Newsflash: Running a brewery is expensive. There’s large overhead, tons of equipment, lots of employees, lawyers, licenses and loads more. Just the amount of power and energy it takes to run the many facets of a brewery is heavy on the budget. On average, breweries in the United States spend around $200 million every year on energy, and it costs anywhere between $5 to $6.60 per barrel of beer in electricity alone. Plus, the pandemic has only pushed our collective focus away from eco-friendly and waste-fighting best practices.
While you can’t get rid of your equipment or employees — or lawyers! — you can take several steps towards reducing energy costs. That’s why so many breweries use the following tips and tricks to cut back on energy expenses. These are our favorite six ways to reduce energy costs in breweries.
1. It begins with the construction — If you’re just starting your brewery, take a moment to think about the building’s structural design. While many startup brewery owners fantasize about setting up shop in large empty warehouses, it’s simply not very energy efficient. As with any other commercial building, construction and insulation are critical components to the building’s eventual energy efficiency. If you don’t have a building yet, consider employing energy-efficient building techniques like tilt up construction from the start.
2. Audit your energy use — If you already have a brewery, it’s best to begin with an energy audit. An energy audit will allow you to quickly assess where you’re using energy efficiently and where you’re wasting it. Using techniques like a blower door test, an energy auditor can easily let you know which parts of your building, which pieces of equipment and what parts of your process are bleeding you dry in energy costs.
3. Check your refrigeration — Breweries spend a considerable amount of energy on refrigeration. It’s used to ferment beers and keep the beer fresh once it’s finished. Consequently, 35 percent of a brewery’s energy costs generally go towards refrigeration. For this reason, it’s imperative to check for cracked pipes, leaks or ajar doors regularly. Work to optimize your refrigeration and consider new units if they continue to eat up large amounts of your brewery’s electric fees.
4. Update your equipment — Brewing the wort consumes between 25 to 35 percent of your brewery’s energy usage. It’s essential to make sure as little of the fuel is being wasted as possible. You want to make sure your equipment doesn’t have leaks and improve the overall insulation. Doing so will help reduce heat loss and decrease your fuel usage. Also, be sure to take the time to find the perfect pressure for top performance.
5. Improve Lighting and HVAC system — As with any building, lighting and air conditioning systems can do a number on the overall electricity costs. Take the time to ensure that your lighting and HVAC system are in good shape. Swap all the lighting to energy-efficient bulbs and use natural lighting as often as possible. For the HVAC system, swap to an energy-efficient model or retrofit your current system to be more energy-efficient. Be sure to switch the filters regularly, and don’t skip maintenance.
6. Check your compressed air and bottling systems — Your compressed air system is crucial for both bottling and production. However, if it’s not working correctly, it can eat up your energy budget. Don’t use more pressure than you need, and be sure to check and repair leaks regularly. Turn off the compressor if you aren’t using it. If you make these three small changes, your energy usage from compressed air will decrease notably.
Bonus tip: optimize your operation
Sometimes you can do all the above tricks and still struggle with energy costs. If that’s the case, it might be time to take a hard look at your processes. Is there anything in your production or equipment that’s consuming energy?
Maybe you need to create a more concentrated wort. Perhaps you need to cut back on water usage. Maybe your employees have a terrible habit of leaving machines running when they aren’t in use. If you take the time to examine your energy usage and implement the six tips above, you should be able to reduce your brewery’s energy usage and costs significantly.
Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.