What small company wouldn’t want to save $30,000-$40,000 a year in electricity costs? When Hull Forest Products Kiln Manager John Cody approached management about installing new dry kiln controls in 2006, it was the potential savings in energy costs that generated the most excitement. Connecticut Light and Power sent out a private engineer who determined that if all four kilns were running, the annual savings in the electricity bill could be that huge.
The new computerized kiln controls, installed in February 2007, save money by drawing less power: all four kiln fans now start up much more slowly, drawing fewer kilowatts in the process.
But there was an additional bonus with this installation. Because the new kiln controls allow for incremental adjustments, the temperature in the kiln can be ramped up slowly, placing less stress on the lumber and resulting in less degrade. Cody likens the incremental increase in temperature to walking up a ramp instead of taking the steps: it’s a much more gradual process, and the change is almost imperceptible to the wood. As a result, there have been fewer cracks and splits in kiln dried lumber lately. The cost savings on this increased yield may well turn out to be more than the savings on electricity.
Woodworkers have taken note of the improved color that comes with this slower drying process, particularly in Red Oak, whose prized pinkish-red hue is especially well preserved. Manufactured by Lignomat, the new controls and software make it possible for changes to be made online from any location, and according to Cody, “the accuracy is incredible.”
It has been a win-win situation for Hull Forest Products and evidence that investment in new technology continues to pay off for this manufacturer.