EPA Tier 4 Final Changes Provide an Opportunity for Welders to Examine Equipment Outlay, Processes
The Miller fleet of diesel engine-driven welder/generators. Machines greater than 25 horsepower will be subject to new Tier 4 Final regulations that take effect Jan. 1, 2013.
Tier 4 Final, or T4F, emissions regulations go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013 for machines used in the United States and Canada with diesel engines in the 25 to 75 horsepower range, including engine-driven welder/generators. While that’s still months away, there is much for you to know about the changes that engine-driven welder/generators will undergo and what manufacturers are doing to prepare for these regulations and anticipated price increases. In this article we will look at how this equipment is being redesigned, buying considerations based on output demands (can you get by with an engine-driven welder/generator lower than 25 horsepower?), and possible ways to improve your processes to offset price increases on new T4F equipment.
What is Tier 4 Final?
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) T4F regulations significantly reduce the particulate emissions of diesel engines. This typically requires major engine changes and exhaust after-treatment devices, dramatically increasing costs. All engine manufacturers must supply T4F compliant engines as of Jan. 1, 2013. There will be some carryover associated with the normal delivery lead time that will stretch into early 2013, which means that some Tier 4 Interim (T4I) engines exceeding 25 horsepower will still be available for sale after the deadline. The EPA is extending a flex plan to manufacturers that will allow for the sale of a certain percentage of these machines for a limited time after January 1 in 2013. That percentage will be identified later in 2012. T4F regulations do not apply to previously purchased equipment, and these regulations only apply to the United States and Canada.
How Will Engine-Driven Welder/Generators With More Than 25 Horsepower Change?
The greatest change will come in terms of price. T4F diesel engine-driven welder/generators greater than 25 horsepower could increase in price by as much as 50 percent due to engine and installation cost increases. Machines may also get physically larger due to exhaust after-treatment devices added to the engine. These devices get larger as horsepower increases. The new after-treatment devices also give off additional heat, which requires proper machine design to manage airflow while still being optimized for installation on trucks.
The machines currently in our product line that will be affected by the T4F regulations are as follows:
- Big Blue® 400 Eco Pro
- Big Blue 400
- Big Blue 500
- Big Blue 700 Duo Pro
- Big Blue Air Pak™
- Big Blue Turbo
What Are Manufacturers Doing to Address T4F?
While the regulations affect engines with 25 to 75 horsepower, Miller has gone to great lengths to improve machines with engines under 25 horsepower, providing the performance and output many contractors need at a much lower price point than the new T4F designs above 25 hp will allow. These improvements include maximizing power output and improving fuel efficiency.
Miller has a wide range of diesel engine-driven options available at less than 25 horsepower that will provide more than enough output for most construction applications:
- Bobcat™ 250 Diesel
- Trailblazer® 302 Diesel
- Big Blue® 300 Pro
- Big Blue 350 PipePro®
- Big Blue 450 Duo CST™
Similar changes are being implemented on machines greater than 25 horsepower to help offset the impact of increased prices when they hit the market, but it begs the question: Do you NEED to buy a fleet of 500 amp machines (greater than 25 horsepower) when a fleet of 300- to 400-amp machines (less than 25 horsepower) may handle a great majority of your applications?
Can I Change Processes or Use a Machine with Lower Horsepower?
Can you imagine a way to deposit more metal faster, with less waste, and with a machine not affected by the cost increases associated with T4F engine compliance greater than 25 horsepower?
When you examine most welding applications, you will find that contractors have been buying machines with more horsepower and amperage than they need because greater output was available at a reasonable price. If the difference in a 350 amp machine (less than 25 horsepower) and a 500 amp machine (more than 25 horsepower) was only $2,000 to $3,000, many contractors would pay that premium just to have that extra power when needed. In examining construction welding applications, most welders rarely exceed 350 amps, and the majority of welding applications are performed at 250 amps or less. If you occasionally have the need to run high amperages, whether to run much larger electrodes or to perform carbon arc gouging, you may be able to buy one or two 500-amp machines for those less common applications while buying 350-amp machines for the rest of your fleet. This strategy could potentially save you thousands of dollars in equipment purchase costs, while also adding machines that are smaller, more fuel-efficient and offer a lower total cost of ownership. (To calculate your welding amperage needs, visit MillerWelds.com/resources/calculators/.)
Another way to get more out of a smaller machine is to change processes. The majority of construction welding applications today rely on the Stick (SMAW) welding process. Contractors buy 400- to 500-amp machines to handle large diameter Stick electrodes, but they might be able to achieve the same results by switching to the Flux-Cored (FCAW) welding process while transitioning to a machine with less than 25 horsepower at 350 amps. This requires the added cost of a SuitCase® wire feeder, but that cost is more than made up for in the lower price of the engine-drive compared to a T4F machine. Welder/generators such as the Big Blue 350 PipePro are optimized for use with SuitCase wire feeders and flux-cored wires for easy use. The Flux-Cored process provides higher deposition rates (more metal faster) at amperage that is easily attained with machines less than 25 horsepower. It also produces less waste as you use all of the wire, compared to Stick welding where you regularly discard stubs and spend time switching electrodes in and out.
Dual operator systems, such at the Big Blue 450 Duo CST and the Big Blue 700 Duo Pro, are also an effective option to help lower costs. While some machines fall under the T4F restrictions, they allow two operators to work off of one system (and in some cases, three or more welders with the addition of an inverter, running off the machine’s generator power). This can reduce fuel use by more than 50 percent compared to two single-operator units with comparable engine power, and lower total cost of ownership to counteract the price increases caused by T4F.
T4F: an Opportunity to Assess Welding Processes
While some will be discouraged by the inevitable price increases that come along with T4F greater than 25 horsepower, this is a great opportunity to examine your welding processes and determine if you may be able to get by with equipment that is less than 25 horsepower and not affected by EPA T4F regulations. Miller is working hard to improve efficiencies (fuel efficiency, reduced maintenance, added performance and productivity) to offset the cost increases.
Changing processes (such as switching from Stick to Flux Cored) may help you get by with a lower horsepower machine.