A.O. Smith Executive Chairman Paul W. Jones presented employees of the plant in McBee, SC, with the Chairman’s Green Star Award. The 400 A.O. Smith employees earned the award for reducing their energy use.

The McBee plant saved more than 2 million gallons of water in 2012, reduced electricity consumption by more than 10%, and cut natural gas consumption by more than 5%. During the same 12-month period, the plant increased commercial water heater production approximately 7%.

“Given A. O. Smith’s position as a leading global water technology company, I’m pleased to see that a significant number of your projects have been focused on water conservation,” Jones said to the employees. “Your efforts don’t just have positive cost implications for the plant, they have a positive impact on the environment as well.”

Energy efficiency and water conservation have been critical factors in nearly every equipment upgrade in the plant over the last several years, according to Sam Carver, vice president of North American operations at A.O. Smith.

“We have been emphasizing efficiency and sound cost management throughout the operation,” he said. “While a number of these are small projects, combined they have helped us substantially decrease our water and utility requirements.”

A major area of focus has been the parts washers that pre-treat water heater components prior to fabrication. The engineering team in McBee has replaced a number of older washers with new equipment that is better insulated, helping reduce natural gas consumption. The new washers also feature enhanced electronic controls that monitor fluid levels in the tanks more effectively, minimizing overflows and helping the plant reduce the amount of chemicals needed in the cleaning process by more than 25%

The engineering team also has been able to modify the curing furnaces to recirculate heated air to improve parts drying while saving additional energy. Another energy saving project involved an upgrade of the plant’s lighting system. The engineering team replaced the original 30-year-old light fixtures with high efficiency lamps that not only are brighter, but require less energy. The high efficiency lamps give off less heat, helping maintain more comfortable temperatures throughout the plant.

The engineers also upgraded the plant’s cooling tower which handles process water and air conditioning water. The team installed a two-cell system that utilizes high efficiency variable speed drives. The two-cell equipment provides better control of the amount of water being pumped through the system to increase overall efficiency.