Nashville Wire Products Slices Energy Costs

Tags: energy management

A dramatic improvement in workplace quality and a substantial environmental benefit – all in a move that cut lighting costs more than 50 percent and saves about $40,000 per year. Sound too good to be true? That has been the result of Nashville Wire Products’ decision to change the lighting to an Orion system at its Driftwood, Tenn., location, the oldest of seven NWP facilities.

“A lot of people were skeptical, I think,” says NWP design engineer Daron Whitehead, who also heads the company’s internal-looking engineering technology team. “When I told everybody the plan was to save money by changing out our light fixtures, people kind of said ‘you're going to do what, now?’ But when I explained to them that we would be cutting our wattage in half, it started to make sense to them, especially after I showed them the numbers.”


The numbers had been supplied by Ken Avery, president of Energy Solutions Inc., of Nashville, who was not content to merely replace fixtures one-for-one, but conducted a professional study of the facility.


“Almost every plant layout changes over time, with the lighting taking on more and more of an improvised character,” says Avery. “For that reason, there’s usually substantial benefit from a thorough review of the existing lighting layout.”


Before recommending any course of action, Avery and Whitehead took light readings, consulted plant area managers and employees about light levels and discussed obtaining more effective light placements. To substantiate the cost-saving projections, Energy Solutions installed 10 light fixtures on a circuit along with an energy meter to compare, in apples-to-apples fashion, the new system’s power consumption to the old. 


“Ken gave me his estimate of what we could save and what we could accomplish,” says Whitehead. “Being an engineer, I kind of like to crunch the numbers myself. When I went through the numbers, the savings were there – it’s a fairly linear, straightforward calculation – and the savings were real.” After the retrofit was complete, Whitehead and Avery verified power reduction estimates with electric meter readings.


The change – which substantially increased light levels throughout the Driftwood plant –resulted in a lighting power reduction from 1,134,939 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year to a projected 549,403 – a 52 percent drop of 563,000 kWh, worth $40,000 per year.


For independent verification of the meter readings, Nashville Wire Products utilized a service called “Power Tracker,” provided by the Nashville Electric Company. This service indicated a usage drop of 80 KW as soon as the project was complete.


These figures give the project a cash return on investment of 57.1 percent and 21-month payback. All told, Nashville Wire replaced 374 metal halide (MH) and outmoded fluorescent task lights with 326 T8 fluorescent fixtures. Numerous task lights were eliminated.


On completion, Nashville Wire Products management – who had taken an active interest and role in the project – reviewed the results and asked Energy Solutions to begin similar projects in all of  NWP’s other six facilities.


“Because the plants are all different and this is the biggest, the savings won’t be as much. But we estimate it will be about $25,000 per plant – and it all goes straight to the bottom line,” says Whitehead. “Our energy technology engineering team was challenged to find a way to reduce costs and this has been a real good project for us.”


The numbers, however, were only part of the story.


“The Driftwood facility had a ballast roof and metal halide lights,” says Whitehead. “A ballast roof tends to leak if you start cutting holes in it, so we didn’t have any skylights and few windows, so there’s no sunlight from anywhere. Plus, the metal halide lights we had lose their brightness over time. At one particular work location, we measured six to eight foot-candles, which is pretty much like working in the dark. Our people had been working in these conditions for quite some time.”


Avery said that from owners on down, NWP personnel found it hard to believe the increase in light levels that now reach their work areas and had been surprised they had not realized how poorly lit their facility had become over time.


“No one wanted it that way,” Avery said. “It just crept in over time and it was kind of like that old saying that you didn’t know how heavy the luggage was until you stopped carrying it.”


Through most of the facility, Avery’s light meter readings confirmed observed visual impressions that pre-retrofit light levels at work elevations were “low and dull” to “dim at best.” Except in two inspection lines, measured foot-candle (FC) readings ranged from lows of 5 FC and 8 FC to highs of 19 FC and 45 FC. Overall average was 18 FC. After the project was completed, these readings rose to 25 FC, 45 FC, 49 FC and 80 FC, respectively, and the overall average jumped into the low 40s.


“We had a guy at one workstation that was working at six to eight foot-candles,” says Whitehead. “He’s now working at 65, which is important to him because he can see to operate his machine. It’s been that way all through the plant.


“In our wire cutting department, the HID lighting was so bad we had had to drop down 8-foot strip lights to get light closer to the wire cutting machines. They have to cut wire in very specific lengths and there’s a lot of measuring involved. They had put about 30 fixtures in, and each machine had several of these strip lights over it. With the new lights, we’ve been able to take all those down – and that is an additional savings beyond the new normal.”


The only areas that had had substantially higher light readings before the retrofit were two critical inspection lines, where existing levels were 69 FC and 85 FC. The project boosted these to 110 FC and 115 FC, respectively.


“Our inspection people can see much better,” says Whitehead.


He was curious what the people out on the floor were going to say. Several asked if the company intended to provide sunglasses – and none had complained. “And we have one lady, who's been here 31 years, driving a towmotor in that once-dark end of the building. She thanks me every time she comes around the corner,” he says.


“It’s made such a big difference in the morale – not that we had any problems to begin with. It just seems fresher and I think people function better in a well-lighted area.”


“One thing I especially like about the new fixtures is that they are hung by jack chains and have plugs,” he adds. “So if we ever need to move or change a fixture, it’s not permanently tied in. We can just unplug it and move it where we need it.”


Aside from the work-related and financial benefits for NWP, the power reduction also provides a significant environmental benefit for the local environment. The 563,000 kWh saving will mean, according to Federal EPA formulas, that some 434 tons of carbon dioxide and 118 tons of carbon – products of power plant generation – will not be released into the atmosphere each year. It is also, according to EPA, the equivalent of a 107-acre forest, removing 83 cars from the road and saving 53,231 gallons of gasoline per year.


The savings and environmental benefits are possible because Orion Illuminator fixtures have been engineered to use a specially formed, highly reflective surface to harvest light emitted from all sides of a fluorescent tube and direct it downward to where it is usable. As a result, the Illuminator fixture provides more light from far less energy than standard fixtures.


The Illuminator fixture is typically used with T8 full-spectrum fluorescent tubes and electronic ballasts. As a result, Orion systems turn on instantly, operate at a cool 130 degrees F, provide a much more natural type of light than older fluorescent types, and offer a significantly longer life and lamp cost than HIDs.


“Expecting even a change for the better to cost more is the way things usually go,” says Avery. “Most of us would think that way. In this case, however, Nashville Wire Products not only got the better lighting they were looking for, but saved substantially on their power costs and provided a significant environmental benefit as well. They also took a chunk of electrical power off the grid. That will tend to keep electric rates stable, and that is an issue we’re all facing.”


Nashville Wire Products, Inc., Nashville TN, is a world-class supplier of wire products that specializes in the design and fabrication of welded wire products. Since its inception in 1934, Nashville Wire has grown into a diverse organization that serves multiple markets and thousands of customers worldwide. Visit the company Web site at


Energy Solutions Inc., owned by Ken Avery, designs and implements energy saving programs for hospitals, retail stores, warehouses and manufacturing facilities. Based in Nashville, the company's programs are implemented throughout the country. Contact Energy Solutions at 888-588-5151 or You can also mail Ken Avery, Energy Solutions, 625 Indian Ridge Dr., Nashville, TN 37221.


Orion Energy Systems Inc. has been innovating in the energy and lighting business since 1996. Its innovative Illuminator, an energy-efficient lighting platform for industrial applications, has been awarded a series of 12 patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Additionally, it has applied for numerous other patents relating to metering and control technologies for lighting. Visit the company Web site at




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