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Advanced Engineering 2021

NEC Birmingham(B40 1NT)

03/11/2021 - 04/11/2021

Join us in our 12th and most important edition to date, as we invite engineers and management from all (more)

More knowledge equals less power

More knowledge equals less power
Dave Manning-Ohren of ERIKS explains how the use of simple monitoring techniques and data analysis can cut power bills.

It won't come as a shock to learn that power is expensive, or that wasted energy can add many thousands of pounds to factory costs each year - that's money that comes straight off the bottom line. Of course, recognising the need to reduce energy consumption and then having the time and resources to make positive change, when you're faced with a hundred and one other often more pressing day to day issues, can be a considerable challenge.

Nevertheless, the need to reduce energy consumption, even in relatively efficient production operations, is growing; and with impending and tougher legislation, combined with the need to maintain margins in a sluggish UK economy, will become an increasingly important business imperative. It should be recognised that there is rarely a quick fix, or that simply addressing one aspect of a business operation will solve all problems. Instead, the solution is likely to lay in a gradual, step-by-step approach to many different areas where energy is being wasted: for example, through unlagged pipes, poorly fitted refrigerator doors, unregulated motors, pumps or fans, and leaking compressed air lines.

The first step, however, is to understand where problems exist, to draw up an action plan and then to prioritise the most appropriate steps. This can be achieved using one of a number of services from external contractors, available from companies such as Eriks, or be carried out by internal maintenance or FM staff. In each case, there are several key techniques that can be used, which most importantly include thermography, for monitoring heat loss from machinery and buildings, as well electrical power logging, ultrasonic and vibration analysis for determining the operating condition and therefore efficiency of production equipment. 

Detecting heat loss is a simple and, if measured correctly, extremely accurate method of determining energy wastage.  In essence, by identifying hot spots in the structure of a building or in operating equipment, it's possible to pinpoint areas where energy can be saved. With production equipment in particular, the presence of components running at elevated temperatures will indicate potential mechanical problems, perhaps caused by poor lubrication, bearing wear or shaft misalignment. Regular temperature monitoring can therefore help improve uptime and extend the operating life of equipment, as well as showing areas where energy is being wasted.

Temperature monitoring can be carried out quickly and simply, using hand held thermal imaging cameras. These measure heat emitted as infrared radiation and convert the information gathered to a readout in visible light, with varying intensities of temperature being represented by different colours. 

The latest devices are lightweight, compact and robust and can provide high levels of accuracy and image definition, giving sharp images even when the camera or target is moving. They can be used both for high and low temperatures, so are equally useful for areas such as cold stores or processes where chilling or freezing is required, and the latest instruments include features such as picture in image (with a camera image being superimposed in the thermal display), with the ability to carry out comprehensive analyses in camera, or to download data to a laptop for trend analysis. The key to success with all technologies is ensuring that the people using the devices are competent, experienced and certified to ISO18436, which is run by the British Institute of Non-destructive Testing (BINDT).

Energy can also be wasted by compressed air, steam and gas leaks, and by worn bearings, misaligned shafts and discharges in faulty high voltage systems. In most instances these problems can be difficult to detect either visually or aurally, as any sound emitted is generally at frequencies between 20kHz and 100kHz, which is outside normal human hearing.

Again, detection is relatively straightforward with the appropriate equipment. In this case, fixed or hand held meters, which essentially convert signals to the audible range and present them in the form of a graphical display. Although interpretation requires a degree of experience, the results can be remarkably accurate, especially when used in areas where there is a saturation of gases or where a wide variety of gases, pressurised vessels and vacuum processes exist.

Vibration monitoring
Although vibration can be a specified machine function, it is most frequently taken to be an indicator of inefficiency which causes heat, noise and thus energy losses. Most vibration occurs within systems with rotating or reciprocating motion, often where it is hard to detect and where it only becomes obvious when components - typically bearings and seals - fail.

Measuring vibration can be achieved by attaching accelerometers to the bearings of key plant and either permanently connecting them to a plant-wide monitoring system, or plugging them into portable meters. In each case, data is normally collected over time, so that deterioration in operating conditions can be identified and resolved before problems occur.

Energy prices will continue to rise and companies that are wasting energy through poor management or maintenance practices will inevitably be penalised both through increased operating costs and, as consumer and legislative demands grow, through loss of custom and perhaps through fines imposed by statutory bodies. So unless your business has deep pockets, you need to treat energy efficiency as priority. That may mean investment in new equipment, but the most important first step is to use simple techniques to ensure that your existing plant is not simply pumping your profits straight into the atmosphere.
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