After reading February’s column in Baking & Snack on conserving and reducing costs, you may have developed a baseline for utility and material usage and have begun to identify areas where you can reduce operating costs and where efficiencies can be improved. You may have re-lamped, taking advantage of energy-efficient lighting; eliminated water leaks and installed flow regulators; and tightened up compressed air and steam systems by eliminating leaks and adjusting flow rates. You have returned to the basics.

"The basics" provides a great platform from which to work. Today there are new approaches to address old problems and new technologies that can yield ongoing cost savings. As an added benefit, these cost-effective solutions reduce carbon footprints and are therefore environmentally friendly. Going beyond the basics, here are some ideas to assist you in reducing costs even further.

FUEL EFFICIENCY. To improve the fuel efficiency of ovens, oxidizers, boilers and heating systems:

• Take advantage of new control theory and methodology that establishes burner configurations to keep your burners operating in their most efficient range. All burners have a sweet spot where they are most efficient, generally in the range of 60% to 90% of full-fire. This project requires capital investment. However, reductions in gas usage of 25% and greater are not uncommon.

• Look at reducing the excess oxygen level in your stack exhaust to less than 6%. By doing this, you will have reduced your exhaust to its lowest safe volume of flow. Reducing excess air proportionately reduces fuel consumption. Check with your local authorities (and insurance carrier) for code requirements: This will likely require flame monitoring to meet code, but the payback is ongoing.

• Invest in heat recovery systems that capture the waste stack heat from your fuel burning equipment and turn it into productive sources of energy for hot water systems, proofers and facility heating. Closed-loop, glycol-based systems are particularly good for this application. Consider eliminating an older boiler in favor of more highly efficient units that reduce maintenance and operating costs. Depending on the age and condition of your boiler, 4 to 10% reductions are not unrealistic.

• Energy management packages can provide unexpected returns. Reasonably priced sensors allow you to monitor gas consumption, electric loads and hot and cold water usage. Monitoring enables you to track, in real time, consumption patterns and helps identify savings opportunities. Using an energy management package, one bakery found that its ovens were running 75 minutes longer per day than required for timely heat-up and proper shutdown. In a 10-hour shift, saving 75 minutes resulted in a 12.5% reduction.

Alternative energy sources are coming into their own. Solar cells, fuel cell technology and more efficient co-generation systems may be good investments, particularly where the government and/or utility providers are offering investment assistance. Presently, tax incentives are available from the US government of $3,000 per kW generated on-site. This is approximately 25% of the cost of installing 1 kW of solar panel generating power. Also, 45 states offer similar financial incentives. Given that 1 kW costs $900 per year (at $0.10 per kw utility rate), if through incentives, you can bring the cost of solar energy down to $4,000 to $5,000 per kW, the savings can be quite attractive.

ENERGY REDUCTION. Here are few more areas in energy reduction you may want to explore.

• How about some free energy? Transparent story window systems and skylights are great ways to reduce daytime lighting loads.

• Economizers are also a great source of "free" energy in cooling and HVAC systems. What do they do? When the temperature outside is below the set-point for your cooling system, the economizer turns off the mechanical cooling and uses outside air as the cooling medium.

• An almost passive approach to reducing your electrical energy bill is to change your purchase specifications to ensure all equipment purchases and motor replacements require high-efficiency motors be provided. Energy-efficient motors are generally 2 to 8% more efficient then standard motors, which means as short as a 1- to 3-year payback on the premium paid for the energy efficient motor.

• Consider the new technology available for loading shipping trays that enables more efficient product patterns to be formed that could not be achieved manually without damaging product. Per tray product count increases of 12 to 20% are not uncommon; the opportunity this represents in reduced handling, shipping and distribution costs can be significant.

WATER REDUCTION. Decreasing water during sanitation and other high-usage times can also reduce costs.

• Reducing water usage during cleaning provides a many-fold return — water consumption is reduced, sewage fees are reduced, and fuel costs are lowered through reduced hot water usage. Recycling methods are being used in other food industries that we can certainly adopt. There are different designs and package systems; however, they all have a similar approach: Grey water (soapy wash water) is recovered and used for the first wash, previously used rinse water is used for the second wash, and fresh water used for the clean rinse. Reductions as high as 60% have been achieved without compromising equipment sanitation.

• High-pressure, low-volume steam cleaning also saves water and time.

To find more information, go online. Government sites provide great links. The "Database for State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency" at provides quality information. And once again, the American Society of Baking and BEMA Web sites are good tools for identifying knowledgeable resources in the industry.


This article can also be found in the digital edition of Baking & Snack, May 1, 2009, starting on Page 14. Click here to search that archive.