You know the slogan: “Your Tax Dollars at Work.” It pops up all the time on signs at highway construction projects to remind you that you’re getting back something from the government.

If you’re like me, your reaction is probably, “Yeah, right. Whatever.” Well, not everything like this deserves a cynical response. Case in point: PHAST. PHAST stands for Process Heating Assessment and Survey Tool. It was developed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in cooperation with the Industrial Heating Equipment Association, with the support of the U. S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Technologies Program. To ensure its relevance to real-life situations, input was obtained from representatives of major industries and process heating equipment suppliers.

So what is PHAST? It’s a software tool you can use to assess the energy consumption of your process heating equipment and to make preliminary evaluations of the benefits of various equipment and operating upgrades. At the heart of it is a program that performs a heat balance based on data collected on any oven or furnace in your plant, including the energy consumption of electric motors on accessories like fans, conveyor drives and such. It reports the results in graphic and tabular form, giving you an easy-to-see breakdown of where the energy is going in your process. It also allows you to store this data and prepare plant- or company-wide summaries of oven and furnace energy consumption. PHAST is applicable to equipment heated with fuels, electricity, steam or a combination of these.

Considering an equipment modification or operating practice change to save energy? PHAST lets you plug in your energy costs and run “what if?” comparisons between your heating equipment as it now exists and after some specified change. Before-and-after results are shown side by side. You’re halfway home to your payback calculations.

The individual “pages” in the worksheets also contain explanations of technical terms and recommendations on how to gather accurate data. And, the best thing about it is that it’s free. Well, your taxes paid for it.

Do you want a copy? Just log on to www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/bestpractices/software.html [link at bottom of page] to download it. It requires around 54 MB of space and will run on PCs with Windows 98, NT, 2000 and XP. Included with it are a glossary of process heating terms and calculators to run side-by-side efficiency and energy calculations for different levels of excess air, combustion air temperature, and other variables, as well as flows through orifices.

“OK,” you say, “How do I learn to use it?” For anyone familiar with oven and furnace operations, PHAST is straightforward and easy to navigate. If you don’t have the time to teach yourself, you can contact a Qualified PHAST Specialist to assist you with the equipment survey -- you’ll find their names at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/bestpractices/qualified_specialists.html [link at bottom of page]. You’ll see from the list that some of the specialists are probably not for hire -- they’ve become in-house specialists for their own companies.

If the idea of becoming your company’s Qualified PHAST Specialist appeals to you, you can attend one of a number of training courses held around the country each year. Check the web site for the schedule. These are intensive 2-1/2 day courses covering combustion and heat transfer fundamentals, different types of industrial heating equipment, the fine points of data collection, opportunities for energy-efficiency improvement and use of the PHAST software. There are quizzes and a final exam in which you use the PHAST program on different examples of process heating equipment. A passing grade is required for the Specialist certificate -- it’s not a gimmee.

While you’re at it, poke around the OIT web site -- you’ll find lots of other goodies, including tip sheets on various energy-saving technologies and monographs on waste heat reduction. If you’re responsible for more than just the process heating equipment, the site also contains evaluation software packages for fans, pumps and compressed air and steam systems, similar to PHAST.

See? Your tax dollars put in a productive day. PH

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