HOW A SACRAMENTO MANUFACTURER USED TECHNOLOGY TO CUT ENERGY EXPENSES
Tri Tool Inc. makes custom-designed, precision portable machine tools for clients in the U.S. and around the world. That means the Rancho Cordova-based firm faces all the competitive challenges of a globalized economy — and needs every advantage it can find.
The company found one by adopting new technologies to cut power costs.
Tri Tool, an internationally-recognized manufacturing firm, was already benefiting from SMUD’s reliable electricity delivery and low rates. But their facilities team, led by Joel Walton, was looking for even more operational efficiencies. He posed the challenge to SMUD’s Leah Pertl, a Key Accounts Energy Advisor at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.
One of the first projects to achieve significant results involved the lighting in Tri Tool’s large parking area. “We replaced existing parking lot lighting that was 1,000-watts per bulb with 400-watt LED bulbs,” Joel Walton noted. Because the LED lighting was compatible with an advanced lighting control system, the advantage was even greater.
“In the middle of the night, when no one is in the parking lot, we can drop that wattage down to under 200 watts a pole,” Walton said.
An even more significant breakthrough came through changes in the facility’s cooling system. Like most conventional air conditioning, cooling equipment in the Tri Tool plant production area tended to lose efficiency as temperatures rose — just when cooling was needed most. This drove up energy costs and hurt the company’s bottom line.
Pertl took this challenge back to her team of SMUD energy experts. The solution was surprisingly old-school: a variation on the traditional swamp cooler. SMUD recommended an Australian system called Climate Wizard, which uses a similar principle but is far more powerful.
Installation of Climate Wizard at Tri Tool was the first test of this 60-ton, 24,000-cubic-feet-per-minute indirect evaporative system in the U.S. It was designed to supplement the 90-ton HVAC unit that was ill-equipped to handle cooling in the plant production area.
In addition to substantial energy savings – the system uses 80 percent less energy than conventional large HVAC systems – the facility has realized additional benefits. These include improved air quality, lower humidity and an enhanced working environment for workers and machinery.
“Everything we’ve done with SMUD has been driven by solving a business problem,” Walton said. “In the process, we ended up saving energy.”
Taken together, the energy-saving projects cut the company’s power bill by 25 percent, he said.
It might be surprising that SMUD would be so eager to help a major customer reduce the amount of electricity it purchases. The publicly-owned utility says saving energy is compatible with its core mission. Helping business customers succeed with lower operating costs is, in the long run, good for the business, Pertl said.
“That’s why I have a real passion for working with our business community,” she said. “When they succeed, Sacramento and our region succeed.”