Earth Consultants

Applying Lean Six Sigma to the Environment

Tips to reduce energy at your company

6 min read

We are in the middle of a Green Belt project, to reduce energy in our company. Our initial efforts to make significant reductions in energy were not funded (LED lighting upgrade), so we’re looking at other less costly ways to reduce energy.

This is one reason why I like Six Sigma projects. Typically, people have ideas to solve problems, and they go in with a known solution (such as changing lights to LEDs). When that solution gets rejected or not approved, the improvement effort typically ends.

When we start with the problem (too much energy being used), and a solution is not approved, the project simply continues to the next possible solution, until a goal is achieved, or management is satisfied with the improvement. The team keeps working on the problem, and is not tied to, or biased by, a specific solution.

Since our initial improvement was rejected, I’ve been reviewing many reference guides and lists of low cost ways companies can save energy. Our local utilities actually does a good job of encouraging companies to reduce their energy use.

There are two lists that I’d like to share from our utility (Portland General Electric) and one from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that might be helpful to your company. This list is not all-inclusive, but might be a good starting point.

Energy Reduction Checklist for your Company


I’ve combined the lists below.

You can also download this printer-friendly checklist here.




Collect Data
Analyze, model and predict energy usage, to know what expected usage should be each month, in order to better understand where usage is coming from and when problems arise (using statistical analysis)
 Install constant monitoring equipment to better understand energy usage

Eliminate Leaks
 Maintain equipment regularly to reduce leaks
 Train and educate employees on how to identify leaks, and who to contact
 Locate and repair any leaks identified
 Replace “leak prone” components
 Isolate unused system parts to avoid feeding leaks
 Check for unsafe or wasteful uses of compressed air (blowing dirt of parts and equipment) or water (not dry cleaning as a first pass attempt to clean)

Turn Off Equipment
 Conduct an Energy Walk and perform a walk-through audit after hours and turn off equipment that is left on overnight or over the weekend in an empty building

  • Use this checklist as a guide
  • Ask your staff what makes up your plant base load that runs all of the time?
  • Ask them “does everything need to run continually?”

 Send out equipment shutoff reminders to employees prior to each holiday and shutdown period
 Post stickers and signs to remind employees what items need to be shut off
 Check if motors, fans, pumps are running idle when not needed

Undo Manual Overrides
 Look for attempts to modify automation such as:

  • Automatic doors being forced open
  • Timers being reset
  • HVAC controls being adjusted or reset
  • Post signs where manual overrides tend to occur to educate offenders not to alter system

Hot Water
 Conduct a Water Walk to find opportunities to reduce hot water usage
 Lower thermostat setting to the lowest acceptable temperature
 Install low-flow aerators
 Repair water leaks immediately
 Verify faucet sensors in bathrooms do not stay on too long


 Install weather stripping around doors
 Caulk gaps around windows, outlets and anywhere services enter the building (electrical, cable, etc.)
 Add or repair insulation in roofs and walls
 Use window shades or low-cost reflective film to block heat from summer sun

Take advantage of natural daylight
 If work area is over lit, turn off or dim non-critical areas
 Install occupancy sensors in less-used areas
 Install timers and/or photo-sensors on outside lights
 Eliminate unnecessary lights and lower light levels when appropriate
 Review location of lighting, to see if less lighting is possible with better placement
 Check fixture/lamp beam patterns to match application:

  • Narrow beam is ideal for tall stacked aisles
  • Medium beam is for medium bay or low-racked, open-aisle industrial and retail areas
  • Wide beam is recommended for wide open areas
  • Remember light uniformity is essential for a safe work space

 Consider LED and other higher efficiency lighting options, such as:

  • Upgrade T12 fluorescent fixtures with high-performance T8 fluorescent lamps and electronic ballasts or new LED options
  • Upgrade older (10+ years) T8 systems with high-performance T8s and electronic ballasts or new LED options
  • Replace incandescent exit signs with highly efficient LED signs
  • Consider other LED options, now available for all common interior and exterior lighting applications

Understand Equipment Settings
 Regularly review all automated control systems and set-points by setting reminders in your calendar. Beware of buried set-points
 Review calibration of equipment and systems which control temperatures, pressures, motor current, and capacity indicators
 Use a smart thermostat to automatically adjust temperature according to building use and occupancy
 Read readily visible air capacity and pressure gauges for high pressure drops through lines and equipment


Review Equipment Performance
 Buy ENERGY STAR® qualified office equipment, including office refrigerators and other appliances when making new purchases
 Turn off computers, monitors, computer peripherals (wireless keyboards and mouse, webcam, speakers), personal fans, space heaters, printers and other electronic equipment when not in use for extended periods
 Provide power strips to make it easy to turn off multiple items with one power button
 Use “smart” power strips that turn off equipment when not in use
 Install “energy misers” on indoor vending machines
 If equipment needs replacing due to wear out, excessive energy use, or underperformance, consider energy-efficient equipment
 Replace old motors with high-efficiency and variable speed drive motors
 Check to see if there are any equipment that is designed to save energy, but is turned off
 Fix failed valves or regulators
 Optimize compressed air systems
 Use personal electric space heaters appropriately (radiant-type heaters are usually the most efficient)
 Use fans to delay or reduce the need for cooling
 Service your HVAC system twice a year and check filters every month — clean or replace them when dirty
 Identify, document and implement seasonal adjustments to building and equipment
 Cycle heaters or air conditioner units off when appropriate
 Use controls when available to keep air pulsed and reduce regulator pressure when appropriate to better manage air flow
 Look for uninsulated ovens, kilns, heater bands on extrusion, water pipes, and other areas where heat loss may occur

Keep it Clean!
Conduct a 5S event. These events are a great way to improve cleaning and organization in the workplace
 Clean areas that might impact energy-efficiency such as fouled heat transfer surfaces or clogged filters/strainers

How do you get started evaluating these different options? I would highly recommend conducting an Energy or Water Walk. This will help you organize a cross-functional team to walk through the work area, and help you evaluate this checklist, to see if there are any low-cost opportunities to pursue.

Need help getting started with a WASTE Walk? Take our 90-day challenge for FREE!

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