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In the picture on energy losses


Dave Manning-Ohren, of ERIKS, explores the latest technologies that are enabling energy losses to be identified and preventing thousands of pounds from being squandered on wasted power.

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In the wake of threats of further price hikes, power is now a more expensive and precious resource than ever before to many businesses. As a result, wasted energy has the potential to add many thousands of pounds to factory costs each year - that's money that comes straight off the bottom line. Considering this, together with the pressure to operate in an environmentally responsible manner to meet the requirements of the ever stringent raft of legislation, it is hardly surprising that energy saving and efficiency are often at the top of the agenda for a diverse range of organisations across many sectors.

Air leak survey

Accordingly, many businesses are now exploring the ways in which they can cut the amount of power consumed by their operations, with the logical first step being to identify where energy is needlessly wasted. Of course, it only takes a bit of common sense to realise some savings in this area, by simply switching off equipment when it is not in use, for example; however, it is not always as straightforward as this and sometimes requires more thought, with the installation of variable speed drives, correctly sized motors or new burners on furnaces and heaters.

Energy is also wasted in other more inconspicuous ways in a typical factory, including through unlagged pipes, poorly fitted refrigerator doors and leaking compressed air lines. To address these issues, specialist companies, such as ERIKS, now offer dedicated support packages that use sophisticated energy surveys and advanced techniques, namely thermographics, ultrasonics and vibration analysis, to identify the problems and allow action to be taken.

For example, thermographic surveys can be used to detect heat loss both in the fabric of a building and in electromechanical equipment, making them ideal for identifying drafts, cold spots and insulation needs, as well as construction failures that are causing heat loss, humidity and air leaks. This method employs specially designed cameras that can detect the energy lost through heat and converts it to a visible display, which assigns a colour relative to the intensity of energy usage. A thermal map can then be produced to illustrate where and how much energy is being lost in a building or through a piece of equipment.

Ultrasonics, on the other hand, uses advanced ultrasound techniques, to identify high frequency sounds in the range of 20kHz to 100kHz, which usually indicate air and gas leaks, worn bearings and faulty electromechanical equipment. Skilled operators can then interpret the findings of such a survey and translate this information for maintenance engineers who can take remedial action by repairing or replacing leaking air lines, for instance.

Finally, vibration analysis measures the movement in equipment that so often indicates component wear and, ultimately, inefficiency in the form of heat, noise and energy losses. This method uses a range of equipment including compact static accelerometers, which are permanently connected to plant wide monitoring systems, or portable meters and hand held probes, with data typically being collected over a period of time. This information is then used to identify any deterioration in operating conditions so that trends can be discovered and monitored, and minor problems resolved before a catastrophic and costly failure occurs.

The non-invasive nature of these sophisticated technologies means that they can often be implemented quickly and with no disruption to the site or production. As a result, these innovative techniques have experienced widespread uptake in recent years as more and more companies embrace best practice and increasingly search for ways to further refine energy efficiency.

For example, one leading UK brewery used thermographic surveys of the plant and equipment throughout its facility to realise savings of over £60,000 each year. Encompassing boiler houses, overhead pipe work, tank and brew houses, power rooms and outside areas, the survey analysed the energy loss in the facility and highlighted the hot spots through a series of digital photographs and thermographic images.

This thermal map then enabled the total power loss caused by convection and radiation to be calculated and indicated where the appropriate repair work needed to be performed. Over and above the power loss calculations and savings illustrated by the initial survey, a number of steam leaks were also identified; considering that even a Ľ" hole can cost over £200 per week, eliminating these leaks provided the brewery with further energy and cost saving opportunities.

Whether using thermographics, ultrasonics or vibration analysis, maintenance and facilities management staff can use these sophisticated techniques to understand where problems exist and quickly prioritise the most appropriate steps of action to remedy a situation that can potentially result in substantial unnecessary costs and lost productivity. Just as importantly, the significant energy savings that come as a result of these advanced technologies enable businesses to work in harmony with their sustainability and corporate social responsibility initiatives, while also boosting performance and delivering considerable bottom line benefits.

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