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issue: July 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

Motor Technology
High-Efficiency HVAC Motor


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Combining the efficiency of brushless DC and the simplicity of permanent split capacitor (PSC), a new motor claims to be a cost-effective solution to HVAC efficiency requirements.

GE ECM by Regal-Beloit claims to have created a new motor category with its X13, a high-efficiency residential HVAC blower motor designed to replace conventional PSC motor technology. The Beloit, Wisconsin, U.S.-based company built the new motor to help HVAC manufacturers meet recent U.S. federal regulations that mandate efficiency ratings of 13 SEER or better in all new air-conditioners and heat pumps.
“Compared to conventional induction motors, the X13’s superior efficiency offers OEMs an easier way to meet energy standards such as 13 SEER and above, with a familiar speed-tap control interface for easier product design and installation,” says Paul Selking, Residential Industry Leader of residential ECM products. “It offers manufacturers the same functionality as a traditional AC induction motor without the performance loss created at lower fan speeds.”
Based on what the company refers to as Standard ECM technology, the motor uses a permanent-magnet, brushless DC design, which Selking says is inherently more efficient because it uses three-phase electric current. “[This] creates a natural rotating magnetic field that moves the permanent rare-earth magnets in the rotor,” he explains. “An intelligent electronic controller modifies motor speed, so there is no excess wear on mechanical parts like exists in traditional DC motors. ECM maintains efficiency across a wide range of speeds because decreased voltage weakens the magnetic field, which causes the rotor to slow down.”
As a result, the motor is said to offer significantly greater operating efficiency. In constant-fan mode, it reportedly offers up to 200 percent greater efficiency than a conventional PSC motor and up to 33 percent greater efficiency at rated operating speed.
The motor is also designed to function like a PSC motor with a minimal speed range and the ability to select one to five discreet taps. “Since the X13 uses electronic commutation to change motor speed, the external taps are simply acting as a control signal so that the installer can modify fan speeds using a familiar interface,” Selking notes.
He adds that the motor makes design simpler because fan adjustments don’t affect the SEER rating. “If airflow is too great, a lower speed tap may still deliver the precise airflow needed without the need to modify anything,” he says. “In addition to lowering operating and design costs, the motor’s efficiency at lower speed settings means that there are fewer motors to stock—instead of a catalog of different induction motors that are optimized to specific airflows, the same X13 can be used across unit designs.” Selking also says that OEMs can use the high-efficiency low fan settings
to create multi-speed units that deliver better comfort to the homeowner.
To keep product cost low, the company designed the motor without field-programmable features and left out premium benefits such as a wider speed range, climate-based airflow performance profiles and constant airflow algorithm. “The goal was to offer OEMs a high-efficiency version of the PSC motor that is simple to control and, more importantly, would allow them the opportunity to drop it into existing designs without increasing the footprint of the product,” Selking says. “Replacing a 12 SEER unit’s PSC blower motor with an X13 would be a very easy way for a manufacturer to bring the system up to 13 SEER because there is no need to increase unit size or change other system components.”

 

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