Finding energy savings in warehouses: a needle in a haystack?

A dark large open space, the warehouse is often the place within the company that challenges energy saving-minded entrepreneurs.
In the summer, the warehouse can get too hot and requests the use of industrial fans and air conditioning units to try and cool down employees and/or products. In the winter, the lack of insulation and the sheer volume of the space makes it a cold place to work in and a nightmare to heat.
And whatever the season, lighting the space properly may give headaches to the most practical logistics manager. Not to mention the equipment needed to run the warehouse....
Let’s say it: warehouses are great energy-consuming places and impact strongly on companies’ overheads.
 
Building
The construction of warehouses does not have to meet such standards as that of offices which explains in part the great loss of energy. Insulation is crucial, especially in the areas where staff are active, however what type of insulation you need will depend on the area where the business is located. Batt insulation, loose fill or spray foam are useful solutions to insulate open spaces.
Improvements can be made on the building itself. From solar panels to skylights, there are ways to build or amend energy-saving and environmentally friendly buildings.
 
Light
Being most of the time a windowless space, a warehouse needs lots of light to enable staff to work in good conditions. Lighting can represent up to 65% of the energy consumed in a warehouse.
From the light needed to find your way in rows of cardboard boxes to the light, stronger and more direct requested to read labels and check packages, there are many variation requests within the space. Not only is the quality of light important for the business, it also affects employees’ morale: the lack of natural lighting can indeed generate moods and depression.
Measures such as maximising natural light through windows, skylight or solar light tubes can help; energy-efficient lighting, with the use of fluorescent or LEDs bulbs will help reduce your energy consumption. Motion and daylight sensors are also very helpful, as well as coaching employees on adopting an environmentally-friendly behaviour.
 
Temperature
The height of the space not only contributes to the waste of heat or cool air, it also generates a temperature differential from floor to ceiling that may reach 10-15°. This will be especially problematic if storage areas or offices are situated at mezzanine level.
Industrial ceiling-mounted fans can help reduce the temperature difference by bringing the warm air down in the winter or cooling people in the summer. The fans can help achieve heating savings of up to 20%. By mixing the air, they also contribute to the health and safety of the warehouse, dispersing the fresh oxygen coming from the doors and reducing humidity that generates mould.
In the winter, individual heating units are often used by staff fighting the cold; not only may they be a health and safety hazard, they may create overheating in a very small area and heating loss most of the times. Thermostats placed at strategic spots in the warehouse can help regulate the temperature and reduce cooling or heating cycles.
 
Equipment
Machinery, conveyor belts, computers, forklifts, automated storage systems etc. are used daily in a warehouse, generating heat and consuming oxygen and energy. Most of the time the equipment stays turned on all day, increasing the company’s energy bill. Once again, there are technical improvements that can help optimise your costs such as sensors to turn off motors after a while, energy-saving motors or variable speeds, but employees’ behaviour also needs to improve: turning off the machines and computers at break times or when no-one is around seems obvious though not always applied.
 
Energy experts can help you audit your warehouse and logistics centres to draw up an energy-saving plan, taking into account the company and employees’ needs as well as own specific wishes such as increasing natural light. They will also advice on the health and safety side of the subjects, with regards to air renewal, cleaning, compliance with various regulations on workplace as well as on environmentally friendly issues.

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