An economizer is a type of device that is used to control the use of energy consumption within a manufacturing environment. The idea behind the use of this sort of device is to either reduce that consumption or utilize the device to allow that energy to provide secondary as well as primary functions within the overall operation. There are a number of different devices that fall into this broad category, with economizers used for managing energy consumption in boiler systems, the use of water in the manufacturing process, and the utilization of both electricity and natural gas as part of the operation.
In some instances, the economizer functions as a heat exchanger that helps to regulate the production and use of heat. This is true with a boiler economizer that helps to distribute the heat produced as part of a heating and cooling process within the plant. With the gas or electric economizer, the device often diverts energy produced to ancillary pieces of machinery, a move that helps to reduce the overall operational expenses for the business by saving money on utility costs. In each scenario, the device supports efficient use of the resources on hand by minimizing waste and diversifying usage.
The concept of the economizer is often traced back to the early years of the 19th century. During this period, Robert Stirling designed a hot air engine that included the use of a device that successfully stored heat produced by the engine and used it to warm cooler air as it was returned from the cold side to the hot side of the engine. The end result was more efficient operation of the engine that reduced the amount of energy needed to warm the cooler air.
Today, economizer technology is included in a wide range of machines and equipment used in the manufacturing process. Many transportation devices also make use of economizers as part of the overall design for engines. In recent years, the idea of what constitutes an economizer has broadened somewhat as more people have focused on the general idea of using energy with greater efficiency. This means that heating and cooling systems that make use of alternative energy sources such as wind or solar collection systems may also include some sort of heat exchange device that improves the overall efficiency of the HVAC equipment. As technology continues to provide additional ideas on how to make the best use of energy as it is generated, the general concept of the economizer will likely become an integral feature in even more applications.