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Scary-high energy consumption? Slay vampires and nighttime power hogs

Nighttime energy efficience

If it shines bright, gives light, hums, whirrs or glows, you may be able to turn it off, save energy and save some dough.

Remember that old Scottish prayer, “From ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, good Lord, deliver us!” Well, if the thing you fear is hair-raising energy bills, why not confront your fear … at night!

Chances are, there a host of things you could turn off, turn down or automate to save energy. Following are a few ideas to help you get started.

Unshroud the mystery

Your first step should always be discovery. You’ll want to have a detailed look at how much energy you use now so that you’ll have a baseline against which to measure results of your efficiency efforts.

Ideally, you’ll also want to look at energy use hourly. Why? Because that’s how you’ll know if nighttime energy use is out of line with the activity occurring at your facility.

One way to see hourly consumption patterns is with energy management software like the Bruce Power Saver. It gives you a way to easily analyze hourly consumption data and see how that hourly data changes each month. If your site is equipped with smart meters – and it probably is – you may also be able to download hourly usage reports from your utility, but tracking and analyzing that data will likely require much manual intervention.

Target vampire loads

Before you leave your office, plant or warehouse tonight, turn off all the lights and just have a look around. See all those little green and red lights? The digital displays? The occasional glow here and there? What about noise? Can you hear things humming? Are fans blowing?

If you can see lights or hear machines that don’t need to be on, you’re detecting phantom loads – a.k.a. vampire loads – and studies show that they can suck up as much as 10 percent of the electricity used by the average Canadian home. Vampire loads are not well documented in industrial settings, but one study that measured building appliances in Switzerland showed that as much as 36 per cent of total electricity consumption was due to equipment being left on in standby mode at nights and weekends.

You can bet vampire loads are in your business, too. According to one U.S. Department of Energy lab’s studies, the average laptop computer draws 30 watts when charged, 44 watts when charging, 15.8 watts when in sleep mode and 8.9 watts when off but still plugged in! Desktop computers use even more energy: 74 watts when in use and 24 watts when in sleep mode.

If these relatively small devices are consuming this much vampire energy, just imagine how much the big pieces of equipment in your plant could be using. Even simple forklift chargers have a big phantom load.

Researchers at Western Michigan University evaluated a facility where forklift batteries required only six hours of charging per night to reach full capacity, but the chargers were being left on 24/7, and each one drew 214 watts of vampire power. By replacing the batteries in use and improving charging processes, the facility cut consumption on charging operations by 58 per cent.

So, how can your business cut phantom loads? In the office, you can make it easier for employees to switch things off before going home for the day by placing power strips in an accessible spot.

In a manufacturing facility or warehouse, you could assign one employee to shut down equipment at the end of his or her shift and another to come in early to power things back up again so that equipment is warmed up by the time workers arrive. Formal start-up and shut-down procedures, when made part of an employee’s job, are almost as good as automation at eliminating vampire loads and saving energy.

Scheduled timers can make a difference, too. By installing timers on forklift chargers, Levitt-Safety, a company that offers a variety of safety-related equipment and supplies, was able to lower demand in one facility by 20 per cent. Costs dropped by 4 per cent.

Let there be less light … but still enough

Lighting is another great place to target energy savings, and there are a few often-overlooked ways to cut down on it at night.

One is your break-room vending machines. Do they stay on all night when there’s no-one around to buy a candy bar or bag of pretzels? Put them on a timer, and you’ll save on their operating costs.

Parking lot lights are another place where you can save energy.  If your office or plant has little or no staff working at night, consider shutting down lights in remote parts of the parking lot. Or, lower lights after a certain hour by shutting down part of the lighting load.

One Ford dealership in Longmont, Colorado replaced metal halide fixtures with programmable light emitting diode lamps that are dimmed from closing until 2 a.m., when they’re shut down entirely. The site reduced annual electric usage by approximately 258,000 kilowatt-hours and slashed utility bills by more than $17,000 in U.S. dollars each year.

With savings like that, who needs to be afraid of the dark? Bring it on and turn things off. Save energy – and cash – at nighttime.

The benefits of energy efficiency don’t just stop at lower electricity bills. Check out our latest infographic for ideas on non-energy benefits of energy conservation efforts.

Download Non-Energy Benefits Infographic Here!