Electrical Testing
air compressor room Photo credit: Library of Congress

Widen Your Scope of Work

When approaching a contractor for an energy-savings project, don’t think too narrowly.

Let’s say you want to reduce waste heat resulting from bad bus connections.

Your first step consists of bringing in a contractor to conduct thermography on your busway. This is a good idea and will likely do more than just save you energy.

But this approach is actually too limited in scope.

A more productive approach is based on the fact that contractors do a variety of work in a variety of plants and facilities. You want to tap that experience and the knowledge gained from it.

Yes, have that busway thermography project on your list, but don’t bring it up in the initial discussion. The more productive approach is to focus that initial discussion on what kinds of energy waste sources the contractor has found in other facilities.

The next step is not to commission a study. The contractor wants your business, and is looking for opportunities to get it. So take a walk through your plant with a technically astute person from that firm. You should both be taking notes as the firm’s representative identifies potential issues.

For example, she may ask: “I see a lot of compressed air piping in this plant. When is the last time you had ultrasonic leak detection performed on it?”

You may realize the plant air system is a major energy user, but you may not have realized there’s a method for identifying leaks that cause it to use considerably more energy.

As the representative identifies each issue, ask her to estimate the severity and give you a numerical score of severity on a scale of 1 to 5. This will enable you to prioritize the work from the list you generate.

But don’t just go with all priority 1 issues with your first round of projects. Think in terms of bundling lower-priority projects where appropriate. The bundling enables you to knock those out while the contractor is there anyway.

For example, the busway is at least 15 years old and has never undergone thermographic inspection. So the project for addressing that is a priority 1. Get a time estimate from the contractor and try to determine how much of a full day you are using, and fill the unused time with other thermography projects that are lower priority.

There are no visible gaps in the building envelope, but it should be checked anyhow. It’s a priority 4 project, and it won’t take long. Since the thermographer is going to be there anyhow, schedule this work for the same day. What else would fill in unused time?

Taking the “fill-in” approach to optimize the contractor’s time (one mobilization and service call for multiple projects) saves the contractor money, and some of that savings will be passed on to you.

Another advantage is you get a full day’s work that you might be able to break down into separate invoices per project to stay within the plant manager’s expense approval limits.

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