Since I wrote my last commentary, the weather in Chicago has moderated, thankfully. My gas bill hasn't, of course -- the additional increases expected in home heating costs are mentioned so often in the media that they're reacted to as though expected. Sticker shock upon opening utility bills continues for most, and of course, home heating bills are small compared to energy-intensive heat processing operations. For the bottom line, if nothing else, reducing consumption where possible is the first step in minimizing the impacts of the energy squeeze.

For suggestions on ways that I could further minimize my energy consumption, I checked out my local utility's web site. On it, residential customers can answer a series of questions and receive a list of tips on ways to save, as well as energy analysis, appliance comparisons and other energy tools. I spent a happy couple of hours clicking through the pages to further refine the site's recommendations for my home. While some of the suggestions were obvious (switch from incandescent to compact fluorescent bulbs; already done), others were a bit of a surprise (add more attic insulation; under consideration).

While I haven't yet been able to find a standardized industrial savings calculator, the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has many other resources for industrial processors. Its Energy Saving Teams are visiting large federal facilities and 200 of the country's most energy-intensive manufacturing facilities as part of a national “Easy Ways to Save Energy” campaign. DOE's first six industrial energy-saving assessments identified a total of $10 million per year in energy cost savings. Check out whether EERE can help your plant by visiting www.eere.doe.gov.

In this issue, “Check Burner Air-to-Fuel Ratios” explains that periodically checking and resetting the air-fuel ratios is one of the simplest ways to get maximum efficiency out of fuel-fired process heating equipment such as ovens, heaters, boilers and furnaces. The article also includes a sidebar on “7 Ways to Save Energy” that provides suggestions for reducing energy consumption that will yield immediate, short- and long-term benefits if put into place.

Maximizing oven and furnace efficiencies and getting the most out of your high-priced energy supply continues to be Dick Bennett's focus in “Energy Notes.” Dick continues his series with a look at getting the best performance from your existing equipment by bringing it up to the operating specifications it had when it was first commissioned.

“3 Processes, 1 Solution” explains how oxidizers addressed emissions concerns and brought processes into regulatory compliance in silicone and pharmaceutical processing as well as in a petrochemical facility.

Also, “Predicting Temperature Controller Maintenance” details how temperature controllers can be used not only to control temperature but also to identify process behavior and prevent downtime.

In “The Spray Way,” we take a closer look at spray drying, which involves atomizing a liquid feedstock into a spray of droplets and contacting the droplets with hot air in a drying chamber. Operating conditions and dryer design are selected according to the drying characteristics of the product and powder specification. PH