Optimized Process Heating Systems Reduce Operating Costs
After you’ve gone through the process of purchasing and installing a coater and a hot air dryer, you’ll be anxious to get your line up and running. But there a few things you need to do to start up your process and make sure everything is working as designed.
You’ll begin by running some product and adjusting the settings to produce the ideal product at the needed line speed. You may change the coater settings to get the correct coating weight, and fine-tune the dryer’s air velocity and temperature in different zones to get a good, dry product with an acceptable level of residual moisture or solvents.
Once the product quality is right, you can begin increasing the line speed until you reach the speed for which the line was designed. If you’re still getting a good product, you may feel like you’re ready to go.
But if you’re smart, you’re not done quite yet. Now it’s time to tweak the system to not only produce a good product, but also to minimize energy consumption. Doing so can result in significant cost savings every month on your utility bills. Over the life of the system, you can save thousands of dollars by optimizing your process heating systems for energy efficiency.
Checking Process Heating Systems for Optimized Settings
Even if you’re producing an acceptable product, it’s possible that the settings can be changed slightly to cut energy usage while still getting the product quality you’re looking for. Try testing the following settings on your process heating systems to see if a small change can save you money.
Try adjusting your process heating system’s air temperature to make sure it’s set at the ideal level, not too hot or too cold. You can save energy with a small temperature reduction that may still produce a good product. Once you’ve determined the ideal temperature, you can use an Infrared Thermometer to measure the exact product temperature and automatically adjust the process heating system’s air temperature.
If your process heating system’s air velocity is higher than it needs to be, then the excess horsepower required to run the blower at that high speed increases your energy consumption and drives up your costs. Test your process heating system’s air velocity to see if your process can work with a reduced setting.
If you’re exhausting more air than necessary, you’re wasting energy up the stack when you could be using that heat to optimize your process.
To find out if you might be exhausting too much air, begin by testing your LFL levels if you’re running solvents in your process. If your LFL level is below 10 percent, it’s likely you can save energy by reducing your exhaust level. Since LFL levels up to 25 percent are safe, you can try reducing the exhaust and letting the LFL level increase to 15 or 20 percent. When you reduce exhaust, rather than wasting all that heat up the stack, you recirculate that hot air to use it in your process, which reduces your energy costs.
A good way to implement this cost-saving measure is by using automatic dampers that allow you to set the optimum LFL level and let the damper manage the exhaust level to achieve that.
Similarly with IR systems, after the initial start, you need to optimize the system for most efficient operation. For example, for a drying application, the IRt at the exit end of the dryer should read between 190F to 210F. Once you have determined the satisfactory level of dryness and the corresponding temperature, you should put the system in automatic and maintain that temperature. This way you will making a good product with the minimum amount of energy required.
Testing Is Key to Optimizing Process Heating Systems
It can be a challenge to test your settings and optimize your process heating systems while you’re continuing to run the line and produce a good product. But remember that when you make the time to optimize, the reduced energy costs can yield a surprising payoff.
Start by making one change at a time and recording your data. Each change that you make will reduce your costs, and over time you’ll have a process heating system that helps your line run at its ideal capacity.
Related article: Boost Efficiency to Reduce Industrial Process Heating Operating Costs.
Automation Makes Optimizing Process Heating Systems Easy
Once you’ve done your testing and determined the optimal settings to get a good product while minimizing energy use, now you need to maintain those settings. You can do that manually by constantly checking and adjusting, but new controls can monitor and adjust automatically.
Automated sensors and controls allow you to optimize the operation of your process heating system without much intervention on your part. Think automated controls are too expensive? They were pricey in the past, but in recent years the price has come down to the point where they can be affordable even for smaller process heating systems.
Related article: 4 Reasons PLC Controls Are Must-Haves for Process Heating Systems.
To find a vendor with the expertise to design a dryer that’s right for your process AND reduces your operating costs, you may need to look beyond your usual candidates. Seek out a supplier that’s equally knowledgeable in both IR and hot air technologies, and has the process knowledge to produce the optimal product for your needs.
It’s understandable to be uneasy about choosing a new and unfamiliar vendor, especially when you’re creating a new line and the stakes are high. But the payoff can be great when you know how to minimize your risk. Learn how by downloading our free guide, CHANGE WITH CONFIDENCE: Mitigating the Risk of Choosing a New Equipment Vendor.