Could an Energy Audit Transform(er) Your Business?

How often do you check the small things like new messages on your phone? 10 times a day or more? But what about the really big things that may be having a huge impact on your business – like your energy usage and power quality? An energy audit may show up some surprises…

Vastern Timber is a leading timber merchant and saw mill specialising in British grown timber; it’s a business like many that uses considerable electrical power in its day to day operation and it’s a business with plans for growth.

Thomas Barnes, Director Vastern Timber: “We received a grant from the South West Growth Fund for capital expenditure for a new machine and as part of that project we had the opportunity to take advantage of an energy audit; that’s how we were introduced to Argand Solutions. The headline result that came out of this was startling: we were very close to running out of power – in fact as it stood then, we simply did not have the electrical capacity to support our expansion plans.”

It sounds obvious, but without checking we have no way of knowing what’s going on; that’s why we all keep a close eye on the easy measures that indicate business performance. But checking power quality? How common is that?

Alastair Gets, Argand Solutions’ Lead Analytics Engineer explains: “An energy audit is good practice for any business that uses large amounts of energy. We see many opportunities for energy reduction and cost savings through solar generation, more efficient equipment and branch circuit monitoring, but it’s the measures around what we call the ‘power quality’ that is often really significant; this is an area that not all businesses are familiar with, because it’s quite technical.”

One power quality measure is “power factor”, which, if low, means that not all of the energy that is available to you is useable. It’s a measure of the power that you are supplied compared to the power that you can actually use, or how efficiently the supply power is converted to useful energy. And this has many important cost implications:

Alastair Gets: “Many businesses pay a capacity charge (the kVA part of their bill) that they have agreed with their energy provider, so it’s a really good idea to improve your power factor as this means that you get more useful power (the kW used by your equipment) from the same supply. Better power factor reduces the amount of supply currently needed and can free up room on your transformer for expanded future needs.”

Thomas Barnes: “Energy audits are all about identifying opportunities and Argand are all about realising the benefits. In our case we took the route of power factor correction through the installation of a capacitor which has not only saved us money on our energy bills, but it was crucial in allowing us to go ahead with our expansion - all at a cost far less than just simply adding more power through an additional transformer - and we now have access to real-time visualisation of our energy use as well.”

Good power factor is important for efficiency and growth, but it’s crucial for many as it directly impacts the bottom line – and this will become more apparent with DCP 161 in April 2018 –

Alastair Gets: “Right now most businesses pay the same charge for the supplied power even if they exceed their agreed capacity limit, but this will change; some may pay up to three times as much for any power supplied that exceeds their agreed capacity level, so if you can get more useful power by improving the power factor within your existing supply, it’s more likely that you will stay within your agreed capacity limits.”

If you don’t measure then you don’t know. An energy audit is the way to discover and capitalise on potential efficiencies – just give us a call and we’ll talk you through the process.