4. PGT Industries, N. Venice, Fla.

What they did: Replaced facility roofing and lighting and installed a cumulative air compressor.
Estimated annual savings: $324,000

By the Numbers
PGT says it is saving 7.5 percent in energy costs.
Here’s a look at how it all breaks down.


When PGT Industries recently made several energy-efficient enhancements in its plant in N. Venice, Fla., facility, the results were significant. David McCutcheon, vice president of the company’s Florida operations, says PGT has saved 7.5 percent in annual energy costs by implementing several new projects in its plants—a total of $324,00, after an investment of about $2.3 million.

“Probably the most significant thing we’ve done is install an insulated solar-reflective roofing material on our 400,000-square-foot door/window plant and our 80,000-square-foot glass plant, both in North Venice, Fla.,” he says. “This has cut our air conditioning costs by as much as 50 percent in the hot Florida summer months. We also received a six-figure utility credit for the roofing improvement.”

The roof, which cost approximately $2 million, is covered with a water-resistant membrane that is designed for better protection in the company’s hurricane-prone climate.

The company also installed a high-efficiency, high-capacity air compressor that feeds the door/window plant, and added accumulator tanks that fill when plant demand is low and are drawn from when plant demand is high. 

“This reduces the load on our plant air compressors resulting in better efficiency and lower energy usage,” says McCutcheon.
McCutcheon says the air compressor cost approximately $103,000, resulting in an annual savings of $30,000.

The company has also made other significant improvements including:
Replacing its metal halide high-bay light fixtures with high-efficiency T5 lighting. The project cost $48,000, resulting in savings of $20,000.
Installation of a cooling tower that re-circulates water through or glass laminating autoclaves. The cooling tower project cost $145,000—but saves the company approximately $45,000 annually in energy costs.
Purchase a non-contact infrared thermometer. “It’s like a laser gun that one can point at electrical busways, control panels, switch gears, motors, etc. and it tells you if there are hot spots,” says McCutcheon. “These hot spots could mean you have phase issues or other problems with your electricity which can lead to overheating and costly repairs. We use the gun for early detection, and that saves energy.” Though the thermometer cost $10,000—it actually is saving the company that much annually.
Installed its own R5 windows in the clean rooms in its facilities. Though the installation of the windows cost approximately $20,000, PGT says the R5 windows are saving it approximately $9,000 annually in energy costs.

McCutcheon says PGT is definitely pleased with the end result of all these improvements.

“We’re saving a significant amount of money and the investment will pay for itself over the next few years,” he says.

Tara Taffera
is the editor/publisher of DWM/Shelter magazine.




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