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Case Study

“Simple things” add up to $445,000 in annual energy savings for Whirlpool

Whirlpool Corporation wished to reduce energy costs and environmental impact
at 16 U.S. distribution centers. These large warehouses, averaging about 776,804 square feet each, had traditionally not been optimized for energy efficiency aligned with their business needs. In 2010, the company hired us as its provider of integrated facility management and challenged us to reduce energy consumption by 6.3 percent, an annual savings of $390,000. In achieving this stretch goal, Whirlpool wanted to invest as little capital as possible in infrastructure improvements.

To focus on sustainability in an intense yet cost-effective manner, we selected two experts from our in-house energy and sustainability team to coordinate and manage our Portfolio Energy Management Program (PEPM) with our Whirlpool facility managers to drive down costs. Using our exclusive Portfolio Energy and Environmental Reporting System (PEERS), this team conducted energy performance assessments at all of the distribution centers. It measured consumption, created benchmarks and identified dozens of opportunities for improvement, with budgets and timelines for implementation of each option.

“Low- hanging fruit”
Many of the most gainful improvements required no monetary investment, but rather behavioral changes in the way distribution centers were operated. Most facility temperatures had been set unnecessarily high in winter and low in summer. In some cases, HVAC equipment ran at consistent settings all day and night, even when facilities were occupied by only one or two shifts. Site by site, our sustainability team leaders worked with facility managers to eliminate such wasted energy without compromising employee comfort and safety. We created communications programs to educate and engage employees to support site sustainability efforts.

Our team also quickly implemented several other no- and low-cost improvements identified through the PEMP process such as:

  • Decommissioning lighting in areas that were lightly occupied or unnecessary
  • Retro-commissioning building automation systems that lost HVAC setback schedules
  • Retrofitting older 400-watt lights with high-output fluorescent fixtures, which cut wattage in half without compromising illumination
  • Shutting down exhaust fans that had run continuously and enabling them only when dictated by temperature and humidity conditions. This provided the double benefit of saving electricity by turning off fan motors and saving gas by not running associated heaters.
  • Insulating high-occupancy office areas, which reduced the run times of HVAC equipment
  • Retrofitting dock and exterior lighting with lower-wattage high-output lamps
  • Improving seals and maintenance on dock doors, which reduced heat loss
  • Purchasing electricity through a third party, enabling a predictable lower cost
  • Installing variable frequency drives on make-up air units

To establish the program on a sound footing, our sustainability team leader conducted an “energy conservation blitz” including a weekly conference with all facility managers to share results, ideas and best practices.

Beyond expectations
The “low-hanging fruit” solutions targeted for 2010 were quickly implemented, and most capital expenditures paid for themselves with two months. Whirlpool expects to decrease distribution center energy use by 7.1 percent and lower costs by $445,000 – $55,000 over its aggressive target. At two locations, natural gas usage was reduced so much that the gas company visited sites to make sure the meters were functioning properly.

The Whirlpool and Jones Lang LaSalle partnership plans to replicate these first-year savings in 2011 and beyond, plus begin to prioritize and phase in higher-cost capital improvements that will add greater long-term payoffs.

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