ABB – Saving the Best for Last!

23,February 2018

Softstarters or variable-speed drives, or both?

Energy efficiency is a very important aspect that customers seek in products and systems and something that suppliers work hard at improving in their product offering. In fact, the general view held is that the investment linked to the purchase of electrical equipment, as well as the downtime cost incurred from installation and commissioning is offset by a decrease in electricity consumption due to energy efficient operation.

Like in water applications, centrifugal pumps are driven by an induction motor directly fed from the network. Flow regulation is accomplished by a few different means, namely throttling, a highly inefficient method as hydraulic losses increase dramatically when the flow is strangled by a valve; variable-frequency drives (VFD), recommended as an effective means of saving energy, ensure flow regulation by controlling the rotational speed of the motor shaft; and alternatively, on and off pump operation following a precise duty cycle – the pump is not operated continuously, but switched on for the time needed for pumping the target water volume and disconnected for the rest of the time. Given that many different hydraulic systems recommend the use of frequency converters or cyclic control (ie, softstarter technologies), which one of these two solutions is the most cost-effective in reducing energy consumption and providing the most satisfactory payback time? – Juan Sagarduy, Jesper Kristensson, Sören Kling, Johan Rees (ABB Corporate Research)

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