Improve Energy Efficiency in Food Processing for Cost Savings
Grainger Editorial Staff
Every facility should, at some point, consider revamping its energy management strategy. If you have specific food and beverage production needs, however, simply adding more insulation or ventilation may not be the best approach. Food production facilities with machinery, processing, lighting, and refrigeration needs can create unique environmental conditions that strain standard energy management solutions. Facilities with these unique requirements should look to other options, such as active ventilation and zone-specific insulation to manage their energy consumption.
Food and beverage facilities can undertake a unique audit to better understand their specific needs. Your audit should include energy demands specific to food production including hot and cold machinery, insulation, and moisture. Adjustments can then be made to your facility based on the results of the audit.
What to Audit
While a standard facility audit looks at insulation, ventilation, lighting, and machinery, your audit will need to include refrigeration and freezing equipment, processing lines, moisture, and the unique temperature zones created during food production.
For food processing facilities in particular it's not enough to simply look at insulation and venting. While both forms of energy management make an impact on your overall use, food production often produces hot, cool, moist, and dry zones throughout the entire facility. Instead of passive methods to preserve energy, your facility will need to employ active solutions that move air and reduce humidity. Every choice you make—from equipment placement to the location of sensors—plays a large role in overall energy efficiency.
Efficient Insulation and Ventilation
Food production facilities are more like data centers than warehouses because they can't rely on insulation throughout the building to effectively manage energy. Too much passive insulation in the wrong location can lead to extremely hot zones that pose a danger to personnel, equipment, and operations. Likewise, reducing the insulation or venting can waste expensive cold air. Often refrigeration equipment can sit right alongside heat sources and other machinery, causing dramatic temperature zones that require more energy to normalize.
Food production facilities should consider a zone-based ventilation strategy with solutions appropriate for each unique area. Areas typically cooler than the rest of the facility can be passively vented or heated, even using waste heat from other parts of the facility. Hot areas (including processing and production lines) will need active ventilation to leave the facility at a temperature where equipment can efficiently operate. Facilities can even leverage pumps to move wasted cold air to hot zones, reducing the overall costs required to cool the entire facility. This balance not only reduces the energy needed to heat and cool the facility, but also reduces the likelihood of equipment overheating.
Inefficient lighting can account for a large portion of a facility’s energy bill. A wide range of solutions, such as a move to LED lighting, can increase the overall efficiency of your lighting while also creating long-term solutions.
LED lighting cuts the energy demand of existing fluorescent or incandescent lighting by up to 90%. This energy reduction has an immediate impact on your energy bill. LED lights can also reduce waste heat produced by lighting and provide a long-term, low maintenance option. Sensors can also be used alongside LED lighting to turn lights on only when a person enters a room.
While moisture is the enemy of equipment and controlled production processes, it also, perhaps most importantly, contributes to humidity. More moisture in the facility leads to more moisture in the air, increasing how hot a zone feels and increasing the wear on equipment.
Food production or storage can produce moisture and even small quantities can change energy use and comfort levels. When humidity makes the temperature seem higher indoors, the first step may often be to increase the amount of cooling. Cooling, however, can waste more energy than necessary, without actually solving the problem. A better solution for food production facilities are industrial-scale dehumidifiers which work to remove moisture from the air. Instead of turning on air conditioning, facilities can rely on their established energy management plans to provide efficient comfort.
Food production facilities have unique energy needs which necessitate unique solutions. By expanding the energy audit to take into account lighting and moisture requirements, food production facilities can take active measures to significantly reduce their energy bills which will ultimately boost their bottom lines.
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