Certified to Save Energy
There are a number of reasons why facility managers might want to consider an insulation energy appraisal at their location. One is the potential for hundreds of thousands of Btu savings. Another is the opportunity to improve process control and efficiency. A third reason is contributing to a cleaner environment through the reduction of emissions into the atmosphere.
And last, but certainly not least, let’s not forget the factor that gets everyone’s attention: money. Or more specifically, saving money through reduced fuel costs.
Such opportunities were among the reasons why the National Insulation Association’s Growing the Insulation Industry Committee created the Insulation Energy Appraisal Program (IEAP). The IEAP is a major industry initiative designed to give facility/energy managers a better understanding of the true dollar and performance value of an insulated system. The program is a tool that quantifies the amount of energy and actual dollars a facility is losing with its current in-place insulation system, and-as mentioned previously-demonstrates the real world benefits of a more efficient system.
The IEAP, which debuted in October 2000, is a professional, accredited program taught by industry educators, with examination and certification through a national certification agency. Students can receive 1.5 continuing education units for participating in this program. Through IEAP, NIA has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Best Practices Allied Partnership program.
Since the program’s start, more than 200 industry professionals have earned the title of "Certified Insulation Energy Appraiser." The IEAP’s two-day course has been taught in eight cities across the country, with several more scheduled for 2002. In the program students learn how to:
- determine the optimal insulation thickness and corresponding energy and dollar savings
- interview customers to gather information for the appraisal
- conduct a facility walk-through
- use the 3E Plus® computer software program
- determine the amount of greenhouse gases saved through the use of insulation
- analyze and complete the appraisal spread sheet
- complete a final customer report
- market their new skills to potential customers
Justifying Insulation Through Appraisals
Has the IEAP made a difference for those individuals that have received the certification? A survey conducted by NIA in the fall of 2000, one year after the program started, sought to answer some of those questions. So far, the response has been fairly positive.
"An insulation appraisal survey represents one of the best methods to justify new insulation," said James Christian, project engineer with Gregg Industrial Insulators Inc., in Longview, Texas.
Christian mentioned a project that involved a steam feeder system for several turbines at a chemical processing plant. Based on implementing his recommendations after conducting an appraisal, Christian said the plant was able to achieve a 72 percent reduction in energy losses, amounting to a savings of 46 million Btu’s per year per lineal foot of pipe. Several hundred feet of pipe, 10 inches and 12 inches in diameter, were insulated.
Christian also pointed out that the plant was having a greater than expected temperature loss from the input of steam to the turbines (it was trying to maintain a base temperature of 750 degrees fahrenheit). Christian and his colleagues found poorly insulated areas that were losing steam. Once these areas were properly insulated, the plant saw several benefits. The base temperature was maintained, and as a result the turbines were able to run more efficiently and with less energy because they weren’t having to overcompensate for the loss of steam and temperature.
Christian, a member of the IEAP charter class, says that he sees potential opportunities to use his credentials to secure appraisal jobs, but admits getting in the door can be tricky.
Explaining the attitude of facility and plant managers, he says, "Realistically, the problem (lack of and/or improper insulation) is slow to catch on. Unless something gets completely broke, it doesn’t get fixed. Insulation isn’t always at the top of the list." Christian said that tight maintenance budgets and the perception that other needs are more important often push insulation down in the pecking order of priorities. He thinks the key in selling managers on appraisals is to explain concisely the bottom line benefits and demonstrating your credentials and tools at your disposal.
"The fact that I became certified has given me more weight to what I do with the company," said Christian. "It’s made me more of an informed person overall, and given me more of a connection with the industry."
With more than 20 years experience in the industry, Ray Hoornstra certainly knows insulation. Obviously he could speak about the positive aspects of proper insulation and its value as a money saver. However, since completing the IEAP class conducted in Houston in February 2001, Hoornstra has been able to complement his prior experience with an added layer of expertise as a certified appraiser.
"Before I took the class, I never had anything I could use to calculate and point out dollar savings," said Hoornstra, who is project manager/project estimator with Service Environmental Co. in Beaumont, Texas. "People tend to respond when you put actual dollars and cents in front of them, especially if you can work out a payback period. The 3E Plus® program is a good tool, and the spreadsheets work well.
Of the class itself, Hoornstra said, "I was pleased. The instructors were good and it was very educational."
When trying to secure appraisals for large industrial facilities, Hoornstra said it’s important to keep the scope of the work in perspective.
"If you commit to the whole plant, it’s going to take at least a year to complete because of the size," he said. "I told my customer, ‘Let’s look at this one piece [section] at a time.’ After that we can move on to the next area. This allows me to get them feedback in a timely manner. They liked the information in the final report, and I was able to give them about a six month payback."
Working in Tandem
Steve Campbell said that his company, Owens Corning, started a thermo analysis program in 1999. Campbell, a specification manager and certified thermographer for the company based in Big Sandy, Tenn., became IEAP certified in Houston in February 2001. He said the IEAP has been a good complement to his work with the previously established Owens Corning program.
"It fits like a glove," he said, adding that many people know about NIA and the IEAP. "In a lot of facilities, people get the Insulation Outlook and are familiar with NIA. It helps open the door."
Campbell said that based on the size of a project, the savings for customers can vary. He’s done jobs where savings ranged from $18,000 annually per year for a smaller project to as much as $750,000 for larger efforts.
To illustrate the savings potential of proper insulation, Campbell said a foot-long piece of uninsulated pipe might cost a facility $100 annually. He points out that by providing the proper insulation using calculations from the 3E Plus® program, that same piece of pipe might cost only $20 per lineal foot. Multiply that $80 savings by 100 lineal feet of pipe, and you have $8,000 in savings. You get the picture.
"It all adds up," said Campbell. "And the 3E Plus® program is a quick and easy way to do the calculations."
As with other appraisers, Campbell said when trying to solicit an appraisal, it’s important to make your case clearly and concisely.
"They just don’t happen overnight," he said of new appraisals. "You have to nurture it along. If we can get in and do an energy appraisal and tell them how much money they are losing, that puts a different light on it." Speaking of light, Campbell said his work with infrared technology is often a quick way to get the attention of a facility manager.
"It’s like the old saying, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words,’" said Campbell. "If you can get in the plant, do a walk through, and show them they can get their investment back in four months, it makes a difference."
Joe Tucker, vice president and general manager for Dynamic Services, Inc. in Evanston, Wyo., was certified in the Atlanta class in the summer of 2001. Of the IEAP, he says, "It’s really been useful. It gives a whole new outlook to the 3E Plus® program. I like the spreadsheet that comes with [the software]. I think the information gives a good perspective for the clients. For me, it’s definitely beneficial. It’s always good to keep learning and stay on top of the industry."
Even with the success of the IEAP, some who have been certified offer suggestions to make the program even better.
The North American Insulation Manufacturers Association, the developers of the 3E Plus® software program, is working on a new version of the software and plans to include several of the suggestions made by a number of certified appraisers. This new version is expected in about a year.
When Brian Campbell, an outside sales representative for Insul-Therm International in Commerce Calif., took the class in March 2001, skyrocketing energy prices were creating a crisis in California. However, since then, energy prices have plummeted. Now, Campbell said, the incentive to save energy has faded a bit.
"People in California aren’t up in arms about the issue," he said.
Also, Campbell said that in his opinion the program isn’t as geared toward the cold market, which is where he specializes.
Still, he adds, "I really think it’s a good program, especially for contractors, as they’re on the front line. I think it’s a good value added element for a company. I’m glad I took the class. I just think it needs to be fine-tuned a bit, and I’m looking forward to the refinements and improvements."
Steve Campbell said that September 11 has been a factor. The attacks accelerated the economic downturn, with production also taking a hit as well. Also, the increased security at industrial facilities due to Sept. 11 has also hampered access.
As part of its efforts to create awareness of insulation’s benefits, the IEAP is looking forward to expanding the pool of certified appraisers. Additional classes are being scheduled nationwide for 2002. When locations have been secured, class information will be posted on the NIA Web site at www.insulation.org in the "Training & Certification" section. If you are interested in learning more about the program or if you know of somebody else who could benefit from certification, please visit the NIA Web site or call (703) 683-6422 for more information.