Apollo Enviro offers advice for businesses seeking to save energy by managing voltage
Voltage optimisation (VO) is not a new thing. There have been many names given to it over the years; voltage management, voltage reduction, voltage stabilisation, voltage power optimisation or just voltage optimisation to name but a few. However what has changed in recent years is the number of different suppliers each claiming their equipment is better than the next, all offering various percentage savings.
It's a buyers' market for sure, but you need to know which commercial voltage optimisation equipment is right for your business. This usually involves understanding a bit more about the electricity supply to your business and having an understanding of what your main electrical loads are, as these will determine the potential savings. If you want to go into more detail on these points then the Carbon Trust's Voltage Management Guide is worth a read. But we're going to cover the highlights in a few paragraphs below.
VO is an energy saving technology which can be installed at the incoming supply point of a site or building. It works on the basis that you achieve significant energy savings by stabilising and reducing the voltage on site from the UK average of 242V to approximately 220V. At this lower voltage everything works exactly as it did before because you are still within the voltage specification range decreed by EU electrical supply laws of 230V ±10 per cent, but much equipment will use less energy. (The UK is still on 230V +10 per cent - 6 per cent but this is due to change in the next two years).
The reduced voltage means less stress on the equipment too reducing maintenance or replacement costs in the long term.
Here at Apollo Enviro we often say that up to an 18 per cent immediate reduction in electricity consumption and electricity bills can be achieved using voltage optimisation - depending on the mixture of equipment in use on site and the supply voltage to the site. The vast majority of commercial sites will save between 5-15 per cent savings, and we have seen some sites save well in excess of 20 per cent.
The greatest savings are possible when you can set the voltage optimisation unit to maintain an optimal voltage level for the site. The unit can then hold this voltage regardless of fluctuations occurring on the incoming supply voltage. Some units also allow this output voltage value to be adjusted while the load is connected, but others would require a shut down and some rewiring to achieve this.
Other more basic equipment only offers a fixed reduction, for example 8 per cent - turning 242V into 223V. These may be suitable if your incoming supply voltage doesn't experience much fluctuation, however several issues exist with these types of unit. Inevitable supply voltage fluctuations will result in the optimised output voltage being pulled adrift from its optimal setting. Significant fluctuations may also result in under voltage when the incoming voltage drops momentarily, for example 228V incoming would become 210V output from a unit with an 8 per cent reduction; with subsequent voltage drops along cables under load and across a large site, the final voltage may be dangerously close to being too low to keep equipment operating correctly. For this reason an automatic bypass function should be standard in any voltage optimisation unit to avoid any risk of loss of supply.
Some types of newer electrical load are inherently more efficient so a reduction in supply voltage would not lead to significant energy savings. High frequency florescent tubes are what the Carbon Trust guide would describe as ‘voltage independent load' - a reduction in voltage would not significantly cut energy consumption. Equally computer equipment would not see significant energy savings when reducing the voltage as they internally transform the voltage again to a regulated lower DC voltage. That said, both these technologies groups would benefit from voltage optimisation in the sense that a lower, stabilised voltage will improve their lifespan as well as reducing wasted heat output, the knock on effect could result in energy savings from reduced A/C demand, especially in server rooms, for example.
Older lighting technologies such as the electromagnetic ballast florescent tubes, or high-pressure sodium high bays are examples of what the Carbon Trust guide would describe as ‘voltage dependent load' and these typically see the greatest energy savings through voltage optimisation. Equally, uncontrolled motor loads can see significant savings through voltage optimisation.
In summary, if you experience high voltage and significant voltage fluctuations at your business (which in honesty most of the UK does) and you have significant ‘voltage dependent' loads on your site then it would be worth getting in touch with a commercial voltage optimisation provider. They can then get involved and conduct a full site survey to give you an accurate idea of potential unit costs, possible savings, estimated payback period and advise whether it would be a worthwhile venture for your specific business.
Apollo Enviro Ltd is an environmental consultancy and expert in commercial energy efficiency solutions. It are also UK distributors for the PowerSines range of voltage optimisation energy efficiency equipment. Please visit www.apolloenviro.co.uk to find out more about how it could help your business save money through improved resource efficiency.
This sponsored content was provided by Apollo Enviro