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A Fresh Look at VFDs

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A variable frequency drive (VFD) is a type of motor controller that drives an electric motor by varying the frequency and voltage supplied to the motor. VFDs have been in use since the 1980s, and today, the combination of energy awareness, energy regulations, and new VFD technologies are driving an increasing demand for these energy-saving products.

The concept of a VFD is fairly straightforward. Frequency (hertz) is directly related to a motor’s speed (RPMs). The faster the frequency is, the faster the RPMs go. If an application does not require an electric motor to run at full speed, a VFD can be used to ramp down the frequency and voltage to meet the requirements of the electric motor’s load. As the application’s motor speed requirements change, the VFD can turn the motor speed up or down to meet the speed requirement.

Speer June Blog 2017

So, if a facility has an application that does not need to be run at full speed (an HVAC component, process system, etc.), then energy costs can be reduced by using a VFD to match the speed of the motor-driven equipment to the load requirement. With electric motors responsible for a high percentage of electric consumption in many facilities, utilization of VFDs can be a major energy reduction strategy. Utilization of energy tax rebates and /or utility rebates can mean quick paybacks for VFD installations.

Demand for VFD installations is increasing. Some experts estimate that this demand increase will be close to 40% between now and 2021, the increase fueled primarily by new regulations and new technology. For example, California recently expanded its energy standards to require VFD installations on motors in HVAC applications down to 5 horsepower in some applications. Other states are either enacting similar standards or are exploring the possibility.

With electric motors responsible for a high percentage of electric consumption in many facilities, utilization of VFDs can be a major energy reduction strategy.

In addition, rapid technological improvements are impacting VFDs just like other products and equipment. VFDs are quickly becoming interconnected and part of smart machines (think the Internet of Things) with extensive built in communication and BACnet capabilities. Other advancements include VFDs for niche markets such as independent HVAC components and specific process equipment, and like many other technology related products, VFDs are becoming smaller with space saving design features.

Some experts estimate that the demand for VFDs will increase nearly 40% between now and 2021, based on new regulations and new technology.

Maybe it’s time to take another look at VFDs to meet your building needs. Speer Mechanical can help. Contact us at 614.261.6331 for more information.


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