Founded in 1979 to help building owners and managers reduce energy costs, Holmes AutoPilot spent the first several years working in non-industrial facilities including schools, churches, libraries, office buildings, pools, ice arenas and shopping malls. By installing an energy monitoring system as the first step in every project, we were able to create savings of 20-67% from no-cost or low-cost changes in operation and control of existing energy systems. No new equipment or capital projects were required.
When we were managing 25-30 non-industrial buildings, we were contacted by a foundry looking for ways to reduce its utility costs. Copies of their bills showed they were spending more than all of our other clients combined. According to the conventional wisdom at the time (and still widely believed), we were told that "we couldn't touch production"—the place where most of their energy dollars were being spent was off-limits. But I thought, "What the hell, they're using a lot of energy and spending a lot of money; this could turn out to be interesting, and we could learn something." So we signed a contract and installed an energy monitoring system.
At the beginning of the project, they told us their largest user was an electric melting furnace where they melted iron for engine blocks. It was a critical process and could not be changed. However, the data from the monitoring system showed that the electric melting furnace wasn't the biggest user of electricity. The biggest user of electricity was the compressed air system—a support system, not directly part of the casting process. That was a surprise to all involved.