Equipment Empowers Sustainability

The types, vintages and conditions of equipment can have a profound impact on the level of sustainability of an industrial operation. The right equipment enhances our efforts to be efficient, clean and productive, and the wrong equipment can hold us back.

Each and every piece of equipment deserves some level of scrutiny to determine whether it’s the most sustainable option for its job, and if it’s not, to be given a priority for remediation or replacement. But since most industrial facilities have thousands of pieces of equipment, it makes sense to start with major energy consumers, known trouble-makers, and equipment that typically demonstrates high potential for improvements.

For example, on average, compressed air systems use about 1/3 of all the electricity consumed by U.S. factories and plants. Systems that have not been recently audited and optimized typically waste 20% to 50% of that energy. Along with potential energy savings, auditing compressed air systems may reveal other opportunities such as wasteful air-powered processes and equipment, indoor air quality problems and excess hazardous waste in the form of oily condensate.

Motor efficiency has improved markedly in the past few years, so every motor-driven piece of equipment is an opportunity. Start with motors that run most or all of the time, and begin with the biggest ones. See if they’re matched to the load, and plan when and with what you’ll replace them.

Again starting with the largest sizes and highest duty cycles, consider every pump, fan and blower; whether it’s matched to its load and in a condition that allows it perform efficiently. Most equipment of this type consumes its purchase price in electricity in less than a year. Evaluate mechanical condition and consider retrofitting higher-efficiency motors, variable-speed drives and, if V-belts are present, higher-efficiency toothed-belt drives.

Older boilers also typically offer major opportunities for higher efficiency and a chance to consider possibilities like alternative fuels, cogeneration, heat recovery and district energy. New technologies and innovative applications are emerging frequently in this area, so never simply repair or replace a major fuel-consuming device like a boiler without brainstorming the possibilities.

Big equipment gets the most attention but every piece affects sustainability. From actuators to data centers, gearboxes to lift trucks, teach everyone in your facility to remember sustainability when they use, repair or replace a piece of equipment.

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