Vapor Technologies, Inc.

Fast Facts

Industry: Manufacturing
Location: Longmont, CO
Program: Xcel Energy - EnerNOC Peak Savings
DR Strategy: Curtailment only
Primary Curtailment Strategy: Selected manufacturing process shutdowns
Annual Payments: Approximately $5,000

The Big Picture

Vapor Technologies, Inc. is a leader in the science, development, production, and application of Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) equipment, which deposits thin metalized films onto various surfaces. Vapor Tech’s advanced, proven coating technologies play a key role in a wide range of applications—from coating plumbing products (such as faucets) with a brilliant, durable finish to critical uses within the medical products and alternative energy markets. Vapor Tech leverages its coating systems and technologies to bring a competitive advantage to their consumer products.

In 2009, the company implemented demand response (DR) with EnerNOC, intrigued by the opportunity to earn payments by making temporary adjustments to its manufacturing operation. Now Vapor Tech shuts down selected elements of its operations during DR dispatches, reducing its energy use by more than 200 kilowatts (kW). This reduction earns the company approximately $5,000 in annual payments from EnerNOC—while protecting the local energy grid and the environment.

Additionally, EnerNOC's energy intelligence software (EIS) gives Vapor Tech real-time visibility into its energy consumption and DR dispatch performance.

A Business Built On Electricity

At Vapor Tech’s 60,000 square-foot headquarters and manufacturing facility in Longmont, Colorado, electricity is much more than a commodity. It’s at the heart of Vapor Tech’s coating technologies. A low-voltage, high-current arc is the key element that enables coating of metallic parts during the PVD process. So Vapor Tech leaders are very aware of the critical need for using energy wisely, and conserving whenever possible. After all, the company’s core technology—and ongoing success—depends on a reliable, available, and cost-effective supply of electricity.

Vapor Tech’s manufacturing facility includes large motors, vacuum pumps, heaters, and other energy-intensive systems. “Energy is definitely one of our largest expenses. So we’re always looking for ways to lower our energy costs,” says Eric Sprague, operations manager.

In general, efficient manufacturing relies on keeping production moving ahead at all times. However, Sprague and other Vapor Tech leaders knew that there was flexibility in the manufacturing operations that would allow for temporary shutdown of some of its nine PVD systems and related equipment. “We knew we couldn’t shut down our whole operation,” he says. “But there are definitely areas where we can make adjustments, and certain systems that we can shut down without any overall impact on the company.”

Working closely with Vapor Tech, EnerNOC helped create an overall energy reduction plan for the facility. They began by evaluating the entire manufacturing operation and identifying key power-consuming devices within the production line that could be shut down temporarily to trigger energy reductions. The result is a clear plan captured in a simple one-page checklist that defines the areas that can be adjusted and identifies the person responsible for taking action. The plan consists of energy reductions that include:

  • Shutting down PVD systems that are not in use
  • Shutting down a cleaning line
  • Reducing use of air conditioning throughout the facility
  • Eliminating unnecessary lighting (e.g., in empty offices and areas with natural light)
  • Shutting down unnecessary equipment in its labs

Like many manufacturing operations, Vapor Tech adjusts its production line based on volume requirements and other factors. In short, its manufacturing operation is in constant flux. With EnerNOC for DR, Vapor Tech retains the ability to respond to DR dispatches based on current conditions. “EnerNOC lets us decide what to shut down depending on the day and workload,” says Sprague. “But there are always areas where we can reduce energy use.”

During a demand response dispatch, Sprague and other managers receive notification from EnerNOC via email and phone. They evaluate current conditions, then follow the energy reduction plan to shut down systems manually. PVD systems require as much as one hour to shut down completely, so Sprague and his team move quickly to make changes on the manufacturing floor, shipping and receiving area, labs, and front offices.

These changes are temporary, lasting a maximum of four hours during a specific, limited timeframe (9:00 AM to 8:00 PM). So DR dispatches do not affect Vapor Tech’s overall production goals. “We can redistribute work to other areas or shifts without any impact on the company,” says Sprague.

Vapor Tech employees know about the company’s participation in demand response, and are supportive of it. “They know that demand response is the right thing for our company to do,” says Sprague. “It earns money for us, and also helps protect the company and the community from power outages.”

The Results

Temporary changes to its production operation enable Vapor Tech to reduce its energy use by 200 kilowatts, earning annual payments of approximately $5,000 from EnerNOC. These funds go directly to the company’s general operating budget, helping bolster the company’s bottom line in challenging economic times.

Initially, Vapor Tech’s reduction goal was 150 kilowatts. However, during initial testing, it became clear that the company could reduce even more. In fact, during recent demand response dispatches, Vapor Tech delivered energy reductions in excess of its 200 kW target. Best of all, these changes happen without any major disruption. “The whole process has gone well,” says Sprague. “We’ve gotten used to what we need to do for DR, and it’s simply become part of the way we work.”

The Benefits

Vapor Tech benefits from the much-appreciated payments it receives for participating in demand response. But equally important to the company is the fact that DR is a good fit with the overall company commitment to protecting the environment, which starts with the company’s core technology. Physical Vapor Deposition is a much more ecologically friendly method of coating metals than anodizing or electroplating. This commitment to the environment continues via a wide range of other efforts. For example, Vapor Tech is a member of the American Council on Renewable Energy. And the commitment is ongoing. “We’re always looking for new ways to reduce energy consumption, and to improve the efficiency of our production operation,” says Sprague. EnerNOC brings a range of powerful benefits to the company:

Visibility into Energy Consumption

During implementation, EnerNOC installed monitoring equipment and provided Vapor Tech deployed its energy intelligence software, which gives Vapor Tech the visibility into its energy consumption that's needed to make smarter energy decisions. “I log in during dispatches and also look at it every week,” says Sprague. “In the past, we couldn’t know our electric usage in real time. Now I know exactly how much energy we’re consuming.”

Streamlined Participation

EnerNOC made implementing DR a simple process for Vapor Tech—from enrollment to implementation to testing. “EnerNOC made the whole process simple and smooth,” says Sprague. “It’s all gone very well.”

Responsive Personnel

“We found EnerNOC extremely easy to work with,” says Sprague. “If I had a question, they were right there with an answer.” As the ultimate vote of confidence, Sprague says he would definitely recommend that other manufacturing operations participate in DR with EnerNOC if at all possible.

Community Support

By reducing its use of energy temporarily, Vapor Tech can protect its company, and the surrounding community, from power outages and other issues. As a company that relies heavily on a steady, reliable flow of electricity, Vapor Tech is committed to doing what it can to protect the local energy grid, now and in the future.

The Future

Working with EnerNOC and Xcel Energy, Vapor Tech continues to look for new areas where it can improve how the company uses and manages energy. The knowledge gained from EnerNOC's software aids these efforts to make ongoing reductions by providing actual usage data. “With EnerNOC, we know more about how we’re using energy,” concludes Sprague. “So we can continue to improve, reduce, and save.”