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One-year payback: food packaging plant saves energy with new compressor

Golden Boy packaging line

Old compressor leaked oil and was clearly inefficient

It's one of the finer jobs compressed air is used for. And at Golden Boy Foods, it's a job done all over the plant.

"We bring in bulk raisins, dried fruits, nuts, and so on, and we pack it into smaller packages," says Louie Novak, maintenance manager for Golden Boy, based in Burnaby. "The packaging machines use compressed air to inflate the bags. Every single packaging machine needs the air."

That's why the company turned its attention to its aging compressor, an older style that was cooled by oil. The machine ran at only one speed, was leaking oil, and when a compressed air supplier tested it, it was clearly inefficient.

"On the basis of the numbers, it was pretty clear it was a waste of energy and money to keep running the old compressor," says Novak. "Given the inefficiency of the old compressor and on the numbers of the new compressor, we got money from BC Hydro for saving the energy. We got a lot of money back for the new compressor."

Louie Nowak of Golden Boy foods full width

Variable speed compressor saves twice

The new compressor cost about $42,000. With additional cost for installation, and a Power Smart incentive of $35,500, Novak says the total cost to the company was about $9,000, for a payback of less than one year.

The company is estimated to save 181,000 kWh of electricity per year.

The new machine has more capacity, but lower horsepower. It's variable speed, which Novak says provides significant savings. "Like today, we have fewer machines running, so we don't need as much air," he says. "The compressor goes at much lower speed, therefore much lower demand on power."

'I would strongly recommend an upgrade'

Novak is so pleased with the results and the savings, he's replacing the company's smaller compressor as well, a key step in the plant's transition to producing nitrogen (used in the packaging process) onsite.

"I would strongly recommend an upgrade to everybody who is running some kind of old compressor," says Novak. "Companies are getting older, equipment is getting older, and nobody wants to spend money for nothing like that.

"The numbers made it easy for me even to convince my bosses to go ahead with the project. The saving was tremendous and getting a rebate from BC Hydro was great as well."

This project was completed with the support of the Self-serve Incentive Program for industrial customers. BC Hydro has funding for your energy-efficiency upgrades, big or small. Plug in your BC Hydro account number to find out if your facility is eligible.