This article originally appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of Food Manufacturing.

The Food Manufacturing Brainstorm features industry experts sharing their perspectives on issues critical to the overall food industry marketplace. In this issue, we ask: What steps can food manufacturers take to reduce energy costs?

Refrigeration costs account for the majority of a plant’s total electrical costs, often exceeding 60 percent of total operating expenses. As energy costs continue to increase, more and more food manufacturers are realizing the need for energy optimization and monitoring as a way to increase productivity and lower energy costs.

The key drivers in managing energy efficiency are:

  • Reducing operational costs.
  • Utilizing existing systems to reduce equipment costs.
  • Analyzing the ROI for new energy savings projects.
  • Conducting a power quality assessment.

Most refrigeration systems are designed to optimize the efficiency of each individual component rather than looking at the entire system as a whole and ensuring that all components work together efficiently. Many manufacturers add new equipment without regard to the impact on the total system, leading to wasted energy and operational inefficiencies. Here are some steps manufacturers can take to reduce energy costs:

  1. Audit. Identify deficiencies and establish baseline usage.
  2. Design. Select the proper equipment based on size and compatibility and install VFDs.
  3. Energy Recovery. Capture waste energy and reuse it.
  4. Maintenance. Conduct regular maintenance to check for dirty filters, broken sensors, failed insulation and other malfunctions that could be wasting energy.
  5. Monitoring. Know how much, when and where energy is being used. Install alarms and monitoring systems to identify inconsistencies and trends that could be wasting energy.
  6. Operations. Optimize your set points or put in controls to do it automatically to better manage processes and efficiency.