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Energy Conservation - The Combined Systems Approach

Often times as an organization looks at ways to conserve energy for a given facility, independent systems are broken into small subgroups and new technologies are "fit" into the picture as applicable.  For example, with regard to electrical systems, what often occurs is that a facility manager is given the task to "reduce consumption".  The manager is then faced with deciding where to start, and what options make the most sense.  The most glaring technologies available typically becomes lighting systems (no pun intended).  Plenty of new lighting technologies exist which present themselves as seemingly "easy" retrofits.  Once a decision is made to proceed, the facility manager must coordinate fitting hundreds, if not thousands of new light fixtures or elements, over a period of time, which often becomes months or even years.  The labor and man-hours in implementing these types of "systems" can be staggering, and most often achieve a very slow payback once completed. 

When energy consumption is viewed from the broader aspect as a facility system, lighting is typically found to be less than 20% of overall load in most facilities.  Yet, the incentive is there to reduce energy consumption "somehow", so the projects are developed using the best methods believed achievable.  This is not to say lighting retrofits are not beneficial, but in most cases it can or should be viewed as a very slow way to reduce energy consumption and get a reasonable pay-back. It is a matter of how much "bang you get for the buck", and how quickly you get any bang at all.

When organizations begin looking at the real energy-hogs related to fuel consumption, the "bad guys" often becomes the boilers and cooling towers.   New trends show that large boiler plants are being replaced with multiple smaller boilers to better size capacity to load or heating demand.  It is an easy task to show that boilers operate most efficiently when they run closest to maximum output, which simply means when they run all the time.  Modulating burners are being heralded as the solution to further matching capacity to load.  Replacing boilers with newer, smaller, and more efficient boilers, or upgrading existing systems to the newer modulating burners, is very costly.  Savings returns for modulating boilers over the same units configured as a multi-stage units is typically projected as being well over ten years or more, yet the boiler manufacturers are happily guiding clients to purchase their most expensive wares as a way to help their clients feel "energy conscious".

Often times, great lengths are taken to increase building "envelope" efficiency, such as better glazing, insulation, doorways, etc., however it seems that the boiler system itself is most often thought to be operating at it's maximum design efficiency, and not much can be done to improve how it behaves.  In most cases, this could not be further from the truth!  It seems very odd that very little help is provided to clients when it comes to discussing ways to improve these systems efficiency in simple and cost effective ways.

  • The most significant "energy hog" in regard to boiler efficiency is scale formation in the heat exchangers.  A boiler system with only 1/8" of scale has lost over 20% of it's operating efficiency.  A 1/4" of scale is literally robbing your boiler of over 32% efficiency. This should be a shocking fact for any facility manager to consider!  Because scale formation is cyclical (from cleaning to cleaning), one must understand that the very day a boiler is cleaned, it is again heading toward operating at significantly lower efficiency.  Generally what the facility manager has to decide is, "how often do we clean?"  Most facility managers may be surprised to find that they could be cleaning the systems many times as often and still achieve lower operating costs when you factor in the energy consumption costs for not cleaning as often.  The question is, do you pay in labor, or do you pay the utility company.  Typically this problem is considered a task for the "chemical guy" to deal with, so we have created the first subdivision of the "systems" operational responsibilities.  The chemical guys.
  • The next most significant energy hog in regard to boiler efficiency is the stack.  When boilers are designed and tested, the unit is placed in a lab environment with a 2' stack, which is vented to a hood which has a slight draw to take the gasses out of the room.  The manufacturer tests the amount of fuel going in, and the amount of heat coming out, and gives their product an efficiency rating based on the findings.  The fact is, when this same boiler is placed in a facility, no design factors whatsoever have been taken into account for how the stack will effect the boiler 's operational parameters.  The architect has carefully designed a stack for the facility which will be sufficient to draft the plant per climate baselines and maximum expected load during the coldest climate periods.  Then maybe he throws in a little extra volume capacity "just in case" the mechanical engineer decides to specify a little larger boiler plant than needed (which in many cases happens as well).  As a heating plant system design is put together, no direct correlation between boilers and stack design ever takes place in most cases!  What an organization ends up with is boilers running at significantly lower than specified efficiency directly due to the excess stack draft conditions designed into the facility.  This is most often considered the architect's or mechanical engineer's problem, hence we have our next subdivision of the systems operational responsibilities.  The Architects and Building Engineers.
  • Next in the line of energy-wasters is the boiler control system itself.  Much effort is taken in subdividing space-heat areas into zones, since we all know that if you don't send as much heat to an area, less energy is required.  Strangely enough, not much is done to control how a boiler is reacting to the load in the first place.  A little intelligence in the boiler control system in regard to load control can go a long way to improve how the boiler is reacting.  What do we typically have in control of how a boiler reacts?  Usually all that is in charge here is a simple thermostat saying "turn on" when it feels cold, or "turn off" when it is warm again.  The stat has absolutely no idea of what is occurring out in the zones, or why all of a sudden it feels cold or hot!  What you end up with is boiler short-cycling.  The zone controllers, in the meanwhile, are busy little bees trying to keep their occupants comfortable and happy.  The boiler gets the brunt of the deal, constantly firing and turning off in a feeble attempt to provide heat as it thinks is needed "out there in the system", however all the information it has to go by is from the boiler stat.  It is literally fighting a battle with one arm tied behind it's back.  If you stand real close, you can hear the boiler saying "if I only had a brain!".  We know that when your organization broke out the checkbook for your boiler, you thought the manufacture already gave their boiler a brain.  Oh well, this is where the third subdivision of system operation responsibilities lye. The boiler manufacturer themselves.

Now that we have outlined the problems and why they occur, what can your organization do about it? 

This is where we come in!  We look at your heating plant as an overall system.  The technologies we are able to put on the table independently deal with each of the problems identified above, but when viewed as a "system", these technologies can, and will, have a tremendous impact on how your plant operates in regard to efficiency as a whole. 

Ask yourself this question.  Would a race team put together a car without matching all the engine components for maximum output?  A racecar is a SYSTEM, with careful attention paid to the engine, exhaust, control module and other systems, and ALSO how these systems affect each other as a whole.  This is our approach to maximizing the efficiency of a facility system.

  1. First, we eliminate all limescale from the system to keep the heat-exchangers operating at their maximum capacity by implementing Hydropath Technology. 

  2. Next, we eliminate excess stack draft by implementing the Stack Draft Regulator (SDR) system.  Now we have a boiler operating as close to manufacture specifications as you can get, but we don't stop there! 

  3. Finally, to wrap it up, we give the boiler a brain by implementing our Savastat LC unit to control how the boiler reacts to varying loads, in real time.  Oh happy day, when your boiler gets a brain!  Now the boiler knows when to fire and how long to fire under all the varying conditions it encounters.  Slick idea, huh?  You may have thought the manufacturer would have thought of this for us!  The bottom line is, they simply do not care how efficiently the boiler operates in your facility.  Once they put the energy sticker on, their job is done.

When we have completed Step 3 above, your organization will have a system which could well be operating at over 50% greater efficiency than before we started!  Sound too good to be true?  WE WILL SHOW YOU!  Actually, your energy provider does most of the work for us in showing the results, since you will quickly see the difference on your monthly bill!

If any other vendors or consultants can offer the solutions to the problems we have outlined above as an integral system or otherwise, we would highly recommend that you use them.  The fact is, they don't exist, and this is probably why you still are facing these problems!

Contact us today, or better yet, fill out and submit our Feasibility Study Agreement so we can begin to work with your organization to achieve energy efficiency at a level you once thought impossible to obtain.

Note: If your organization is currently engaged in constructing an EMS to meet ISO-14001 specifications, or simply struggling to meet up to your current EMS, we can help you meet these goals!  Give us a call today! 


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