As temperatures increase in the summer months, so do the risks that are associated with a lack of proper cooling solutions at your manufacturing plant. Keeping the factory floor cool during the hottest part of the year is vital to providing your employees with a safe and comfortable work environment, and can also prevent equipment and machinery failure. However, reducing heat to the necessary level within a manufacturing workspace can prove to be a challenge, especially when you are working towards becoming more energy efficient or do not have the budget for updating or purchasing new cooling systems. For optimum efficiency in cooling the factory floor and the rest of your building without incurring high energy costs, consider implementing some of following best practices at your plant:
- Install High Volume Low Speed (HVLS) Fans. Proper air flow is key to reducing stratification. While standard fans may be able to provide some relief to employees, larger HVLS fans will be more effective when it comes to breaking up blocks of hot air and cooling the factory floor. Many HVLS fans are also programmable and can work together with other cooling equipment to lower temperatures. To ensure optimal results at your facility, you’ll need to consider a variety of factors, including blade size, the speed at which it rotates, and even the tilt of the blade. If you’re not sure which direction to go in, you can contact your local GaMEP region manager to help you find a reputable brand that can offer a variety of options and a free estimate.
- Change the Color of Your Roof. Generally, darker colors absorb heat, while lighter colors reflect the sun’s rays. If your current roof is a darker color and traps in a lot of heat, consider replacing it with a light colored roof that will deflect more heat and keep the interior cooler, ultimately helping your plant become more energy efficient in the long run. If replacing your roof with new light colored materials is too daunting of a task or not within your budget, you may try applying a reflective roof coating to your existing roof. This type of coating is different from regular paint, but is applied in a similar fashion.
- Insulate Your Building, Piping, and Equipment. Proper thermal insulation of your building, piping, and mechanical equipment is critical to managing the heat within your plant and can lead to lower cooling bills during the summer months. Without adequate insulation, the extra heat making its way out into your facility will make the air conditioning system work that much harder to cool things down. Simple devices such as thermal imaging cameras that connect to your phone can help detect energy loss caused by missing or damaged insulation, inefficient HVAC systems, electrical faults, and more.
- Practice Preventative Maintenance. Performing regular HVAC maintenance will help your HVAC system run close to peak efficiency, resulting in reduced energy costs and preventing costly breakdowns. While HVAC maintenance may seem like an obvious necessity, small steps in the process can be easily overlooked, or you may assume that a certain noise is normal, or that a particular room may run warmer than others. Even something as simple as changing out the air filters can make a big impact. Ensure your facility is taking preventative steps when it comes to maintaining your HVAC by either recruiting an outside professional or looking to one of your qualified employees to routinely complete this work.
- Shift Your Operational Hours. If your plant does not operate 24 hours a day and has some flexibility within its scheduling, you may consider shifting some of the operational hours to avoid using equipment during the hottest part of the day. By transitioning some shifts to overnight or earlier in the morning, your facility will experience less infiltration of heat and your employees will benefit from a cooler work environment.
- Invest in Zip Doors. As your employees continuously move throughout the facility every day, the amount of times they open doors and let cold air out or allow warm air in can affect the air flow and contribute to increased temperatures. While you cannot control how every employee opens and closes a door, you can consider replacing your current doors with zip doors. After being opened, zip doors will automatically close – quickly and securely. Some versions may even offer verbal warnings that are triggered if a door is left open for too long. Zip doors also tend to be constructed out of softer materials, allowing them to better absorb any distress that comes their way and resist damage more easily.
If you are a small to medium sized industrial facility that is interested in implementing new or additional cooling solutions, but struggle to determine the best course of action then you may qualify for a no-cost assessment provided by the GaMEP. An IAC assessment will help you to identify opportunities to improve productivity, reduce waste, and save energy. To see if your company is eligible, apply at https://iacgeorgia.org/.
In addition, if you would like to discuss other energy cost savings opportunities or look at ways to improve your preventative maintenance capabilities, contact your local region manager at the GaMEP.
By Megan Johnson, with the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership