We Americans consume a high percentage of the world's energy, and ever since the oil crisis of 1973, there have been cries of alarm urging us to moderate our energy consumption. The most effective and least damaging way to do this is to save energy wherever possible.
In fact, saving energy can turn out to be a major new source of energy. For example, it is not too difficult to avoid, or at least reduce, energy waste in our industry while achieving considerable savings in the cost of the retreaded product.
When a retreader takes steps to lower retread costs, he first thinks of buying tread rubber for less money. There's no denying that rubber costs are a significant factor in the final cost of a retreaded tire. But there are other means of cost savings that can be surprisingly effective-specifically, energy costs.
Before things get going in your shop some morning, or perhaps during a break or lunch time, walk through the plant and listen carefully. Those hissing sounds you hear are dollars leaking out of your pocket. Then ask yourself: how much money is being wasted in unused energy?
Excessive air or steam leaks or unnecessarily heating of empty molds costs money.
The prime way of waging war against such waste consists of educating personnel and making them responsible through a thorough knowledge of what must be done to conserve energy.
To fight waste in the retread plant, you must understand what types of energy-thermal, electrical, pneumatic and tractive-are being used. A comprehensive analysis of the consumption of all forms of energy will make it possible to establish priorities for the various measures needed to reduce costs.
Following are some ideas for reducing waste of various types of energy:
Thermal (heat) energy: Leaks in steam lines should be repaired as soon as possible after detection. They are costly and dangerous.
Steam headers should be insulated to reduce radiation and decrease the cost of supplying steam. Heat loss from a bare pipe can be four to five times greater than from an uninsulated line. As the heat radiates from the pipe, it releases some of its energy which turns part of the steam into condensate-a wasteful and undesirable result.
The purpose is to get the steam to the curing equipment as hot and as dry as possible. Insulation will pay for itself many times over.
Malfunctioning steam traps also waste energy. Steam traps should open when they sense water and close when they sense steam. You don't want to send steam back into the condensate tank.
Insufficient boiler output can be caused by faulty oil burner operation due to incorrect nozzle size or air/oil setting. A boiler that is too small wastes fuel and causes curing temperature problems. Poor quality fuel oil also can contribute to energy waste.
Idle curing equipment kept heated or left open too long during tire changes can cause severe temperature drops and require longer curing times. If equipment is idle for more than three hours, the steam supply should be shut off to conserve energy.
Electrical energy: Lighting fixtures should be cleaned on a regular basis and bulbs replaced when needed. Fluorescent tubes act like magnets to attract dust and lose much of their effectiveness when dust-covered.
Certain work areas may require more lighting, while others may need less. Lighting zones should be subdivided to avoid unneeded lighting of certain areas.
Consider adding auxiliary lighting to any equipment that lacks adequate illumination of its own.
Windows should be cleaned regularly to limit the need for artificial light.
Pneumatic energy: Air leaks should be repaired as soon as possible. Insufficient air compressor capacity can be a problem when additional equipment is added or production increased.
Rational use of air should be demanded. Many employees have a habit of sweeping the floor with compressed air. It's expensive, dangerous and not that effective. Brooms are inexpensive, and it's a good idea to have several placed strategically about the shop for quick use. Insist that brooms be used to sweep the floor. An air compressor's purpose is inflation, not sweeping.
Tractive (hauling) energy: Save energy with a rational organization of truck loading and itinerary planning. The use of vehicles of the proper size and payload capacity should be closely analyzed.
Tire inflation requires closer attention-it's amazing how often underinflated tires are spotted on tire shop vehicles!
These are all comparatively simple measures which, if carried out wholeheartedly, should result in savings that materially lower the cost of a retreaded tire and conserve energy.
To verify the savings, make monthly checks on the consumption of thermal energy, power and lighting consumption.