Slashing electricity use and natural gas consumption are only two of the ways one local manufacturer benefited from making a nearly $9 million energy efficiency investment two years ago.
The other benefits come in the form of knowledge sharing, better quality products, improved system reliability and lower maintenance costs.
Monday, executives from C.F. Martin Guitar & Co. in Upper Nazareth Township explained how they achieved these benefits by participating in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Plants Challenge. Through the program, the agency provides manufacturers with free tools, training and resources to help them overcome barriers and identify opportunities to save energy and improve competiveness.
Officials from the DOE toured the company’s central hot/chilled water plant along with the manufacturing facility and museum, having recognized the company as a Better Plants Goal Achiever in the DOE’s 2018 Better Building Challenge Progress Report.
Once Martin Guitar started the Better Plants Challenge, company officials said, it committed to improve energy performance by 25 percent while sharing its results and strategies it used to achieve them.
Martin Guitar achieved the goal in two years.
“They are not only sharing their energy savings but what they invested in and why,” said Maria Vargas, director of the DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge. “There’s so much manufacturers can share across their facilities. That’s why having those leaders share that story is important.”
To improve its energy performance, Martin Guitar upgraded its aging heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems with a central hot/chilled water plant it built and opened in 2016.
The company said it invested $8.85 million in the 200,000-square-foot-central plant, modular piping and 18 custom air handlers, along with a plate and frame heat exchanger installed as a waterside economizer.
The plant’s main components include three high-efficiency condensing boilers and three water-cooled centrifugal chillers to create better temperature control required for manufacturing the guitars.
As Chris Martin, CEO of C.F. Martin Guitar explained, the company needed a way to control the climate for its guitar-manufacturing process.
Having a uniform climate makes the guitars better and allows the company to make them more efficiently, Martin said.
“With this chiller plant, you can get the temperature just right, the humidity just right, and this affects the bottom line,” said Daniel Simmons, principal deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the DOE.
REDUCED MAINTENANCE COSTS
Through the Better Plants program, manufacturers such as Martin Guitar are using energy more productively, Simmons said.
“We used to run our air conditioning all winter long and heat all summer long,” said Fred Everett, director of process improvement at Martin Guitar. “This lets us use what we need, when we need it.”
Building the central hot/chilled water plant also helped the company save money on annual maintenance costs, he said. The project included $150,000 in reduced annual maintenance costs.
Starting in November 2016, the company measured the new system’s performance by monitoring electrical and gas consumption and found the project cut electricity use by 46 percent and natural gas consumption by 20 percent.
These savings translated into a 27 percent improvement in energy intensity at the plant and more than $500,000 in reduced annual energy costs, the company said.
The project helped change how the employees at Martin Guitar think about energy, prompting senior management and capital expenditure teams to approve a plant-wide light-emitting diode upgrade in the facility, the company said.
NO TAXPAYER FUNDS
No funds come from the federal government for this program, which is voluntary, added Eli Levine, program manager of the Better Plants program.
Nearly 200 manufacturers participate in the Better Plants program, including local companies such as Mack Trucks in Lower Macungie Township, Amcor Rigid Plastics North America in Upper Macungie Township and Brown Printing Co. of East Greenville, Levine said.