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issue: October 2008 APPLIANCE Magazine

Motors & Air-Moving Devices
Motors Wrestle with the Big “E”

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Leanna Skarnulis, Contributing Editor

The Big “E” is energy. And suppliers of motors and air-movers are determined to help appliance makers cut the Big E down to size.

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The newly developed iQ-motor from ebm-papst (Farmington, CT, U.S., www.ebmpapst.us) is designed to be mechanically and electrically compatible with the old, low-efficiency, shaded-pole motor (Q-motor). Axial impellers with diameters of 154 to 254 mm can be installed, and it is interchangeable with the old shaded-pole motors in terms of the mounting flange, the wall ring, and the guard grille. An electrical-main cable is all that is necessary for the electrical connection.
Sales Engineer Christian Diegritz and Ellen-Christine Reiff from ebm’s office in Stutensee detail the technology of the new iQ-motor. Read more here.

“We’re going beyond the days of an engineered solution that will do the current job,” says John Morehead, vice president of strategic planning and marketing for Bison Gear & Engineering Corp. (St. Charles, IL, U.S.; www.bisongear.com). The company designs and manufactures fractional-horsepower electric motors, gearmotors, and gear reducers used in industrial and commercial OEM applications worldwide.

“Energy saving has become a key issue since the Kyoto Protocol was established in 1997 to reduce greenhouse gases,” says Michael Jenkins, sales manager, North America, for Elco Motors Inc. (Candiac, QC, Canada; www.elcomotors.com). “Regulations are progressively tightening commercial and industrial appliances’ energy-consumption ratings, and the fan motor—especially the very-low-efficiency shaded pole—is on the Top Ten list of the components to be upgraded to improve appliance efficiency.

At the same time, he points to extensive field tests demonstrating that the average payback period for the ECM (electronically commutated motor) is as low as seven months, despite the initially higher unit motor cost. “Moreover, the energy saved by ECM fans leads to significant reductions of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions,” he adds.

Emerson Climate Technologies (St. Louis, MO, U.S.; www.emersonclimate.com) released details of its Rescue EcoTech high-efficiency direct-drive blower motor, available in spring of 2009. The unit is designed to easily retrofit furnace and air-handling applications for increased indoor direct-drive blower performance and better efficiency. Low speed is available to support continuous fan operation, for improved filtration and reduced temperature variation in the home.

Jenkins notes that the United States did not sign the Kyoto agreement but is still very aware of the need for better energy efficiency, and regulations are moving ahead accordingly. “Carbon footprint reduction concerns have lately positively affected energy-efficiency goals. We found this sensibility very strong in the UK and in the rest of Europe.”

Commercial and HVAC: Big Opportunities to Bring Down Big “E”

Jenkins says that both the commercial refrigeration and HVAC industries that Elco serves are researching sensible reductions in energy consumption and CO2 emissions, driven by national and local regulations as well as by the market itself. “Traditional shaded-pole or PSC fan motors, together with compressors and lighting, are the main ‘energy eaters’ of such appliances,” he says. Elco’s first electronically commuted (EC) high-efficiency motors for refrigerated display cases and foodservice coolers came in the late 1990s, and a second generation arrived in 2006. “New models with increased output for HVAC blower applications, featuring adjustable speeds and more-sophisticated electronic controls, were presented at the Mostra Convegno Show (Milan, Italy) in March 2008 and will be released to the market in the first quarter of 2009,” he says.Morehead of Bison explains why energy efficiency is especially important in commercial appliances: “If you look at the fast-food industry, one of the biggest fixed expenses is utilities. In order for those operators to maximize profitability, they’re looking to their suppliers, who are our customers, for more energy efficiency.”To that end, Bison is coming up with solutions specifically for this type of equipment. “We’ve developed a line of inverter duty three-phase gearmotors that are more efficient than single-phase,” says Morehead. “Likewise, we’re working with customers on brushless dc motors that offer greater efficiency than permanent-magnet dc motors. In some cases, even a permanent-magnet dc motor can be more energy efficient than a single-phase ac motor. We’re also working on brushless dc motors that can replace a conventional ac motor and gear-reducer, thereby reducing the parts count and increasing efficiency.”

Compact motorized impellers from Soler & Palau North America (Montville, NJ, U.S.; www.soler-palauinc.com) are designed to provide efficient airflow at static pressures exceeding 1.3 in. WG. Suitable for a wide range of applications that includes cooling and ventilation, the ac-powered backward-curved motorized impeller discharges air 360 degrees and requires no packaging.

The drive for energy efficiency is something Morehead calls a “macro-development” that bears watching. “We’re a relatively small company compared with some in our industry. It means we have to be agile and careful of where we put our resources. We’re trying to be cognizant of these macrodevelopments so we don’t get caught flat-footed.”

He anticipates that Europe will lead legislation to mandate efficiency levels. “We’re keeping a close eye on that. There’s been the prospect of a green tariff globally. It’s an effort to mesh trade law with climate control. There have been numerous World Trade Organization discussions on that subject. It’s something that’s still up in the air, but if we’re looking toward the future, it underscores the importance of increasing energy efficiency.”He believes another element that’s growing in importance is end-of-life responsi-bility, or “…the dust-to-dust energy cost. Five years from now, I think we’ll see that things have changed quite a bit.” Marta di Domizio, marketing consultant for Wellington Drive Technologies Ltd. (Auckland, New Zealand; www.wdtl.com) concurs that the most important trend affecting motors and air-moving devices is the need for increased energy efficiency. “U.S., European, and Asian governments have invested heavily on focusing the attention of the public toward the advantages of energy-efficient technologies, and this, together with rising consumer environmental awareness, high energy prices, and increasingly strict energy-efficiency standards, has created a huge market for small energy-saving motors like the ones we offer,” she says. “Our response has been focused on working in parallel with government institutions to be able to offer energy-saving motors that can help our customers meet new energy-efficiency standards, while providing cost savings within the first year. In particular, we have been focusing on the commercial refrigeration market, where motor volumes are very large but the motors used are still very inefficient, with efficiency rates on the order of 15–20%.”

A.O. Smith Electrical Products Co. (Tipp City, OH, U.S.; www.aosmithmotors.com) developed the PAX Streamlining Principle using observations of the natural flow of fluid and its effectiveness. This C-frame motor and fan component is one of the results, giving refrigeration and freezer OEM engineers a motor system addressing cost and efficiency.

Wellington supplies EC motors and fans to the HVAC and commercial refrigeration industries. Its main focus during the past 12 months has been commercial refrigeration applications for supermarkets, beverage merchandisers, and vending machines.

The 13E14E hybrid stepper motor is one in the MAE-brand HS series from Ametek Technical & Industrial Products. The rugged motors are engineered to provide high-performance solutions optimized for microstep operation. They are said to feature superior torque characteristics and low ratios of detent torque to holding torque to enable fine positioning and promote smooth and quiet performance.

Di Domizio says supermarkets have one of the highest rates of energy consumption per square foot of all commercial and industrial sectors, and refrigeration accounts for over 35% of the energy consumed in a typical supermarket. “We worked with a number of industry leaders to develop our ECR series of energy-saving EC condenser and evaporator motors and fans that, with efficiency rates up to 65%, allow an average supermarket to cut energy cost by $20,000 per year on average, with payback periods of less than a year.”

She adds that one energy-saving ECR motor can do the job of a wide range of inefficient traditional shaded-pole motors. “This allows our customers to dramatically simplify inventory, reduce stock, and cut costs.” There’s also a competitive advantage for customers. “Because using our ECR energy-saving condenser and evaporator fans in commercial refrigeration applications delivers premium energy savings for each additional dollar invested when compared with other technologies available on the market, our customers are able to offer very high levels of energy savings at very competitive prices.”

Beyond the Big “E”

While energy efficiency and emissions control command much attention, there are other pressures on the motors and air-moving devices industry.

Jenkins of Elco cites some of these: “There are demands for extreme long-life expectancy, noise emission reduction, wide speed-range availability—traditional asynchronous ac motors were strongly related to power supply synchronous speed—adjustable speed, preset or reprogrammable, and lately the possibility to interact between the fan motor and the appliance electronic controls—all this without forgetting the continuous cost-saving pressure to offset raw material and oil price increases.”


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