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Cost benefits of AC drives

Cost benefits of AC drives

In addition to their technical advantages, AC drives also provide many cost benefits. In this chapter, these benefits are reviewed, with the costs divided into investment, installation and opera- tional costs.

At the moment there are still plenty of motors sold without variable speed AC drives. This pie chart shows how many motors below 2.2 kW are sold with frequency converters, and how many without. Only 3% of motors in this power range are sold each year with a frequency converter; 97% are sold without an AC drive.
This is astonishing considering what we have seen so far in this guide. Even more so after closer study of the costs of an AC drive compared to conventional control methods. But first let’s review AC drive technology compared to other control methods.

How many motors below 2.2 kW are sold with frequency converters, and how many without

How many motors below 2.2 kW are sold with and without frequency converters


Technical differences between other systems and AC drives

AC drive technology is completely different from other, simpler control methods. It can be compared, for example, to the dif- ference between a zeppelin and a modern airplane.

We could also compare AC drive technology to the develop- ment from a floppy disk to a CD-ROM. Although it is a simpler information storage method, a floppy disk can only handle a small fraction of the information that a CD-ROM can.

The benefits of both these innovations are generally well known. Similarly, AC drive technology is based on a totally different technology to earlier control methods. In this guide, we have presented the benefits of the AC drive compared to simpler control methods.

Technical differences between other systems and AC drives

Technical differences between other systems and AC drives


No mechanical control parts needed

To make a proper cost comparison, we need to study the configurations of different control methods. Here we have used pumping as an example. In traditional methods, there is always a mechanical part and an electrical part.

In throttling you need fuses, contactors and reactors on the electrical side and valves on the mechanical side. In On/Off control, the same electrical components are needed, as well as a pressure tank on the mechanical side. The AC drive provides a new solution. No mechanics are needed, because all control is already on the electrical side.

Another benefit, when thinking about cost, is that with an AC drive we can use a regular 3-phase motor, which is much cheaper than the single phase motors used in other control methods. We can still use 220 V single phase supply, when speaking of power below 2.2 kW.

Conventional methods:AC drive:
• Both electrical and mechanical parts• All in one
• Many electrical parts• Only one electrical component
• Mechanical parts need regular maintenance• No mechanical parts, no wear and tear
• Mechanical control is energy consuming• Saves energy


Factors affecting cost

This list compares the features of conventional control methods with those of the AC drive, as well as their effect on costs. In conventional methods there are both electrical and mechanical components, which usually have to be purchased separately. The costs are usually higher than if everything could be pur- chased at once. Furthermore, mechanical parts wear out quickly. This directly affects maintenance costs and in the long run, maintenance is a very important cost item. In conventional methods there are also many electrical components. The installation cost is at least doubled when there are several different types of components rather than only one.

And last but not least, mechanical control is very energy con- suming, while AC drives practically save energy. This not only helps reduce costs, but also helps minimise environmental impact by reducing emissions from power plants.

Investment costs: Mechanical and electrical components

Price Comparison For Pumps

Price Comparison For Pumps

In this graph, the investment structure as well as the total price of each pump control method is presented. Only the pump itself is not added to the costs because its price is the same regardless of whether it’s used with an AC drive or valves. In throttling, there are two possibilities depending on whether the pump is used in industrial or domestic use. In an industrial environment there are stricter requirements for valves and this increases costs.

The motor
As can be seen, the motor is much more expensive for traditional control methods than for the AC drive. This is due to the 3-phase motor used with the AC drive and the single phase motor used in other control methods.
The AC drive
The AC drive does not need any mechanical parts, which reduc- es costs dramatically. Mechanical parts themselves are almost always less costly than a frequency converter, but electrical parts also need to be added to the total investment cost.
After taking all costs into account, an AC drive is almost always the most economical investment, when compared to differ- ent control methods. Only throttling in domestic use is as low cost as the AC drive. These are not the total costs, however. Together with investment costs we need to look at installation and operational costs.

ThrottlingAC drive
Installation material20 USD10 USD
Installation work5h x 65 USD = 325 USD1h x 65 USD = 65 USD
Commissioning work1h x 65 USD = 65 USD1h x 65 USD = 65 USD
Savings in installation: 270 USD!


Installation costs: Throttling compared to AC drive

Because throttling is the second lowest investment after the AC drive, we will compare its installation and operating costs to the cost of the AC drive. As mentioned earlier, in throttling there are both electrical and mechanical components. This means twice the amount of installation material is needed.

Installation work is also at least doubled in throttling compared to the AC drive. To install a mechanical valve into a pipe is not that simple and this increases installation time. To have a mechanical valve ready for use usually requires five hours compared to one hour for the AC drive. Multiply this by the hourly rate charged by a skilled installer to get the total installation cost.

The commissioning of a throttling-based system does not usu- ally require more time than commissioning an AC drive based system. One hour is usually the time required in both cases. So now we can summarise the total installation costs. As you can see, the AC drive saves up to USD 270 per installation. So even if the throttling investment costs were lower than the price of a single phase motor (approximately USD 200), the AC drive would pay for itself before it has even worked a second.

ThrottlingAC drive
Power required0.75 kW0.37 kW
Annual energy 4000 hours/year 3000 kWh1500 kWh
Annual energy cost with 0.1 USD/kWh300 USD150 USD
Maintenance/year40 USD5 USD
Savings in installation: 185 USD!


Operational costs: Maintenance and drive energy

In many surveys and experiments it has been proved that a 50% energy saving is easily achieved with an AC drive. This means that where power requirements with throttling would be 0.75 kW, with the AC drive it would be 0.37 kW. If a pump is used 4000 hours per year, throttling would need 3000 kWh and the AC drive 1500 kWh of energy per year.
To calculate the savings, we need to multiply the energy con- sumption by the energy price, which varies depending on the country. Here USD 0.1 per kWh has been used.

As mentioned earlier, mechanical parts wear a lot and this is why they need regular maintenance. It has been estimated that whereas throttling requires USD 40 per year for service, maintenance costs for an AC drive would be USD 5. In many cases however, there is no maintenance required for a frequency converter.

Therefore, the total savings in operating costs would be USD 185, which is approximately half of the frequency convert- er’s price for this power range. This means that the payback time of the frequency converter is two years. So it is worth considering that instead of yearly service for an old valve it might be more profitable to change the whole system to an AC drive based control. To retrofit an existing throttling system the pay-back time is two years.

Total cost comparison

Total Savings Over 10 Year - USD 1562

Total Savings Over 10 Year - USD 1562

In the above figure, all the costs have been summarised. The usual time for an operational cost calculation for this kind of investment is 10 years. Here the operational costs are rated to the present value with a 10% interest rate.

In the long run, the conventional method will be more than twice as expensive as a frequency converter. Most of the savings with the AC drive come from the operational costs, and especially from the energy savings. It is in the installation that the high- est individual savings can be achieved, and these savings are realised as soon as the drive is installed.

Taking the total cost figure into account, it is very difficult to understand why only 3% of motors sold have a frequency con- verter. In this guide we have tried to present the benefits of the AC drive and why we at ABB think that it is absolutely the best possible way to control your process.



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The Benefits of VFDs In HVAC Systems

The Benefits of VFDs In HVAC Systems

One of the most successful energy management tools ever applied to building HVAC systems is the variable frequency drive (VFD). For more than 20 years, VFDs have successfully been installed on fan and pump motors in a range of variable load applications. Energy savings vary from 35 to 50 percent over conventional constant speed applications, resulting in a return on investment of six months to two years.

While the number of applications suitable for early generation drives was limited based on the horsepower of the motor, today’s drives can be installed in practically any HVAC application found in commercial and institutional buildings. Systems can be operated at higher voltages than those used by earlier generations, resulting in off the shelf systems for motors up to 500 horsepower.

Early generation systems also suffered from low power factor. Low power factor robs the facility of electrical distribution capacity and can result in cost penalties imposed by electrical utility companies. Today’s systems operate at a nearly constant power factor over the entire speed range of the motor.

Another problem that has been corrected by today’s systems is operational noise. As the output frequency of the drives decreased in response to the load, vibrations induced in the motor laminations generated noise that was easily transmitted through the motor mounts to the building interior. Today’s drives operate at higher frequencies, resulting in the associated noise being above the audible range.

And VFDs continue to evolve. From numerous system benefits to an increasing range of available applications, VFDs are proving to be ever more useful and powerful.

The Heart of VFDs

Most conventional building HVAC applications are designed to operate fans and pumps at a constant speed. Building loads, however, are anything but constant. In a conventional system, some form of mechanical throttling can be used to reduce water or air flow in the system. The drive motor, however, continues to operate at full speed, using nearly the same amount of energy regardless of the heating or cooling load on the system. While mechanical throttling can provide a good level of control, it is not very efficient. VFDs offer an effective and efficient alternative.

Three factors work together to improve operating efficiency with VFDs:

1. Operating at less than full load. Building systems are sized for peak load conditions. In typical applications, peak load conditions occur between 1 and 5 percent of the annual operating hours. This means that pump and fan motors are using more energy than necessary 95 to 99 percent of their operating hours.

2. Oversized system designs. Designing for peak load oversizes the system for most operating hours. This condition is further compounded by the practice of oversizing the system design to allow for underestimated and unexpected loads as well as future loads that might result from changes in how the building space is used.

3. Motor energy use is a function of speed. The most commonly used motor in building HVAC systems is the induction motor. With induction motors, the power drawn by the motor varies with the cube of the motor’s speed. This means that if the motor can be slowed by 25 percent of its normal operating speed, its energy use is reduced by nearly 60 percent. At a 50 percent reduction in speed, energy use is reduced by nearly 90 percent.

The installation of a VFD in an HVAC application addresses the inefficiencies introduced by the first two factors, while producing the energy savings made possible by the third. The VFD accomplishes this by converting 60 cycle line current to direct current, then to an output that varies in voltage and frequency based on the load placed on the system. As the system load decreases, the VFD’s controller reduces the motor’s operating speed so that the flow rate through the system meets but does not exceed the load requirements.

VFD Benefits

The most significant benefit to using a VFD is energy savings. By matching system capacity to the actual load throughout the entire year, major savings in system motor energy use are achieved.

Another benefit of the units is reduced wear and tear on the motors. When an induction motor is started, it draws a much higher current than during normal operation. This inrush current can be three to ten times the full-load operating current for the motor, generating both heat and stress in the motor’s windings and other components. In motors that start and stop frequently, this contributes to early motor failures.

In contrast, when a motor connected to a VFD is started, the VFD applies a very low frequency and low voltage to the motor. Both are gradually ramped up at a controlled rate to normal operating conditions, extending motor life.

VFDs also provide more precise levels of control of applications. For example, high-rise buildings use a booster pump system on the domestic water supply to maintain adequate water pressure at all levels within the building. Conventional pump controls in this type of application can maintain the pressure within a certain range, but a VFD-based system can maintain more precise control over a wider range of flow rates, while reducing energy requirements and pump wear.


SOURCE: facilitiesnet


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