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How food manufacturers slice away wasted energy costs

Male worker operating machinery in brewery. Full length of professional is holding digital tablet while working amidst metallic vats. He is in beer industry.

Nearly a quarter million Canadians earn their own bread by working in the food and beverage industry. It’s the largest manufacturing employer in the country. Not surprisingly, many managers in this sector are as serious about taking wasted energy dollars off the table as they are about putting food on it.

Energy savings start with knowledge. Companies need to have good electricity data that shows their baseline consumption so they can see the impact of efficiency efforts. Without such data, companies can’t demonstrate the savings they realize.

See for yourself. Here’s a look at how two food and beverage manufacturers leveraged data to slash energy costs.

Lite Beer

Some of the energy savings measures food and beverage makers undertake are things any manufacturer can consider. Efficient lighting, for instance is a bright investment for just about everyone.

When Ontario’s largest Canadian-owned brewing company replaced 100 light fixtures and lamps with Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology, the company’s annual hydro bill dropped by 290,000 kilowatt-hours, which worked out to a 13-per-cent reduction. That equaled more than $21,000 in electricity cost savings.

The brewery didn’t stop there, either. It also lowered expenses by installing variable-frequency drive (VFD) motors and automated controllers on some of the 150 motors used within bottling processes. VFDs reduce motor speed to match load, so the motor uses less power. A 20-per-cent reduction in motor speed can deliver as much as 50 per cent in energy savings.

An industrial baking facility in Ontario also saw tremendous savings with VFD motors and LED lamps. In addition, that site cut compressed-air discharge pressure from 99 psi to 93 psi and reduced an evaporative cooling fan from 7 to 5 horsepower. Those few moves slashed energy use by more than 300,000 kilowatt hours.

Blowing Hot Air

A lot of people think of fans as a poor person’s air conditioner, but for high-ceiling industrial spaces, these highly efficient air circulators are also a great way to cut heating costs. That’s because convection often leaves these sites with chilly production space and warmth that’s way above the reach and comfort of facility workers.

Convection occurs when hotter, less dense material rises and colder, denser material sinks due to gravity. In industrial spaces, convection happens quickly because air that comes from a forced-air heating system can be as much as 10 per cent lighter than the air that’s already in a facility.

That transfer of heat creates what’s known as a thermal stratification, a temperature difference that can be huge. One warehouse in Superior, Wisconsin, a three-hour drive from Ontario’s Southern border, reported temperature differences as much as 30 degrees Fahrenheit between thermostat and ceiling levels of the building. If it was 14 degrees Celsius on the production floor, where workers were doing their jobs, it was 31 degrees up at the top of the building.

That facility installed two high-volume, low-speed (HVLS) ceiling fans, which can disrupt thermal stratification because they move a large volume of air slowly, so there’s not the draft you typically associate with ceiling fans. This pushes the warm air all the way back to floor level, resulting in a much more comfortable workspace and lots of savings on the heating bill.

When that warehouse in Wisconsin installed six HVLS fans, it virtually eliminated thermal stratification and cut the company’s natural gas consumption by some 25 percent. Using the same approach, an Ontario liquor distributor with a 125,000-foot-facility and 34-foot ceilings cut gas consumption 19 percent over Canada’s nine-month heating season.

HVLS fans can also cut down on electricity use, as they can reduce the number of ventilation fans a site may need.

Of course, knowing just how much energy you save from HVLS fans, LED lights, VFD motors or any other energy efficiency move requires consistent consumption tracking. That’s easy to do with the Bruce Power Saver, a cloud-based solution that gives you a comprehensive view of your electricity use across your entire organization.

Even if you’ve started making energy efficiency moves, it’s not too late to see how effective your efforts are compared to past bills and going forward. The system will analyze your historic consumption along with your bills.

With consistent, ongoing awareness of how you’re doing with electricity use, you’ll be able to make data-driven decisions about how to keep your savings growing. Think of the data you get from the Power Saver as food for energy-efficiency thoughts. That data will help ensure electricity bills don’t eat up more of your profits than they should.

Learn more about the Bruce Power Saver