The Impacts of Industrial Energy on the U.S. Manufacturing Industry


The biggest energy consumers in the U.S. are energy-intensive manufacturers. The top consuming energy-intensive manufacturing industries include pulp and paper, primary metals (e.g., aluminum, iron, and steel), petroleum and coal, chemicals, food, and nonmetallic minerals (e.g., cement).

Worldwide, manufacturers are trying to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The U.S. implemented the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 to help reduce U.S. GHG by up to 43 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Beyond the IRA, assessments are vital in assisting facilities in the reduction of energy usage and meeting set efficiency goals through cost-effective and energy-saving recommendations for equipment and processes.

Energy and Cost-Saving Opportunities for U.S. Industrial Manufacturing

The most significant energy consumers in facilities are equipment and processes. The top four are machine drive equipment, process heating systems, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and compressed air.

Machine Drive Equipment

Machine drive equipment, or motors, are considered the heartbeat of industrial manufacturing. Assessors can measure a motor’s speed and size to determine the level of efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and what actions are necessary.

A common problem is oversized motors consuming excessive energy for daily loads. The solution can be rectified by resizing large motors with smaller ones. The simple swap can generate measurable energy and cost savings.

Installing variable frequency drives (VFDs) to motors can optimize operations by controlling and reducing the speed of motors, which lowers energy consumption. For example, using a VFD to run a motor at 70 percent instead of full speed can save a facility up to 50 percent in energy costs while increasing motor efficiency up to 98 percent.

Facilities can also update their motors systems by utilizing notched or cogged v-belts or belt-driven applications. The upgrades can increase motor efficiency by 3 percent. Additionally, investing in higher efficiency models can save facilities further energy costs.

Process Heating Systems

Many technologies are available to improve the energy efficiency of process heating systems. Heat recovery equipment is one of the most frequently implemented measures in facilities. The equipment can capture wasted heat from hot flue gases, increasing furnace systems’ efficiency by 20 to 30 percent.

Furthermore, installing counter-flow heat exchangers in furnaces can assist in capturing and redirecting wasted heat. Another easy-to-implement method of reducing heat wastage is fitting equipment with customizable insulation jackets

HVAC Systems

Industrial HVAC systems have a plethora of opportunities for efficiency upgrades. Upgrades fit into two categories: equipment and non-equipment upgrades.

Equipment upgrades:

  • Properly-sized HVAC equipment
  • Heat pumps
  • Supply fans or pumps

Non-equipment upgrades include adding features to existing equipment, such as:

  • Advanced HVAC controls
  • Setback temperature scheduling
  • Adjustable speed drives (ASD)

Compressed Air

Compressed air is vital to the operation of industrial facilities and is one of the most expensive utilities. Still, leaks often are ignored and fall by the wayside. By implementing a compressed air leak control program, companies can reduce their leak load by upwards of 30 percent, and in some extreme cases, by 50 percent.

Assesing Facilities on an Individual Basis

While machine drive equipment, process heating systems, HVAC systems, and compressed air are the top four culprits of energy consumption, assessors need to evaluate facilities individually, as equipment and processes can vary greatly. Knowledgeable assessors understand the different types of facilities and can correctly identify all inefficiencies.

The first step in adequately assessing facilities is through pre-assessments. Preliminary evaluations allow assessors to gather information, including industry type, square footage, description of processes, list of equipment, machine operating hours, production demand, and utility bills. Depending on facility size, more information may be required.

Once information is gathered, assessors will analyze by graphing utility bills to identify inefficiencies and establish unit costs of energy. If collected information includes data from monthly production reports, assessors can identify energy consumption per unit of product to determine inefficiencies more precisely.

The next step in the process is on-site assessments, which aim to align assessors with a facility’s personnel. Assessors tour facilities examining the highest energy-consuming and most-used equipment, using various instruments for accurate measurements. Upon the completion of on-site assessments, assessors will share their findings for feedback before delivering final energy-saving recommendations.

Post-assessment recommendations and options can include energy-efficient equipment, calculated savings per opportunity, implementation costs, and payback periods.

The ten most common recommendations from the Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs):

  1. Install higher-efficiency lamps
  2. Eliminate inert gas and compressed air leaks
  3. Reduce compressed air usage
  4. Install air compressor intakes in cold areas
  5. Utilize efficient electric motors
  6. Install occupancy sensors
  7. Use energy-efficient belts and other mechanisms
  8. Fit equipment with insulation jackets
  9. Install adjustable frequency drive or multiple-speed motors
  10. Recover wasted heat generated by equipment

Implementing these common recommendations can enable averaged-size facilities to save up to 10 percent in energy costs, expand equipment longevity, and reduce emissions.

The Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs)

The IACs, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), has operated across the U.S. for over four decades. The IACs conducts energy conservation techniques and performs free energy assessments for industrial manufacturers to reduce energy consumption.

The IACs program works by funding educational institutions to identify opportunities where  manufacturing and other industrial facilities can optimize energy efficiency and environmental performance. Through its industrial energy assessment program, manufacturers can save, on average, eight to 10 percent in energy and cost savings.

The goal of the IACs is simple, to transform the industrial future of the U.S. by enabling manufacturers with the tools necessary to dramatically reduce the country’s energy consumption and, thereby, GHG. As more manufacturers adopt technologies and practices that promote energy efficiency, optimize procedures, and improve production costs and quality, the U.S. can reduce air pollution and emissions for future generations to come.

APenergy Consultants

Investing in energy efficiency can be incorrectly viewed as risky by companies due to the immense undertaking. However, companies can gain actual results through technical insights and expert knowledge by working with a brand-neutral, third-party consulting firm like APenergy.

APenergy can audit facilities and advise a path to energy efficiency that often includes implementing upgrades free of cost through incentive programs. With the success of the no-cost solutions, we create a risk absorption model on capital improvement projects that facilities should implement. APenegy outlines energy and cost savings opportunities, capital costs, and incentive offsets for each recommendation presented to its customers.

APenergy’s audits provide companies with an analysis-backed blueprint focusing on energy-efficiency solutions and reducing operating costs. Each audit is tailored to each facility and incorporates a list of recommendations geared toward production, equipment, and generation capacity.

Contact APenergy Today

Companies interested in reducing energy consumption and decreasing monthly energy costs should contact the APenergy team, the leading sustainable energy consulting company. Our APenergy consultants provide a vast range of services to obtain adequate energy solutions.