What is equipment optimization?
Businesses and the buildings that house them depend on a wide range of equipment to function. From basic building equipment like lighting and HVAC to highly specialized manufacturing machinery, all these systems use energy and contribute to your business’s carbon footprint. Equipment optimization is an ongoing process that helps ensure all your equipment runs as efficiently as possible, which in turn supports better performance and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
The benefits of optimizing your equipment
Optimized equipment often uses less energy to deliver the same—or sometimes even better—performance. This makes it an effective way to reduce your business’s carbon emissions, often without major capital expenditures. In addition to the environmental benefits, better performance from your equipment reduces wear and tear, saving you money on repairs.
Roadmap to equipment optimization
Conduct an energy audit
An energy audit is a key first step that will help you understand your equipment's energy use. It can tell you which systems are using the most energy, and where you should focus your efforts for maximum benefit.
If you hire an energy auditor, your auditor will look at your energy bills and do a walkthrough of your site to identify the biggest energy consumers and look for improvement opportunities. You can ensure the process goes smoothly by collecting bills, technical design plans and documentation for specific equipment ahead of time.
Based on their findings and your specific goals, the auditor will then draft a report with recommendations, including both “low-hanging fruit” measures and more capital-intensive upgrades, such as equipment replacement. They may also be able to advise on incentives and other financing options to cover some of the costs. Depending on the complexity of your business, you can do the audit yourself.
Start with low-cost changes first
Once you have your audit report, it’s usually best to start with low- or no-cost changes, such as basic repairs or adjustments to settings.
Adding automation is a relatively low-cost way of seeing big improvements. Lights and other equipment can be set to automatically turn off when they’re not needed, ventilation can be adjusted based on occupancy, and systems can be powered on in the optimal order to minimize their idle time.
More expensive options to boost efficiency include replacing equipment with more efficient models, adding heat recovery where possible and improving the building envelope so equipment inside doesn’t have to work as hard.
Consider fuel switching
Fuel switching refers to switching your equipment’s energy source to electricity or lower carbon fuels, such as natural gas, renewable natural gas, biofuels, biomass and other options.
Fuel switching upgrades are often more expensive and disruptive, but they can have a substantial impact on your carbon footprint. Due to differences in electricity grids across the country, the results you can achieve depend largely on where your business is located.
If you live in a province with a relatively clean energy grid, switching to electric for as much of your equipment as possible can dramatically cut your greenhouse gas emissions. In other provinces, where electricity is generated mainly by burning coal or fossil fuels, natural gas might be your lowest-carbon option.
Maintain your gains
Regular measurement will help keep you on track by alerting you to any unexpected dips in performance. Make sure your maintenance crews understand the energy efficiency features of your equipment so they can include them in their inspections and don’t accidentally reset or disrupt any key settings.
Like health and safety, energy efficiency measures are most effective when everyone is on board and responsibility is shared throughout the organization. Provide training and communications so all employees understand how their actions and behaviours—for example, turning off equipment when it’s not in use—help optimize operations and keep equipment running at its best.
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