Using, Saving and Managing Energy in a Heat Treat Facility

Furnaces North America (FNA) is a biennial conference that brings together the best minds in heat treating — the process of heating products with a furnace. Professionals from across the industry discuss, share and promote current technology and trends, while attendees are end users looking to stay up to date on the latest developments.


At the 2016 conference, Mike Stowe, one of our senior energy engineers, attended on behalf of Duke Energy. Being able to learn from other professionals in the field allows Mike, and Advanced Energy more generally, to better help Duke’s customers save energy.

Mike presented a talk titled, “Using, Saving and Managing Energy in a Heat Treat Facility,” which discussed ways industrial customers can develop their products with the least amount of energy, or by lowering their energy intensity. Understanding the processes and support systems involved in heat treating is essential to finding energy efficient solutions.

Heat treating, like many industrial processes, requires a substantial amount of energy. A key aspect of heat treating is transformation, which is the change in form, appearance or nature of raw materials into a finished product. Consider the transformation of clay to pottery. The clay must first be formed onto a potter’s wheel, the pottery is then fired in a kiln, the glaze coating is applied, the pottery is fired once again, and voila, the beautiful piece of pottery is complete. Many transformation processes exist in the heat treat arena, including tempering, carburizing, normalizing and case hardening.


The steps throughout a transformation consume what is known as process energy. Identifying and reducing losses in this energy can improve energy efficiency. At the same time, transformation involves facility energy, or the energy used by the systems supporting a facility, such as compressed air, chillers, HVAC, motors and combustion (boilers, ovens and furnaces).


At Advanced Energy, we seek out projects to help our customers meet their needs. Compressed air is often the most inefficient facility system, but it can be the easiest to improve and offers excellent payback. Waste heat recovery is frequently available from many of these systems by making use of economizers, heat wheels or heat exchangers. Even simple greasing and lubrication programs can improve equipment life and energy efficiency.

Saving energy is important from more than just an energy standpoint, though. It also produces non-energy benefits, such as improved plant productivity, product quality and workflow, and reduced emissions. Knowing where to look for and how to find solutions for reducing energy consumption is essential for realizing these benefits.