By: Derrick Taylor

Energy Compressed Air IncentivesWisconsin manufacturers can save energy and optimize their compressed air systems with the help of rebate programs and financial incentives from Focus on Energ®. Focus on Energy can help manufacturers save thousands of dollars in energy bills by improving the efficiency of their compressed air systems—often at a minimal cost. When you partner with Fluid-Aire Dynamics on a Focus on Energy project, you only pay the costs over and above the incentive, keeping your up-front costs to a minimum.

What is Focus on Energy?

Focus on Energy is Wisconsin’s statewide program serving the customers of the 107 participating Wisconsin electric and natural gas utilities. Their mission is to help Wisconsin businesses and homeowners implement energy efficiency and renewable energy projects by offering resources and financial incentives supporting the implementation of those projects. They provide rebates and energy incentives to customers of participating utilities. The program is funded by Wisconsin’s investor-owned energy utilities, as required under a Wisconsin state law (Wis. Stat. § 196.374(2)(a)), and by other participating municipal and electric cooperative utilities.

Why does your energy company want you to use less energy?

Utilities want to reduce the overall load on the power grid to address growing demands on their existing infrastructure. By helping their customers be more energy-efficient, energy companies can forestall expensive infrastructure upgrades, reduce the risk of outages and better regulate supply and demand.

Manufacturers and other large energy users provide the greatest opportunity for energy companies to reduce the overall load on the power grid and avoid big swings in energy demand. For many manufacturers, the compressed air system represents a large share of their overall energy consumption. Inefficiencies in compressed air systems can add thousands of dollars to the average manufacturer’s energy bill and add to the strain on the power grid.

Who is eligible for energy incentives through Focus on Energy?

Focus on Energy incentives are available to any customer of a participating utility with a qualifying project. You can check to see if your utility participates in the Wisconsin Focus on Energy program here: Focus on Energy Participating Utilities.

Focus on Energy Prescriptive Incentives for Compressed Air Systems

These incentives offer a specific dollar amount for purchasing qualifying energy-saving equipment for your compressed air systems, including VSD air compressors, zero-loss condensate drains, and more. Prescriptive incentives from Focus on Energy can help companies offset the cost of energy-saving improvements to their compressed air systems. In some cases, these incentives may cover the majority of the cost. Prescriptive incentives can only be used to purchase new equipment.

Pre-approval is not required for the majority of Focus on Energy prescriptive offerings; manufacturers simply need to make sure that the equipment they are purchasing qualifies. The application can be submitted after the purchase and installation are complete. When you work with Fluid-Aire Dynamics, we are paid directly by Focus on Energy for qualifying projects and pass along the incentive to you as a reduction on your invoice. Manufacturers pay only the equipment and installation costs of the above and beyond what the incentive covers.

New VSD Compressor Incentives

If you are currently using a fixed-speed rotary screw air compressor, upgrading to a Variable Speed Drive (VSD) compressor could be your biggest opportunity for energy savings. VSD air compressors save energy by controlling the frequency supplied to the drive motor on the air compressor in response to real-time demand on the system. When demand is low, the motor will run at a reduced speed, requiring less energy to operate. When demand for compressed air is higher, the VSD will automatically increase the frequency to the air compressor motor to meet CFM demands.

The Focus on Energy prescriptive incentive covers $40/HP towards the purchase and installation of a new VSD air compressor. The purchase must replace a non-VSD air compressor (fixed-speed rotary screw or piston) or be included in a new construction installation. There is no HP limit on this incentive. Qualifying purchases must meet the following requirements:

  • Compressor must run for a minimum of 2,000 hours annually
  • The system must not have previously used any VSD compressors
  • Backup or redundant systems do not qualify

Aire Tip: Switching from a rotary screw air compressor to a VSD air compressor could save up to 70% on energy consumption for compressed air. Read more: Why Choose or Upgrade to a Variable Speed Drive Air Compressor?

Prescriptive Incentives for Compressed Air Components and Accessories

In addition to VSDs, Focus on Energy also provides prescriptive incentives towards the purchase of other compressed air system components and accessories that improve the energy efficiency of the system.

  • VSD Vacuum Pumps: Covers $40/HP for Variable Torque VSD vacuum pumps up to 30 HP and $30/HP for Constant Torque VSD vacuum pumps up to 30 HP. Custom incentives may be available for VSD pumps greater than 30/HP.  Like VSD air compressors, VSD vacuum pumps must run a minimum of 2,000 hours annually to qualify.
  • Cycling Refrigerated Dryers: Covers $0.50/CFM for installation of a cycling refrigerated dryer or variable speed refrigerated dryer. The incentive is applied to the smaller CFM value between the dryer and air compressor.
  • Dewpoint Demand Controls for Desiccant Dryers: Covers $2/CFM for dewpoint demand controls for heatless, heated or blower purge desiccant dryers. These controls reduce the volume of air required to purge the desiccant dryer system. The incentive is applied to the smaller CFM value between the dryer and air compressor. Can be used for new or retrofit projects.
  • Zero-Loss Drains: Covers $80/drain for installation of zero-loss condensate drains, which eliminate the loss of compressed air during manual or timer-based draining. Must be used in systems with load/no-load, variable speed, variable displacement or centrifugal compressors.
  • Pressure/Flow Controllers: Covers $8/HP for pressure/flow controllers for compressed air systems. Flow controllers must be installed on the main pressure header; drop-line regulators and filter-regulator lubricators are not eligible.
  • Mist Eliminators: Covers $4/CFM for installation of equipment to remove water and oil aerosols from the compressed air supply. Eligible systems must have an initial pressure drop of 1 psig or less. Can be used to replace a standard coalescing filter in existing buildings or install in new construction.
  • Air Nozzles: Covers $8/nozzle to install energy-efficient air nozzles. Compressed air systems must run at least 2,000 hours annually.
  • Heat Recovery: Covers $50/HP for systems that recover heat from the compressed air system, up to 50% of the project cost. These systems collect heat from the air compressor and either vent warm air to the outdoors (in the summer) or collect and use it (in the winter). The project must result in an estimated net reduction of BTUs consumed to heat or cool the facility. (Heat recovery projects that don’t meet the prescriptive requirements may still be considered for a custom incentive through Focus on Energy. Custom incentives require pre-approval by Focus on Energy prior to equipment being purchased, ordered, or installed.)
  • Compressed Air Load Shifting: $200/compressor HP shifted for technologies that shift inappropriate or inefficient uses of compressed air to another type of process. Examples might include the use of compressed air for blow-off, cooling, or air motors. The compressed air load shifting incentive is for existing buildings only, and the inappropriate use must have an annual runtime of at least 2,000 hours annually. Compressed air load shifting projects do require pre-approval.

Custom Incentives

Focus on Energy also provides incentives for projects outside the scope of the prescriptive incentive offerings, commonly referred to as custom projects or custom incentives. These projects must be pre-approved by Focus on Energy prior to equipment being purchased, ordered or installed. The incentive amount is determined based on the estimated energy savings, and the efficiency payback on the project must be between 1.5 and 10 years.

To get started with a custom incentive, manufacturers must work with a Focus on Energy advisor to obtain pre-approval before the project starts and any purchase orders are made. Fluid-Aire Dynamics can help manufacturers gather the required documentation and submit the application to Focus on Energy directly.

Compressed Air Studies

Fluid-Aire Dynamics offers a variety of compressed air studies and system audits, including leak detection. These studies are a good place to start; they can help you identify opportunities for energy savings that may be covered by Focus of Energy under either a prescriptive or custom energy incentive program. If a more detailed assessment is needed, an investigative study utilizing data logging may be the best route for you. Focus on Energy may cover up to 50% of a qualifying process assessment (up to $7500) to determine how to best optimize your compressed air system.

Leak Detection and Repair

A supply-side compressed air study looks for leaks and other inefficiencies in your compressed air system. An ultrasonic detector is used to locate pinhole leaks in compressed air piping and connections. These tiny leaks can add thousands of dollars annually to your energy bill.

Focus on Energy offers $4/HP for leak detection and repair. Leak repair represents a large opportunity for energy savings for many manufacturers. On average, about 35% of compressed air produced is wasted. Finding and fixing leaks will keep compressed air waste to a minimum.

Aire Tip: A 1-CFM leak will add ~$35 in energy costs per shift.

Data Logging

Data logging is an inexpensive, easy and non-invasive way to measure important indicators of compressed air demand. A data-logging study involves attaching an amp meter to system controls for the air compressor for an extended time (usually about two weeks). The meter records amperage every five seconds. Monitoring energy use by the air compressor over time allows us to extrapolate important information such as the average duty cycle, time spent loaded and unloaded, peak usage times, and the variability in energy use over a shift, day, or week.

We can use this information to identify opportunities for energy savings, which could include lowering overall plant pressure, installing a smaller backup system for periods of low demand, or upgrading to a VSD air compressor.

Getting Started with Focus on Energy for Compressed Air Systems

Fluid-Aire Dynamics makes it easy to qualify for incentives through Focus on Energy. We are a Registered Trade Ally for compressed air system energy incentives through Focus on Energy. We’ll even fill out the paperwork for you and provide all the required documentation to make participation as easy as possible. We can:

  • Conduct compressed air studies through the Focus on Energy program
  • Identify your greatest opportunities for energy savings and incentives
  • Fix leaks or install qualifying equipment and upgrades

Contact us to learn how we can help you improve the energy efficiency of your compressed air system. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can start saving money on your energy bill! 

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