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issue: October 2008 APPLIANCE Magazine

Motors & Air-Moving Devices
Web Exclusive: BLDC Blowers - and the Alternatives

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Leanna Skarnulis, Contributing Editor

Demands for energy efficiency, along with increasing energy costs, are driving wider adoption of brushless dc (BLDC) blowers, long popular in Europe, and promoting development of less costly alternatives.

The 12.3-in Blower is the latest addition to the Nautilair line of variable speed, BLDC blowers from Ametek Technical & Industrial Products. The pre-mix burner blowers are said to optimize combustion in gas-fired systems and reduce emissions. The wide range of applications includes commercial and residential boilers, hot water heaters, furnaces, and foodservice equipment kilns.

BLDC technology offers solutions to some of today's difficult combustion requirements. They provide variable speed control, reliability, ac input, combustion efficiency, reduced emissions, and flexibility, according to Kris Diehl, engineer with Ametek Technical & Industrial Products (Kent, OH, U.S.; www.ametektmd.com).

Variable speed control enables a boiler to maximize combustion efficiency. Speed can be adjusted internally with an onboard potentiometer or with an external PWM or dc control that actively varies blower performance. BLDC allows blower modulation to optimize combustion efficiency as well as reduce nitrous oxide (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO) emissions.

BLDC blowers are electronically commutated (EC), which improves reliability. "Because they do not require brushes, the need for brush maintenance is eliminated," says Diehl. "Also, with BLDC blowers operating at a higher efficiency, less heat is expelled within the motor allowing for cooler bearing temperatures, thus providing longer bearing life."

In addition, onboard electronics with a full wave rectifier bridge converts ac line voltage (120-240v) input to dc.

Diehl says flexibility is another advantage of BLDC blowers, which can be designed to operate in a range of performances. "Customers typically do not want to use two or more different performance blowers when they are designing combustion products covering a low to high range of efficiency. BLDC technology allows for the motor/controller to be designed for optimum performance so customers can design in one blower for an entire product line, e.g. a low-efficiency, mid-range, and high-range product. This provides the 'one blower does all' solution rather than having several blowers provide the different operating points."

Big Boiler BLDC

Ametek will soon go into production with a 12.3-in. model, the highest flow, modulating blower in its Nautilair line of BLDC variable speed blowers, which serve a range of applications that include commercial and residential boilers, hot water heaters, furnaces, and foodservice equipment kilns. The main application for the new 12.3-in. model is commercial boilers.

Other motor makers are addressing energy efficiency demands with BLDC or BLDC alternatives.

"We are currently working on a project with a major water heater company to introduce a smart blower that will allow the system to detect and set up for the appropriate length of vent pipe," explains Julie Heinrichs, market manager - V&R for A. O. Smith Electrical Products Company (Tipp City, OH, U.S.; www.aosmithmotors.com).

"In other areas we are looking to serve our refrigeration manufacturers with an alternative to a BLDC motor, by using a licensed fan/motor combination to gain efficiency in the condenser and evaporator compartments of the refrigerator," Heinrichs adds. "The licensed Pax fan used in combination with our motor gains efficiency beyond a traditional ac motor, but doesn’t cost our customer the premium price that comes with a BLDC motor."

"In partnership with the Pax Group, we have taken their efficient fan technology and designed our motors to run at our customer’s optimum range," says Heinrichs. "The fan emulates the flow of nature, hence the air flows in a much smoother and efficient pattern. This new technology enables us to take out active material in some cases, but more importantly gains efficiency in the customer’s unit."


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