By Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor
Few things are guaranteed in life, unless you live in the continental Northeast. Up here, winter living is synonymous with bad driving conditions, lots of snow shoveling, high heating bills and, possibly, critical equipment problems.I recently have been up close and personal with all of the above.
For example, about the time winter ended last year, my not-so-trusty oil furnace experienced burner problems that led to the replacement of its ignition system. Thinking this year would be easier sailing, I was surprised—and unhappy—when my refurbished heating system (which seemed to be burning 30% more oil than it had in previous seasons) inconveniently failed again during a minus-20-degree cold snap.
Despite a new igniter, plenty of fuel oil in the tank and no apparent air intake restriction, I was forced to call in my “furnace guy.” He couldn’t come right away, though. In light of the bitter cold and risk of frozen water lines, I resorted to numerous borrowed electrical space heaters for almost two days while waiting for this busy man to perform his magic on my system.
Ultimately, due to some scheduling backlogs, I ended up with a different service provider than my normal “go-to” guy (who my home’s former owner had recommended). New “furnace guy” began by asking if the last guy had “tuned” the furnace after replacing the igniter system.
As it turned out, the igniter electrodes had been positioned too far apart—and the furnace startup “shudder,” burner inefficiency and excessive CO2 emissions were a direct consequence of that setup. The subsequent “tune-up” I paid for was a savvy investment: I now enjoy a quieter, environmentally friendly furnace that uses over 15% less fuel than it did initially (when I thought it was running well)! A few weeks later, I called my new “go-to” guy to convey some heartfelt thanks. During our conversation, we agreed that a state of tune equals a state of mind.
Most people know how a poorly tuned car engine can change one’s state of mind—especially if the vehicle begins to act up on the way to an important event. And who among us hasn’t had his/her state of mind altered by the virtuosity of a beginner musician whose instrument wasn’t quite in tune, or a “wannabe” singer with an off-pitch voice? The same holds true for machinery when it comes to lubrication.
Over-lubricating or under-lubricating a bearing creates heat through metal-to-metal or excessive-fluid friction that will draw more energy and alter the state of the bearing’s health. Similarly, over-filling a reservoir can lead to a lubricant “churning condition,” resulting in heat and foam that quickly deplete the lubricant’s protective capabilities. Under-filling may allow gears to run dry and cause metal-to-metal-friction failure.
I’ve been fortunate in the past to be part of studies wherein power companies have worked with operations wishing to implement sustainability programs and act on energy-efficiency opportunities. Surprisingly to most of them was the fact that merely “tuning” an automated lube system to deliver the “right” amount, of the “right” lubricant, at the “right” time could deliver—at a minimum—4% in energy savings. In fact, one stamping-press application saw a whopping 18% in savings. These findings were based on before-and-after energy consumption states.
The message is clear: Spending time and effort to keep your assets in a good “state of tune” will deliver a good state of mind. That’s a good place to be any time of the year! Good luck! LMT