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Energy saving16th of March 2011
How important is saving energy in any green cleaning regime? And what are the latest energy-saving technologies in the cleaning sector? ECJ finds out.
The term 'green cleaning' is often used to refer to the act of cleaning without chemicals. But there are many other facets to green cleaning that any truly sustainable company needs to take into account. For example, the use of water should be limited where possible and steps should be taken to reduce waste. But arguably a key component of any sustainability policy involves saving energy.
Cleaning requires energy in more ways than one. High quantities of power are used during the manufacture of cleaning equipment, and energy is also required to transport the products to their final destination and to power the cleaning machines in use.
Many key companies are committed to saving energy either by developing more energy-efficient machines or by taking a holistic view of energy-savings – or by a combination of both. Kärcher, for instance, has company-wide policies on energy savings while also offering eco-friendly cleaning machines.
The company’s T12/1 Eco!Efficiency dry vacuum cleaner is claimed to use up to 40 per cent less electricity than the basic version due to optimised flow technology. Kärcher also offers scrubber dryers and hot water high pressure cleaners with an Eco setting. “This allows most cleaning jobs to be carried out using less power,” says the company’s environmental PR David Wickel.
Reduce carbon emissions
He says energy can also be saved by increasing the friction power of scrubber dryers. “Microfibre rollers are available on many of our scrubber drying machines and these use input energy more efficiently which gives them greater dirt-removing power,” he said.
Kärcher’s company-wide energy-saving schemes include operating a woodchip power plant; utilising waste heat in plastics manufacture, and using geothermal heat and solar and photovoltaic systems. Energy efficiency is an important issue for Kärcher and the company’s target is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, taking 2007 as the base year.
“Although the number of units produced by our company has risen continuously in recent years our impact on the environment has hardly increased – and in some areas we have greatly reduced it due to energy-saving technology and renewable energy sources,” said Wickel.
Reducing energy is also one of Diversey’s core aims according to sustainability manager Ed Roberts. “One of our signature programmes is WWF Climate Savers and we have an absolute target of reducing our CO2 emissions by 25 per cent by 2013, with 2003 as the base year,” he said. “So far we are on target.”
WWF Climate Savers is a partnership between leading corporations and WWF to establish targets to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Saving energy has an impact at every stage of a product’s life-cycle, says Roberts. “Everybody in the chain can make a significant impact. Energy savings can be made in the manufacturing process, during transport, in the production of raw materials and by developing more efficient machines that clean at lower temperatures,” he said.
Diversey’s Taski Swingo XP is designed to save energy during use. This incorporates a V-shaped scrubbing unit with micro-rotating brushes which are claimed to clean more efficiently than conventional circular pads or brushes. The machine is said to reduce energy consumption by up to 30 per cent and can be powered using an XFC battery.“Extra Fast Charge batteries are highly efficient and last longer than conventional batteries,” said Roberts.
Other Diversey products claimed to be energy-efficient include Suma Revoflow – a new dishwash detergent claimed to reduce the need for rewash by five per cent – and J-Flex chemical solutions which are said to clean efficiently using cold water.
However, energy savings within the company are not confined to the products themselves, says Roberts. “Our work includes reducing energy in our manufacturing facilities and offices and in limiting our fleet and air travel,” he said. “We have carried out a full energy audit in most of our facilities and identified opportunities for energy savings.”
These include factors such as installing low-energy lighting; switching to fuel-efficient cars; introducing video conferencing to reduce the need for air travel; and scrutinising the fuel consumption of logistics providers.
“We have also put wind turbines in a number of our facilities and are about to put a new wind facility in the US,” said Roberts.
Tork tissue manufacturer SCA also uses alternative power sources as part of its energy-saving strategy. The company has recently introduced geothermal energy at its New Zealand tissue plant where natural gas is replaced by locally-produced geothermal steam.
“The use of geothermal steam is a first for SCA globally and the move aims to reduce the site's carbon emissions by nearly 40 per cent,” said public affairs environment manager Martina Eisenbeis.
Meanwhile, SCA has also entered into an agreement to build a wind park in central Sweden which will produce around 2.4 terawatt hours of electricity when fully operational. The company also has an ESAVE programme designed to reduce energy usage via various products around the globe. Since the programme’s inception in 2003 SCA has carried out approximately 900 small-scale energy-saving projects.
Reducing energy is also part of Nilfisk-Advance’s overall sustainability policy says group CSR manager Ulla Riber. “Our aim is to reduce energy consumption to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by five per cent each year,” she said.
“Our engineers evaluate the ecological effect over the whole life cycle of the product and reduce the use of detergents, energy and water.” Nilfisk-Advance machines designed to save energy include the Nilfisk Power Eco vacuum cleaner, which is said to use an efficient motor to offer high performance while reducing energy consumption.
Also said to achieve significant energy savings are IPC Gansow’s patented ECS cleaning machines. These incorporate microfibre mops which means that less pressure is required to achieve the same clean, according to general manager Richard Slater. “This saves energy in the same way that you save petrol in your car by refraining from putting your foot down,” he said. “The energy is absorbed by the mop."
He claims the company’s CT40 ECS model has a 15 per cent lower energy absorption compared with traditional machines on the market. Energy savings are even greater when used on conjunction with IPC Gansow’s Battery Life Saver battery charger, says Slater. The BLS charger – which is also patented – has a top-up limiter feature which 'reads' the battery and will not charge it if it is already more than 52 per cent charged.
“A cleaning machine may run for two-and -a-half hours between charges, but an operator who uses it for an hour may be tempted to recharge it anyway even though only 50 per cent of the battery power has been used up,” said Slater. “This is an obvious waste of energy and the top-up limiter feature prevents it from occurring.” The top-up limiter – which is claimed to reduce energy consumption by 30 per cent compared to most chargers - can be switched off if required.
Dibo is also committed to saving energy and its GreenBoiler for use with high-pressure washing systems is claimed to be more energy-efficient than traditional heating systems. “The GreenBoiler provides a better flame and superior air flow which results in an energy efficiency of 92 per cent,” said Dibo’s managing director Pierre Van de Borme. “Much less of the heat is lost compared with our old boiler.”
Saving energy is also an important plank of the Tennant environmental strategy according to marketing communications manager Agnes Knappen. “By measuring consumption we can discover which aspects of our operations consume the most energy and this helps us to target our efforts to reduce energy waste,” she said.
Examples of Tennant’s energy-saving machines include the company’s Green Machines’ 500ze electric street sweeper. “By means of lithium-ion batteries this machine can run for up to eight hours on one charge,” said Knappen. Tennant also offers fast-charging batteries on its Tennant S8 sweeper and on a number of scrubber dryers.
Increasing need for reduction
According to Knappen the sustainability issues of reducing the use of water, chemicals and energy are all interlinked. As an example she quotes Tennant’s chemical-free cleaning technology ec-H2O which converts plain tap water into an all-purpose cleaner.
“The ec-H2O system results in a 70 per cent reduction in water use,” she said. “This means that less energy is used going back and forth for refills - which in turn means fewer battery recharges.”
So how important is saving energy in the great, green scheme of things?
According to Diversey’s Ed Roberts: “When you consider our depleting resources and the increasing cost of energy, it is clear that the need for energy reductions is rising.”
Dibo’s Pierre Van de Borme adds: “Energy savings is the area in which we are investing most heavily and it is going to become even more important in the future.”
And Nilfisk-Advance’s Ulla Ruber adds: “Reducing energy is a crucial aspect of ‘green cleaning’ for a machine manufacturer. The vast majority of a cleaning machine’s lifetime environmental impact lies in the phase when the machine is in operation, and not in the production, transportation or recycling/disposal phases.
“By reducing the consumption of energy and water when the machine is in operation we achieve the most positive results when it comes to environmental impact. This is why reducing energy consumption is such an important aspect of green cleaning.”