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Choose the right viscosity – save energy, money and the environment

In my job, I visit a great many industrial companies every year, in different sectors. One thing I’ve noticed is that most of them still use older types of lubricant of unnecessarily high viscosity. Few seem to know that the right viscosity is the simplest key to greater energy efficiency. Do you know what viscosity you have in your machines?

Energy efficiency is an integral issue in many companies today, both to reduce costs and to meet the latest energy directives and environmental requirements. A lot of people believe that finances and the environment are conflicting issues, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

Just as optimum viscosity is a simple key to greater energy efficiency, energy efficiency is a key to better finances and environmental performance. Greater energy efficiency leads to lower costs. And lower energy consumption means lower carbon dioxide emissions. This means that smarter lubrication can make a big difference. And the necessary actions are simple; the simplest one doesn’t even cost any extra. All you need to do is make sure your lubricants are of the right viscosity.

Fundamentally, viscosity is about how ‘thick’ or ‘thin’ a lubricant is. Lubricants with too high a viscosity are heavier to push around the system, which leads to direct energy losses and poorer lubrication. Viscosity is also very much affected by temperature. Mineral oils for instance become more viscous, or thicker, at lower temperatures. Pre-heating is of course an option, but the downside is higher energy consumption and the lubricant spoils more quickly. Synthetic lubricants have lower viscosity and reduce energy loss, thus saving money, because they flow more easily and retain their lubrication properties even at lower temperatures. They make the biggest difference in machines that stay outside all year round and are subject to large temperature variations. But thinner lubricants also work well in heavier machinery and in systems that operate under high pressure, such as hydraulic systems. They even often lubricate better than thicker lubricants, since they move more quickly through the system and don’t heat up as much.

There are several ways of changing viscosity: you can change your lubricant, dilute the existing lubricant, and you can review your routines. Perhaps you’re over-cooling and could increase the efficiency by optimising your machine settings? If you lubricate with grease, you simply need to change to the right kind, with the right viscosity. It really is that simple, and the potential gains are substantial.


Electric motors lubricated with a ‘universal grease’

The situation: 

  • Electric motors (200)
  • Average output 30 kW
  • Operating time 8,000 h/yr

By replacing the universal grease with lubricating grease of the right viscosity and a synthetic base oil, you could save DKK 13,750 in lower energy consumption and reduce CO2 emissions by 1,600 kg – per year.

Gear wheels lubricated with mineral oil

The situation:

  • Gears (80)
  • Average output 35 kW
  • Operating time 8,000 h/yr

By replacing the mineral oil with a fully synthetic lubricating oil, the total saving from lower energy loss and less work input could be as much as DKK 91,660. At the same time, you reduce CO2 emissions by 10,700 kg a year.

It’s a shame that so few companies know how cheap and simple it can be to increase energy efficiency – which is why I sincerely hope that this information can help to change that. Please contact us if you would like advice on a suitable lubricant and the right viscosity. In certain cases, we can also help to estimate what changing the viscosity and/or base oil could mean for your company.

Read more about lubricants and energy efficiency.

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Smart Lubrication

Smart Lubrication is a blog from FUCHS where we share our common knowledge about lubricants and lubrication.

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