How United Mail is Reducing Energy Consumption in the New Decade

Back to Posts
Energy Efficiency Evaluation

How United Mail is Reducing Energy Consumption in the New Decade

We all set goals and resolutions at the start of the year, and with a new decade often comes an even more goal-oriented and forward-thinking approach. United Mail is no exception. After identifying several areas for improvement in terms of energy consumption, reduction of carbon footprint, and increase in efficiency, we now not only have our own goals for the new year and the new decade but concrete steps we can take to achieve them.

Kentucky Industrial Assessment Center

Last year the Kentucky Industrial Assessment Center (KIAC) carried out a thorough energy efficiency evaluation at our Louisville, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio properties. We had this evaluation carried out as part of a project funded through the Advanced Manufacturing Office of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the U.S. Department of Energy, with project management provided by the Center for Advanced Energy Systems at Rutgers University. The goal of these industrial assessments is to identify, evaluate, and recommend opportunities for energy efficiency, waste minimization, and productivity enhancement at industrial sites. These assessments are carried out in person with the aid of diagnostic and measurement equipment.

The assessments resulted in a total of nine recommendations for the Cincinnati property and a total of eleven recommendations for the Louisville property, with opportunities to reduce total energy costs by 18% and 9% respectively; a total savings on energy costs of almost $40,000 a year, as well as a reduction in CO2 of over 200 tons per year.

Assessment Recommendations

Compressed Air

The assessments of both facilities returned recommendations to reduce air compressor pressure. The air pressure level for optimal operation at these facilities is around 90-100 psi, with a minimum of about 85 psi; however, most of the air compressors at these facilities were operating at anywhere from 112 to 200 psi. Since energy consumption in this instance is in part a function of air pressure, a simple reduction to 100 psi all around can offset over 15 tons of CO2 emissions per year.

A further 28 tons of CO2 can be offset in the Louisville facility through a reduction of compressed air use outside of necessary function, as well as a repair of leaks in the compressed air system. Fixing these leaks could potentially reclaim 20-30% of the compressed air energy output, as well as reduce fluctuations in air pressure in this system, which can further reduce maintenance and operational costs.

Heating and Cooling

A lowering of the heating setpoint during winter months can be a great way to reduce energy use and expenditures without incurring a cost of implementation. The only difficult part might be making sure that the temperatures are lowered only to a degree that does not impact the comfort and performance of employees. The KIAC has outlined a plan for heating reduction during winter months at both the Louisville and Cincinnati facilities in a way that will not draw any discomfort for the employees.

Likewise, an increase in the cooling setpoint can reduce unnecessary energy use and expenditures. The KIAC also recommended a decrease in energy use during hours of non-occupancy. Temperatures can be safely decreased in winter months, and increased in summer months, at times outside of normal operating hours for a further increase in energy efficiency and cost savings.

Illumination

The KIAC discovered a few big opportunities for improving efficiency in terms of lighting in both facilities, and they have identified ways to reduce the costs of lighting, without sacrificing employee comfort. One way to do just that is to reconfigure the lights. Reducing the height of the lights while also reducing the number of lights means that the facilities will still have the same illumination profile overall, but less energy will be used. Similarly, all bulbs can be switched out for higher efficiency bulbs, namely LEDs, which use less energy and last much longer than traditional filament lightbulbs or fluorescent lamps.

Occupancy sensors offer another solution for energy savings. Less-traveled areas don’t need to be illuminated with any consistency outside of actual occupancy. In other words, these areas should only be illuminated when they need to be. The installation of occupancy sensors in these areas at both facilities has the potential to eliminate 92 tons of CO2 emissions per year overall.

In the Cincinnati facility, the KIAC even identified an easily overlooked opportunity for improvement: the exit signs. It’s easy not to give much thought to these ubiquitous fixtures, however with 27 of them in the Cincinnati facility alone, and since these signs need to be illuminated 24/7, they were worth looking into. It turns out that replacing the lightbulbs in these signs with LEDs has the potential to mitigate 7 tons worth of CO2 emissions a year.

Motor Replacement Policy

Previously the policy regarding failed motors was to replace the old motor with the lowest cost option for a new motor. The KIAC has, however, determined that this might be a false economy. Their recommendation is for motors upon failure to be replaced with premium high-efficiency motors rather than the lowest-cost option. With a potential for increased operating lifespan as well as a decrease in overall energy consumption, this is actually a cost-saving measure even given the higher upfront cost.

Miscellaneous

The KIAC also identified several other opportunities for reducing energy use, cost, and carbon footprint while increasing efficiency. Simple routines such as closing bay doors can potentially eliminate 6 tons of CO2 emissions each year at the Louisville property. Similarly, establishing new routines about turning off production machines when they aren’t currently in use can reduce CO2 emissions by 3 tons annually. Refining these procedures can reduce energy use without any implementation costs.

Investment and Offset

Implementing many of these changes, such as keeping bay doors closed and reducing heating and cooling, have no implementation cost — that is, these energy and cost-saving measures can be undertaken without any upfront investment, and are instead engaged by way of establishing new routines and procedures. The same, however, cannot be said of all of these assessment recommendations. That said, although the implementation of some of the recommendations, such as replacing the light bulbs with high-efficiency bulbs, will involve an upfront cost, the KIAC has provided estimations of these costs. These estimations can then be compared against annual savings estimates to establish general timelines for the offsetting of these costs on both a case-by-case basis and on a property-by-property basis.

Lighting Fixtures and Occupancy Sensors

Lowering the lighting height and reducing the number of lights can have little impact on the overall illumination profile of a given space, and yet can save on energy costs. That said, there is an up-front investment cost associated with implementing these changes. For example, the KIAC estimates that this reduction in illumination at the Cincinnati property has an associated cost of about $1,200. With an estimated annual savings of about $300, it could take nearly four years to offset that cost.

The occupancy sensors offer a different story, however. With a relatively low implementation cost — purchasing and installing the sensors — and with a high annual savings of about $2,350 per year at the Cincinnati property alone, it should only take a matter of months to offset the cost of implementation in this case.

The exit sign case is somewhere in the middle. Although there would be a somewhat higher comparative cost associated with replacing all of the exit sign bulbs with LEDs, that cost is nearly the same as the yearly savings. This means that the time it would take to offset the investment in those LEDs for the exit signs is just about one year.

Motor Failure Protocol

The cost of implementing new protocols in terms of replacing failed motors is estimated to be about $595 in Louisville and over $6,000 in Cincinnati. That said, in both cases the savings associated with acting on these assessment recommendations are about $3,000 and $8,000 respectively. This means that even given the high upfront cost, especially at the Cincinnati property, both of these cases would be offset in under a year, with the Louisville costs being offset in as few as three months, and with the Cincinnati costs being offset in as few as nine.

Investing in High-Efficiency Lights

By far the highest cost of implementation is the cost of replacing all of the various types of low-efficiency bulbs with high-efficiency LEDs. With so many lights throughout both properties, the cost of fulfilling this assessment recommendation adds up. The KIAC estimates that the implementation cost of replacing these bulbs at the Louisville property would be around $8,000. Similarly, enacting this solution at the Cincinnati property would incur an even greater up-front investment cost of around $11,500. When considered alone, it could take around 4.3 years to recuperate the cost of implementation in the Louisville property, with an estimated annual savings of a little under $2,000. The Cincinnati property would need substantially less time to offset the cost of investment in higher-efficiency bulbs at an estimated 1.2 years, with an estimated annual savings of a staggering $10,000 a year. However, these figures can also be considered in conjunction with all of the other cost-saving measures enacted overall at each property.

Overall Offset

Since many of the assessment recommendations have no associated implementation cost and given that others have relatively short timelines for offsetting the costs, they can be viewed in conjunction with the solutions that do have a higher associated cost and longer projected timeline to establish a more practical, useful, and big-picture timeline to gauge the actual time it would take to offset investment costs. When all of the recommendations are viewed together, we can establish figures for overall implementation costs, overall annual savings, and therefore a more complete picture for the overall time needed to offset those costs at each property.

Final estimates for the Cincinnati property suggest that, when considering all implementation cost estimates together with all annual savings estimates, investment costs would be offset within the first ten months. Likewise, the estimates for the Louisville property suggest that investment costs would be offset in as little as a single year.

Our Own Initiative

Outside of the KIAC assessment recommendations, we also conducted our own research to determine that there is another way to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions. The KIAC report did point out that monthly energy cost averages have a very close relationship with outside temperatures. And while there isn’t exactly a way to control the energy output of the sun, it is possible to mitigate the absorption of the sun’s energy through lighter roof surfaces. We plan on painting the roofs white for this very purpose. Research suggests that doing so could reduce cooling costs by more than 10%. This would result in a further reduction of CO2 emissions, as well as a further increase in efficiency.

The Big Picture

The KIAC has come up with several opportunities for increasing energy efficiency while reducing spending on utilities and reducing overall carbon footprint. Although there are some costs associated with implementing these recommendations, overall savings will offset those costs within a year or less. Energy use will be cut back immediately upon implementation, and once investment costs are offset, these changes represent repeating annual savings. The same is true of our own initiative to lighten the roofs of these properties. We’re looking forward to a more efficient tomorrow!

If you have any resolutions for the new year and the new decade about increasing your marketing efficiency, give United Mail a call today. We’re here to help and look forward to hearing from you – Request a call today.

By Kenton Jetton

Share this post

Back to Posts