5 Quick Payback Ways to Reduce Energy Use in Your Plant

The Industrial Assessment Centers (IAC) database has compiled a very useful guide to help reduce energy use in industry. We’ve distilled the list to five strategies with the biggest impact—and the shortest payback.

1. Establish a Predictive Maintenance Program to Reduce Energy Use

Predictive maintenance (PdM) is a technique that allows for a systematic method of monitoring and trending of equipment condition. Ideally, PdM takes place while equipment is online. Its biggest benefit is that it provides early warning of equipment operation approaching out-of-limit conditions. This kind of proactive maintenance allows for scheduling repairs when they will have the least effect on equipment use. Here’s a bonus: Unexpected equipment breakdowns are virtually eliminated.

Average Payback: 0.5 years

2. Use Counter-Current Rinsing to Reduce Rinse Water Volume (Gravure) to Reduce Energy Use

Efficient rinsing saves water and chemicals and reduces wastewater costs. The method of counter-current rinsing entails rinsing equipment in successively less concentrated tanks, with the water from the first tank being used as feed for the second, and so on.

Average Payback: 3.5 years

3. Keep Equipment Clean to Reduce Energy Use

A great way to manage process costs is to perform regular maintenance and cleaning. Keeping your facility and process equipment in good working order protects the equipment, prolongs its life cycle, and saves money.

Average Payback: 0.5 years

4. Repair and Eliminate Steam Leaks to Reduce Energy Use

To minimize operation costs, a steam distribution system must be properly maintained. Steam leaks are a significant and highly visible waste of energy. Steam leaks are often found at valve stems, unions, pressure regulators, equipment connection flanges and pipe joints. To illustrate how costly leaks can be, according to the US Department of Energy, “in a 150 pound-per-square-inch-gauge (psig) steam system with a steam production cost of $4.50 per 1000 pounds, a leak through a hole only 1/32 of an inch in diameter—no larger than the tip of a ball point pen—can increase operating costs by $185 per year.”

Average Payback: 0.4 years

5. Repair or Replace Steam Traps to Reduce Energy Use


Steam traps are automatic valves used in every steam system to facilitate steam distribution. In closed-loop steam systems, steam traps regulate the flow of steam and prevent live steam from passing into the condensate return system. When traps fail, live steam infiltrates the condensate system, overheating condensate piping and allowing steam to be lost through vents. Overheated condensate piping can be a safety hazard, plus lost steam wastes energy and water. Steam traps can and do fail over time, so assessment and repair should be regular maintenance tasks. According to a U.S. Department of Energy Federal Technology Alert on steam trap performance, “leaks in steam traps cause the loss of up to 20 percent of the steam generated by a typical boiler.”

Average Payback: 0.5 years

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