Not Registered? The Southwest Gas Energy Line and associated newsletters are unique services offered only to our customers.
Log In or Register now to gain full access to a variety of tools and information designed to help your business.

Got Downtime? Find New Ways to Save Energy and Boost Productivity

Key Points
  • Make the most of downtime by looking for ways to cut energy costs and improve performance.
  • An energy audit can identify opportunities for reducing consumption.
  • Your facility may be eligible for a no-cost energy audit through the U.S. Department of Energy.


Many facilities face occasional downtime due to economic slumps, business cycles, surplus inventory, and so on. Why not make the most of that downtime by looking for ways to cut costs and improve productivity? Reducing energy use is not only a great way to lower operating costs; it can reduce your environmental impact as well. And, energy-conservation programs can be combined with health, quality, and environmental initiatives to improve overall performance. An energy audit is a proven tool for finding energy-saving opportunities, and an important first step in comprehensive energy management.

Facility energy assessment

Energy audits are usually administered by professional consultants, but you can also conduct your own. In a typical manufacturing facility, production equipment consumes the most energy and presents the greatest opportunity for energy savings. A comprehensive audit will include production equipment, building systems, and operating and maintenance practices. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Industrial Energy Audit Guidebook covers the key elements in preparing for an energy audit. As you begin the process, keep the following action items in mind:

Motors, drives, and controls

  • Replace old motors with new, high-efficiency NEMA Premium® models and mark others for replacement in the future. Depending on the size, high-efficiency units can provide savings of up to 5 percent.
  • Replace standard V-belts with notched, high-torque belts.
  • Turn off equipment when not in use, or install timers, sensors, or other controls for automatic operation and shut-off.
  • Replace oversized motors with properly sized, high-efficiency models.

Fans and pumps

  • Replace fans and pumps with more efficient models, or reduce fan speed with a motor replacement or by re-sizing the pump impeller.
  • Install a variable-speed drive (VSD) on cooling tower fans to reduce fan speeds during periods of low demand.

Compressed air systems

  • Install a smaller compressed air system for use during off-peak hours.
  • Repair air compressor leaks to maintain a lower discharge pressure.
  • Maintain modulating controls, lubricate the compressor, and clean or replace the intake filter on a routine schedule.
  • Replace cooling and material transfer compressed-air applications with fans or mechanical, motor-controlled equipment.

Steam systems

  • Inspect steam traps regularly. One malfunctioning steam trap can cost thousands of dollars per year.
  • Upgrade controls; wireless steam trap monitoring systems are now available.
  • Review the effectiveness of the water treatment program; successful water treatment will reduce boiler blowdown and the accompanying energy loss.
  • Insulate the major components of the steam system.
  • Repair leaks immediately; energy costs associated with steam system leaks can be substantial.

Process heating

  • Set appropriate temperatures for part-load processing to save energy and avoid overheating.
  • Increase insulation on process heating equipment to reduce heat losses and save up to 15 percent on energy costs.
  • Use direct natural gas firing instead of indirect steam heating and save up to 45 percent on energy costs.
  • Install a condensing economizer on boilers and other combustion equipment to recover heat from the flue gas for energy savings of up to 90 percent or more.

Heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC)

  • Have your heating and cooling system checked and cleaned by a qualified technician regularly.
  • Make sure walls and ceilings are well-insulated and the building envelope is air sealed properly.
  • Upgrade older space conditioning units with newer, more energy-efficient models.
  • Ensure that space conditioning systems are sized properly; oversized systems can waste a substantial amount of energy.
  • Use a building control system to adjust building temperatures on nights and weekends.


  • Replace T12 fluorescent lamps with high-efficiency T8 or T5 models. T12 lamps are no longer manufactured for sale in the United States due to energy-efficiency regulations.
  • Consider light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for specific applications like task lighting.
  • Replace magnetic ballasts with energy-efficient, electronic, controllable ballasts. Building codes and manufacturing standards are mandating a change to electronic ballasts.
  • Consider group relamping; this will save on maintenance costs and optimize light output.
  • Install lighting control equipment such as dimmers, timers, and sensors.

Start saving today

The Tools You Can Use menu located at the top of each newsletter is loaded with resources to help you save energy. The Commercial or Industrial energy benchmarking tools will provide industry-specific energy use data to help you get started. The Facility Assessment Wizard provides energy-saving recommendations tailored to the needs of your facility.

Your facility may be eligible for a no-cost energy audit through the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Manufacturing Office. Contact your local Industrial Assessment Center for more information.