Dynamic Windows and Doors

Power Smart air compressor program offers big savings

Nina Winham
For bchydro.com

If you could upgrade critical equipment, cut energy costs to the tune of $17,000 a year, and pay off your investment in just one year, would you go for it?

"It just made sense to do it," says Rob Evans, VP Operations at Abbotsford's Dynamic Architectural Windows, pictured in the photo above alongside Dynamic Maintenance Supervisor Rob Toop (middle) and BC Hydro Key Account Manager Robbie Cairns (right). "You're getting energy savings like that, plus newer equipment that will probably result in less maintenance costs."

Evans is referring to BC Hydro's Small Compressed Air Initiative, which provides incentives for small industrial companies to upgrade their air compressors to more energy efficient models. It's designed for companies running compressors in the 40 hp – 200 hp range.

Dynamic supplies high quality individually designed windows and doors across North America and internationally. It relies on compressed air to power computer-controlled equipment as well as nail guns, sanders, and painting equipment.

"We had three 30 hp compressors running, basically all the time," says Evans. "Our compressor supplier, Kaeser Compressors, brought the BC Hydro program to our attention. They monitored our usage for two weeks, and found that we could save money by running one larger, variable-speed compressor."

Dynamic purchased a 100 hp variable speed unit. "One immediate plus is at lunchtime," says Evans. "We used to run 90 hp right through our half hour lunch break. With the new variable speed, it only consumes 20 hp of energy at lunchtime [some equipment requires continual air pressure, so the compressor can't be shut down entirely].

"And throughout the day – if the shop doesn't have a big demand for air, the new compressor only uses as much power needed, instead of 90 hp regardless of demand."

How much will they save?

The new compressor cost $62,500 and is projected to save Dynamic 285,948 kWh of electricity per year – an annual cost savings of $17,156, and a payback on the investment of less than four years. But the Power Smart program offers up to 75% funding to cover the upgrade. For Dynamic, the program provided $46,903 towards the purchase, reducing payback time to around one year.

"It made the investment decision easy," says Evans.

Power Smart expands Small Industry Programs

"There are thousands of small industrial customers in the province," says BC Hydro Key Account Manager Robin Cairns. "Individually they have a small amount of annual electrical consumption relative to large industrial customers. But there are so many of them, and they often have older and less efficient equipment, so there's quite an opportunity for energy savings."

Cairns says that's why BC Hydro has developed a suite of Small Industry Programs, including customer site investigations and incentives for improving industrial lighting, refrigeration and pumps, as well as the air compressor program. Cairns says the goal has been to provide a streamlined process suited to the reality of small industrial companies.

"Often the people you talk to, it's not their job to be managing their energy consumption; they're managing it off the side of their desk. So while we want them to take ownership of energy efficiency initiatives, we don't want to make it an onerous process."

For that reason, many programs are promoted through industrial vendors. They benefit from receiving a contract to do the on-site analysis required by BC Hydro, and from the sale of new equipment. BC Hydro benefits by providing the incentive largely through a third party. And the company doing the upgrade saves money all around.

Dynamic Windows had already received a rebate related to a lighting upgrade, through BC Hydro's Product Incentive Program. Rob Evans says the energy savings are important – and he's glad to be supporting BC Hydro's larger energy conservation goals.

"It's great to be helping out with that. We're already looking at a couple more programs with BC Hydro. It was great for [supplier Kaeser Compressors], and it was great for us."

Nina Winham is a Vancouver-based writer and sustainability consultant.