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issue: October 2007 APPLIANCE Magazine - Part 2: Motors & Air-Moving Devices

Motors and Air-Moving Devices
Efficient to the Core

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An APPLIANCE Staff Feature

The motor can be the biggest energy user in an appliance—with the most to offer in potential efficiency improvement.

Applied Plastics’ stacking and coating service is suited for laminations from 3⁄8- to 8-in. OD. Finished parts can be wound tighter and their smoothness helps prevent wire cuts and shorts. Specifically developed for motors, stators, and gyroscopes, the service produces parts with electrical resistance up to 1000 V/mil. Typical metal laminations, bobbins, and end caps can be made from Arnon 7 high carbon steel or Magnesil, and the coatings offered include epoxy, PTFE Teflon, Heresite, and nylon.

The success of the fractional horsepower (fhp) motors industry is affected heavily by the ups and downs of the appliance industry. When consumers are buying lots of durable goods, fhp suppliers show strong motors sales to durable goods OEMs.

While some parts of the world are enjoying strong appliance sales, the important U.S. market is not. The U.S. National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) reports that end-market conditions have soured for fhp motors. The residential housing market, one of the more important ultimate destinations for products built with fractional motors, has not yet reached bottom. NEMA sees a high probability that conditions will worsen further during the second half of 2007. This outlook is shared by homebuilders, with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) housing market index’s six-month outlook showing that most builders see market conditions deteriorating.

Even when their market suffers through economic doldrums, motor makers need to be looking ahead and investing in technology to meet  increasingly stringent efficiency needs from their customers, the appliance OEMs, who see the demand for green appliances escalating.

The environment has never been more important to suppliers of motors and air-movers for appliances. No matter how you look at it, environmental factors are a part of the motor/blower equation. The materials must be environmentally acceptable, the controls and electronics must meet material restrictions standards, and the motors themselves must be efficient.

The appliance industry knows full well that the motor can be the biggest single energy-using component in their appliances, and therefore have the most to offer in terms of increasing efficiency.

Reconciling Ecology and Economics

Motor suppliers take seriously their vital role in improving energy efficiency, and are receiving recognition for this work. Germany’s ebm-papst Mulfingen GmbH & Co. KG was recently lauded by Minister of the Environment of the state of Baden-Württemberg, Tanja Gönner, who affirmed that “ebm-papst takes responsibility for the environment,” particularly in its motors and fans.

One prime example was pointed out at a panel discussion by the motor maker’s chairman of the board of managing directors Hans-Jochen Beilke. If European industry would switch to ebm-papst’s EC technology fans, energy costs could be lowered by 30%, four large coal-fired power plants could be shut down, and annual CO2 emissions could be reduced by 16 million tons—and, he added, companies could lower operating costs for fans by 41%. “This is a classic win-win situation—our EC technology benefits both businesses and the planet,” Beilke explains.

The Heart of Energy Efficiency

According to many motor manufacturers, the heart of energy efficiency for any appliance begins with the motor—energy efficiency drives new motor technology, and vice versa.

According to Lily Xiao of Broad Ocean Motor Company, Ltd., being a major motor supplier to the appliance industry means finding new technology and materials to increase energy efficiency without increasing any costs. “It’s a tough challenge,” Xiao says, “but it’s necessary, because appliance companies want to avoid increased costs but still expect the same high efficiencies.”

Motor and blower manufacturer Ametek Technical & Industrial Products (TIP) faces the same challenge. It has responded with its Nautilair brand variable-speed brushless dc blowers for the combustion process for high-efficiency premix or Hydronic hot water heaters or boilers for residential and light commercial heating applications.

According to Jodie McLay, market manager for Ametek TIP, the Nautilair blower motor is based on the Windjammer brand blower that Ametek TIP has been building for the past 15 years. “This blower is an electrically commutated dc blower that does not have any brushes to wear out, and contains sealed, long-life bearings that will provide years of continuous usage,” McLay says.

Elco Motors Inc. launched its second-generation energy saving fan motor, the MCE-IP65 & MCE-IP66 Long Life (with ball-bearings) series. The new fan motor series was developed in response to the most severe technical requirements of the commercial refrigeration industry and comes with an integrated plastic fan blade for extremely compact dimensions, multiple mounting possibilities (bracket, shroud, guard), enhanced moisture protection (up to IP66, the top in the industry), long life expectancy (over 50,000 hours for the ball-bearing model), and up to 65% efficiency.

He adds, “The ability of the Nautilair blower to infinitely adjust speed allows the boiler or hot water heater to meet a desired water temperature very quickly. The ability to vary the speed of the blower allows the boiler to maximize the efficiency of combustion and minimize the amount of gas used to meet the various demands of a residential and commercial boiler/hot water heater. It also allows boiler and hot water heater manufacturers to make the highest-efficiency units that meet the latest lower NOX and CO2 emissions standards in North America. Appliance manufacturers are looking for a compacted, variable-speed, high-efficiency blower that works seamlessly with the existing gas valve/venturi technology and boiler/hot water heater controller that are currently in the gas heating appliance market.”

The Nautilair blower utilizes a digital signal processing (DSP) motor chip that allows advanced programmable control of the blower. Ametek can tailor the performance, inputs, and outputs of the blower to meet each customer’s needs, and Ametek provides outputs that allow the boiler controller to monitor the speed of the blower and diagnose failures in the combustion process. In addition, all Nautilair blowers are designed to work with four different speed control inputs. The three size blowers contain an additional option card slot to allow customization for various nontraditional applications such as multiple speed setting, RS-232 communication, pressure feedback, and relay contacts for blower speed status.

Ametek’s Specialty Motors Division (Kent, OH, U.S.) has adopted a “Green Powered” logo as a part of its marking campaign for environmentally friendly motors. One of the newest motors to get the logo is the Advantek Spa blower motors for pool and spa applications. “Innovations in fan design, materials, and assembly have allowed us to improve the performance of our motors, while achieving lower noise and greater energy efficiency,” says Chuck Kovac, vice president and general manager of Ametek Global Floor Care and Specialty Motors. “Our blowers use a patented thru-flow motor design that has been improved to meet the demanding requirements of pool and spa blower applications.”

The enhanced design and new air-diffusion techniques improve the overall operating efficiencies as much as 20%. The motor operates at lower power input to achieve an equivalent or higher air performance at decreased noise levels.

The motor platform includes design features that are intended to make it easily customizable for specific end uses. Multiple laminations for each bracket design permits optimization of the motor drive. The unique air-diffusion design also enhances flexibility and lets the motor be tuned to the optimal output and efficiency for each application. The motor’s ratings can also be tuned and maximized.

Global Efficiency Sensibility

“Energy saving has become a key issue after the Kyoto protocol. Regulations are progressively tightening commercial and industrial appliances’ energy consumption ratings and the fan motor (especially the very-low-efficient shaded pole) is on the Top 10 list of the components to be upgraded to improve appliance efficiency,” says Michael Jenkins, North American sales manager for Elco Motors Inc. “Despite the Kyoto protocol, the United States is very sensitive to energy efficiency, and regulations are moving rapidly. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reduction concerns have lately positively affected energy efficiency goals. We found this sensibility very strong in the UK and the rest of Europe.”

The Elco Group is a global leader in subfractional horsepower ac fan motors for commercial and industrial refrigeration, primarily serving OEMs in the food-service appliance industry that make refrigerated display cases, reach-in and walk-in coolers, and freezers. They also serve the beverage cooler vending industry and industrial refrigeration. In Europe, it is also an HVAC motors market leader. Elco estimates the global shaded-pole motor market at 24 million units, of which it has a 30% share with 8.3 million units sold in 2006. Jenkins has seen the energy efficiency awareness growing around the world.

“A quick example for all: an average food store supermarket counts about 400 fans (assorted from 5 W to 25 W) running for about 23 hours a day (95% duty) on commercial refrigeration appliances,” Jenkins relates. “With shaded-pole technology this comes to an annual electrical energy usage of 130,740 kWh, of which about 80% is wasted in heat and will have to be removed by the refrigeration system. If we replace each fan with an equivalent in ECM technology, the annual energy usage will drop to 45,270 kWh, which gives a direct energy saving (DES) of 85,470 kWh. The indirect energy saving on the refrigeration system due to cooler motor operation is estimated as 50% of DES (conservatively), equal to 42,735 kWh. So, total energy saving is 128,205 kWh—that at US$0.10 per kWh average electricity cost, results in a $12,820 annual saving on the electricity bill.

“Moreover, if we consider that each kWh saved is equivalent to 0.6 kg of CO2, the average supermarket will save annually 76.92 tons of CO2; that is the equivalent emission of almost 15 passenger cars.” He bases his comparison on the estimate of one passenger car traveling an average 12,500 annual miles and emitting 5.2 tons of CO2 (www.epa.gov/otaq/consumer/f00013.pdf).

Efficiency Brought into Question

Clearly the energy efficiency equation becomes even more important when looking at motors and blowers going into a large-scale application, be it a supermarket with 400 small refrigeration fans or a large-scale commercial HVAC system. A tiny variation in efficiency becomes huge when one looks at the large energy use and long life of industrial and commercial comfort conditioning systems. If the basic system is not right when the equipment is installed, there’s not much opportunity for significant changes for years to come.

A new study from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), and cofunded by the Air-Conditioning Engineers and Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology Institute, finds that despite common perception, parallel fan-powered air-terminal units, which are used to distribute cooled or heated air in commercial building cooling systems, may not be more efficient than series fans.

When designing a cooling system, building designers can choose between either a series or parallel configuration for a building’s fan-powered, air-terminal unit. Since parallel fans run intermittently while a building is occupied, this configuration has been thought to be more efficient than series fans, which run continuously during the workday.

GE ECM by Regal-Beloit launched the ThinkTank 3.0 blower with BlakBox Technology for diagnosing system functions and customizing unit performance.

Tests conducted by investigators at the Texas A&M University Energy Systems Laboratory found considerable air leakage from parallel fans’ back-draft dampers and terminal box seams, greatly reducing their efficiency. Leak rates for tested parallel fan terminals were, on average, between 10 and 20%, and sometimes were higher than 30%. The leaks reduced the airflow from the central air handler and caused air to bypass the room to be conditioned. To maintain comfort, more energy was needed to move more air in the conditioned space.

The study says that, when no leakage occurs, the parallel fan terminals are more efficient, consuming 17% less energy than series fan terminals; however, tests showed that when leaks are present, series fans appear to outperform parallel fans. When a 20% leakage rate was introduced, the series terminal unit outperformed the parallel unit and used 5.5% less energy.

“For manufacturers and building design engineers, this research provides new insights into the magnitude of air leakage in parallel fan–powered terminals and its impact on system operation and overall energy consumption,” says Karim Amrane, vice president of policy and technology for the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology Institute. “It also serves as a useful reference in prompting changes in design practices to provide more-energy-efficient buildings.”

Coordinated Efforts

Smarter motors can be better motors—and being smart is becoming easier and cheaper all the time. Motor makers and electronic motor controls suppliers are coming out with less-expensive, easier-to-integrate components that allow for better system efficiencies and better motor protection.

Motor supplier ebm-papst Inc., in Farmington, CT, U.S., is working toward improving efficiencies with its LambdaConstant
system. Consisting of an intelligent blower and control unit, the system is designed to be the first to adjust automatically to obtain optimum combustion, always, even where variable gas types are present. With temperature and air mass measurements, the intelligent control system electronics can detect whether the system has reached its optimum level of efficiency, and adjust to it as necessary. It achieves this entirely independent of the location of use and the operating conditions, such as air pressure or the length of the flue gas tract.

“With the LambdaConstant system, our customers are opting for a new, currently one-of-a-kind technology in the heating industry—with intelligent control and equally robust components that will generate upper heating values ruggedly and reliably throughout the entire service life,” says Tom Costello, product manager, of ebm-papst.

The system is designed to enable condensing boilers to operate regardless of the different types of gas. Barometric air pressure in a home and even the length of the flue gas tract in a boiler can influence the attainable output. Previously, devices required time-consuming adjustment and calibration based on the different gas types.  The ebm-papst system eliminates that task by adjusting automatically to the type of gas in a home. 

Renesas Technology Corp. is commercializing 30 new products in seven groups as part of the R8C/Tiny series of compact, high-performance 16-bit MCUs with on-chip fl ash memory. The MCUs are designed for motor control and power supply applications. The new products come in 32- and 20-pin packages. The supplier says that MCUs with low pin counts and compact packages have come to be used in a wider range of fi elds in recent years, with demand for such devices growing. They are the norm as main MCUs in small-scale systems, such as home electronics and industrial equipment, and are also prominent as sub-MCUs in large-scale systems, such as office equipment offering sophisticated functionality.

When GE ECM by Regal-Beloit unveiled the ThinkTank 3.0 blower, its sixth generation of premium ECM residential HVAC blower motors earlier this year, it included BlakBox technology for diagnosing system functions and customizing unit performance. This is intended to give appliance OEMs an unprecedented ability to refine furnace, heat pump, and air-conditioner products with expanded diagnostic functions.

“With the ECM ThinkTank motor, innovation moves outside of the motor to give manufacturers diagnostic tools that will allow them to advance all aspects of future HVAC technologies,” says Paul Selking, industry leader for residential ECM products.

Regal-Beloit believes ThinkTank will have a real long-term impact on future technologies. “Moving beyond laboratory conditions, the ThinkTank 3.0 will allow design engineers to give contractors extraordinary access to real-world performance data,” says Selking. “In addition, designers can look forward to a series of innovations that will maximize comfort and installed efficiency. The upshot is that this information will produce a quantum leap in HVAC technology over the next 10 years.”

Data collected by the BlakBox will help system designers pinpoint unique application problems with existing products and use this information to build a new generation of HVAC equipment that is more efficient, more reliable, and more comfortable. “Like a flight data recorder on an airplane, BlakBox gives manufacturers a look at the system’s performance history so they can better diagnose exactly what happened in the air handler or furnace leading up to a service call,” explains Selking.

The motor’s built-in ability to digitally communicate with external system controls, such as an OEM’s furnace board, has been expanded with the third generation of AirKom. This proprietary operating system allows manufacturers to program, send data, and receive feedback from the motor. Selking compares it to computer operating systems, like Apple’s OS X or Windows Vista.

“The AirKom operating system gives design engineers everything they need to easily collect performance data and give commands to the motor,” Selking says. “Using AirKom to send information to and from the motor, manufacturers are able to create HVAC equipment with advanced features such as plug-and-play installation, performance reports, easier field diagnostics, more-sophisticated airflow programming, and real-time performance changes based on ambient conditions.” 

Nippon Pulse America introduced the bipolar chopper driver chip, NP3775, and a state logic chip (phase distribution chip), NP7380, for use with its tin-can rotary and linear stepper motors. They feature a dual bipolar chopper drive IC to drive a two-phase stepper motor. They have full or half-step operation with a maximum output of 750 mA. Digital filter on chip eliminates external filtering components.

Emerson Climate Technologies, a business of Emerson (St. Louis, MO, U.S.), launched the UltraTech HVAC communication system at the beginning of this year. The system is a network of components integrated to enable superior-performing HVAC systems. Included in the lineup is the new UltraTech variable-speed motor, a four-wire, EC motor designed with two-way communication. Technology engineered in the motor enables it to receive a command from the furnace system control board, execute the command, and confirm that the command has been completed.

The motor is designed for better efficiency than existing permanent split-capacitor (PSC) motors in furnace and air handler blower applications. Lower cu ft/min (cfm) air movement levels than PSC motors improves comfort in recirculation mode, while a large range of cfm points also helps improve comfort. The variable-speed motor is designed for continuous use, for long-term air filtration at minimal energy consumption. It is also engineered for lower sound levels on low speed, start-up, and coast-down than other current variable-speed products.

The supplier says the optimal home HVAC system includes a two-stage Copeland Scroll UltraTech compressor, the variable-speed blower motor, and control components: an outdoor control board, an indoor control board, and a programmable thermostat. By sharing information system-wide, the system automatically configures and checks system settings, so there is no need for a field installer to look up and manually set dip switch settings on indoor blower motors.

Cost and Performance in Balance

“Electronic sensing and control boards open many possibilities for monitoring or controlling motor operations. The main problem is cost, or better, the cost-benefit ratio approach,” says Jenkins of Elco Motors. “From our past experience with appliance manufacturers, refrigeration engineers have expressed the desire to control fan airflow in a retroactive manner for a more stable refrigeration quality inside the cooler. Implementing such a feature requires joint activities between the manufacturers of the fan motor, the cooler, and the control, and cost remains the major issue.”

MCU supplier Zilog recently added the Z8F083A Series Flash microcontroller (MCU) to its Z8 Encore! XP line. This new solution is intended to give embedded design engineers the best cost/performance ratio for fan control and universal motor control applications by offering an optimized feature set, scalability, and the lowest bill of materials (BOM) cost in the market. The supplier says the new MCU is a win for fan control and motor control customers because it provides the fundamental features required for electric fan and universal motor control.

What makes the devices unique are enhanced functionalities on-chip, including a 2.5-times faster internal precision oscillator and 5 times faster ADC over competing products in its class. This equates to faster response times for critical motor control loop operations. It also has current and temperature monitoring, as well as a single-pin On-Chip Debugger (OCD) port for in-system Flash programming and debugging. Zilog calls this feature one of its key benefits, offered across the entire Z8 Encore! XP family. 

Haydon Switch & Instrument Inc. launched a low-cost planetary gear train pancake motor, engineered to deliver a high degree of performance in a very thin package. The motor is just 18.5 mm thick and 80 mm in diameter, with the motor built using a gear train inside the rotor.

The Flash MCUs are based on the Zilog eZ8 CPU core architecture, designed to rival the performance of a 16-bit CPU core. The family supports up to 8 Kbyte of Flash memory and 256 byte of register RAM, and is pin-for-pin compatible with other members of the MCU family, allowing an easy migration path from 1 up to 12 Kbyte.

“This solution was designed from the ground up to fully optimize costs and performance specifically for our fan and universal motor control customers,” says Michelle Leyden Li, director of product marketing, Zilog. “The full pin-out compatibility and easy quick drop-in replacement exemplifies our approach of creating a solution that is both lean and strong, offering our customers increased performance where they need it while also reducing overall system costs and speeding time to market.”

Tier Electronics LLC made digital signal processing (DSP)–based TMS320C2000 controllers a key component in its motor control system for washing machines and other white goods. The controllers come from Texas Instruments Inc. (TI; Dallas, TX, U.S.). System designers using Tier’s Mini Universal Power Converter (UPC) can harness the processing power and efficiency of the controller. When combined with intelligent power modules (IPM) and pressure-stamped heat sinks, the combination can reduce costs by up to 25% by halving component counts and deliver up to 30% better efficiency compared with conventional MCU or discrete-based designs. The reduction in parts count may also improve MTBF (mean time between failure) ratings.

Many major appliances use single-phase motors, requiring simple control algorithms and hardware, but the results may be noisier, bulkier solutions that can even waste energy. The UPC design integrating the TI controller enables use of a multiphase alternating current (ac) motor that can be controlled with an adaptive-based field-oriented control (AFOC). These can be smaller motors that run more quietly and provide precise speed and torque control based on a machine’s load to avoid wasting energy.

Motor Protection Is Key

Protection is also key. A powerful MCU can only go so far in protecting a motor from dangerous operational conditions—and motor applications that don’t require high-level control are just as much in need of protection from adverse operating conditions that can damage the motor and even lead to electrical or fire hazards.


Bearing failures in the field can be inconvenient for the user and costly for producers of air handlers, blowers, chillers, condensers, pumps, and other HVAC equipment. Such failures can be caused by high-frequency shaft currents and circulating currents induced by variable-frequency drives that discharge through motor bearings. The Aegis SGR bearing protection ring has multiple rows of conductive microfibers that surround the motor shaft and provide millions of discharge points to channel these harmful currents away from bearings to ground. Electro Static Technology (Mechanic Falls, ME, U.S.) says that, when an OEM installs the protection ring on a new AC motor (up to 100 hp/75 kW), it guarantees the motor will not fail from bearing damage due to electrical fluting.

In a technical brief, Raychem Circuit Protection, a business unit of Tyco Electronics (Menlo Park, CA, U.S.), describes how even the generally reliable electric motors used in home and professional environments can be exposed to damaging factors, like mechanical overload, overheating, stalls, lost neutral, overvoltage, and humidity. Appliance engineers use various circuit protection techniques to help prevent hazards and reduce warranty returns and other motor failure costs. The least expensive option can be a simple fuse—a break-once option that renders the motor unusable until the fuse is replaced.

Despite the simplicity and low cost of fuses for motor protection, “most appliance manufacturers find it easy to justify the cost of resettable protection if it helps protect the motor from overcurrent damage caused by electrical short, overloaded circuit, or customer misuse,” Raychem says.

Raychem’s solution is its PolySwitch LVR/LVRL line of polymeric positive temperature coefficient (PPTC) devices, protecting appliance motors from damage caused by both overcurrent surges and over-temperature faults while offering low resistance. They are compatibly sized with fuse solutions and, like traditional fuses, will limit dangerously high current when under fault conditions.

“The PPTC device resets itself only after the fault condition has been removed and power to the circuit is disconnected. This leaves the protected equipment fully functional and eliminates the need for fuse replacement or a service call.” Raychem says the technology doesn’t suffer from some of the size, durability, and cost disadvantages of other motor protection devices.

Keeping Motor Supply In-House

“Appliance OEMs are continuously looking for cost reductions, which is somehow opposite to more advanced (and costly) motors,” says Jenkins of Elco Motors. “Changes are mainly driven by final users demands or new regulation requirements. In the fan motor industry we noted that even if energy-efficient ECM technology was already available in the mid- to late 1990s, the real switching move started five years ago only, driven by the energy cost increase and the new efficiency regulations.”

One way for an appliance OEM to cut costs while driving efficiency innovation is to control the motor manufacturing and development process itself. Not many OEMs, however, are in a position to do so. It takes a global enterprise.

Panasonic launched its Home & Environment Co. to design technologies for the green-building community that will help improve energy efficiency and air quality in homes. In recent months, the company added the WhisperComfort, a spot energy recovery ventilator (ERV) and the first ceiling-insert ERV in the United States.

WhisperComfort units are robust ventilation fans that exhaust stale air from inside the home and replaces it with fresh air from outdoors, providing affordable spot or whole-house ventilation requirements. The fan incorporates the same totally enclosed ac motor used in Panasonic exhaust-only fans, designed to assure a clean motor and long-life, quiet operation.

Panasonic serves as its own supplier of motors and blower components in the production of home ventilation units for its Home & Environment Co. The powerful, 80-CFM WhisperGreen model has built-in intelligence that enables the fan to perform at constant CFM, regardless of duct elbows and other factors that might hinder performance. When the fan faces static pressure, the motor speed is automatically increased to ensure that the desired CFM is actually achieved.

The totally enclosed condenser motor and large, double-suction blower wheel are designed to move air quietly.  Size is based on the idea that a small blower wheel turning fast will create more noise than a large wheel turning more slowly to generate a given airflow. The fan uses a wide blower wheel to move air at reduced rpm. Further noise reduction was achieved by designing the blower wheel to draw air in from both sides, providing more area for the air to enter the wheel. 

Panasonic is a brand of Matsushita Electric Industrial Company, Ltd., one of the world’s largest product manufacturers. Its product lineup includes electric motors and blowers made by divisions such as Panasonic Industrial Co. (Secaucus, NJ, U.S.), Minebea Motor Manufacturing Corp. (Tokyo), and NMB Technologies Corp. (Chatsworth, CA, U.S.). As with all ventilation products from the company, Panasonic leverages its supplier business units for many of the vital components that go into the home ventilation systems. The motors, blower wheels, housing, and other components have been designed by, built by, and assembled by Panasonic. This allows for inherent price efficiency.

“WhisperComfort offers spot or whole-house ventilation at a surprisingly low cost,” says Dan Hogan, president of Panasonic Home & Environment.

The fans are designed for continuous, low-rate, balance airflow to ensure that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other chemical and biological indoor air pollutants are vented out. When air is brought in from the outside, the capillary core inside the WhisperComfort fan transfers heat and moisture to the supply air. This exchange both tempers the supply air coming in from outdoors and transfers moisture to maintain a comfortable indoor living environment.

All the ventilation fans are designed to combine energy efficiency and quiet operation while meeting ventilation requirements. The fan speed on the Model FV-04VE1 has two 2-speed setting options: 10/20 cfm or 20/40 cfm. Spot ventilation can meet area ventilation standards, such as CSA-F326. For “Whole House Ventilation” that meets the ASHRAE 62.2 standard, the unit could, for example, be set at its higher speed—40 cfm is suitable for ventilating two bedrooms in a 1750-sq-ft home. For living spaces with three or more bedrooms and greater than a 1000-sq-ft home, a second ventilation unit can be added.

The fan’s frost-prevention mode automatically turns on when the outdoor temperature drops below 32°F (0°C). This mode cycles between exchange air and exhaust-only air to prevent core freezing.

Drives Come Home

Traditionally, ac drives have been used in applications like powering pumps, fans, and conveyors. Today’s end-users have a different approach.

“Drives are finding new applications in exercise machines, pizza ovens, honey centrifuges, and car washes,” report Ilpo Ruohonen, Mika Paakkonen, and Mikko S. Koskinen of Zurich-based ABB in a recent paper titled, “The Drive for Simplicity.”

In these applications, the drive is very definitely considered a commodity, and OEMs, who may not traditionally have used drives, are turning to these components for their simplicity. ABB reports on recent survey results showing that 70% of ac drive users rate simple control and setup “very important,” and 53% rate convenient operator interface “very important.”

“The need to answer the question, ‘what does it do?’ has been replaced by the expectation that the drive will ‘just do it’,” the ABB authors write. “This shift in attitude brings with it the assumption that the drives are simple to buy, simple to install, simple to start-up, simple to commission, and simple to own and run.”

How small are drives becoming? “The mere fact that drives can now be used in domestic washing machines is a testimony to their extreme compactness,” the ABB authors write. They explain that smaller drives are easier to install and easier for OEMs to fit into their designs. Reduction in size has resulted from drives that are engineered with fewer components, greater packing density, semiconductor technology improvements, and more-advanced cooling techniques. The result is a tenfold decrease in drive size in 10 years. 

Emerson Climate Technologies’ UltraTech HVAC communication system includes the new UltraTech variable-speed motor, a four-wire, electronically commutated motor designed with two-way communication. Technology engineered in the motor enables it to receive a command from the furnace system control board, execute the command, and confirm the command has been completed. The motor is designed for better efficiency than existing PSC motors in furnace and air handler blower applications. Lower CFM levels than PSC motors improves comfort in recirculation mode, while a large range of CFM points also helps improve comfort. The variable-speed motor is designed for continuous use, for long-term air filtration at minimal energy consumption. It is also engineered for lower sound levels on low speed, start-up, and coast-down than other current variable-speed products.

Many of the same efforts that result in smaller drive size—such as reducing part count—have resulted in reduced component cost for drives as well. ABB predicts it will reduce part count by another 20% in its drives in the next few years. Part count reduction may be accomplished by integrating electronics, which does away with separate electronics components like external RAM and analog/digital convertors. Even mechanical parts are being integrated. ABB points to the potential for combining frames and enclosures to enable components that perform multiple functions.

Value-Added Motors

Motor makers are always interested in providing their motors with added value—and such motors can make life easier for the appliance producer. Bodine Electric Co. (Chicago) has developed Incodermotors, a new selection of permanent magnet dc and brushless dc motors and gearmotors that are equipped with encoders inside the motor. The 4.5–12-V magnetic encoders are available with one or two Hall sensor output signals in resolutions of 2, 4, 8, and 30 pulses per revolution. They work with digital tachometers or other electronic devices to measure speed, distance, and direction.

Terry Auchstetter, manager for Custom Product Development, says many of Bodine’s customers find the built-in encoder a logical solution. “When a customer is thinking about building a design that needs an encoder, I ask them why not use the Incodermotor and have Bodine do all the testing and assembly? Frequently it means they will have four or five fewer components to assemble. It’s an easy decision for them.”

“Appliance OEM companies are not just looking for a simple fan motor, they need top-performing fan solutions,” says Jenkins of Elco Motors. “On the engineering side, our clients are frequently involved in cost-reduction programs that result in general downsizing also affecting R&D departments and testing labs. For this and other reasons, the fan suppliers must now also offer engineering capabilities, starting from the initial fan selection, followed by the performance testing, and finally with records of accelerated life tests.”

Adding value to motors and air-moving devices, and providing value-added services, help reduce the load on OEMs—and can help these producers more quickly bring higher-value, more-energy-efficient appliances to market.


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