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Why a Variable Speed Drive Air Compressor is a Great Choice

A variable speed drive (VSD) compressor measures system pressure and responds to fluctuating air demands by changing the speed of the motor. The result is reduced energy costs and improved efficiency.

These factors particularly benefit manufacturing industries applying variable drives to equipment. When electric motors do not need to run at full capacity, such as in an unloaded state, energy savings alone recoup the cost of investment.

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How does a Variable Speed Drive Work?

The variable speed drive adjusts motor speed to meet air demand, while a fixed speed compressor is either on or it's off. For applications requiring this type of either/or – full load or off – an idling compressor works. Most equipment, however, does not need this type of air compressor.

VSD monitors system pressure, regulating airflow delivery to maintain a pressure band of +1.5 psi. Compare this to a fixed compressor, typically holding a 10-15 psig minimum fluctuation in pressure.

Maintaining the minimum required pressure for the system to work saves energy, as power consumption drops 1 percent every time pressure decreases by 2 psi. This represents energy savings of 6 percent per variable speed compressor employed.

VSD also offers ramp up motor speed via soft start versus the high amperage needs of a hard start with a fixed speed compressor. In addition to power savings, soft start reduces stress on the air compressor, prolonging its lifespan.

The lifespan of the VSD itself varies according to the drive's horsepower. A drive of up to 10 horsepower lasts around eight years, while higher horsepower drives last longer.

What are VSD Air Compressor Applications?

Since its introduction in 1994, you find variable speed compressors in a variety of applications. To name just a few:

  • Air compressors
  • Alternating current (AC) motors in manufacturing equipment
  • Conveyor belts
  • HVAC blowers and fans
  • Lathes
  • Mills
  • Swimming pool pumps
  • Treatment pumps for wastewater

The manufacturing industry in particular benefits from VSD air compressors, using them to significantly increase the lifespan of an AC motor by adjusting the acceleration and deceleration time of the motor. What this means is that the motor only operates when it needs to, rather than continuously.

How do I Save with a VSD Compressor?

First, conduct an assessment and performance analysis to understand ideal applications to switch to VSD. The reality is, you may be operating oversized air compressors throughout your facilities. This occurs for a number of reasons, such as cyclical production and decreased demand due to exporting manufacturing work overseas.

Next, make sure your variable speed drive air compressor is of comparable size to the fixed speed drive currently in use. That is vital to reaping the most significant energy savings.

That said, depending on the demand, switching to VSD may drop energy consumption by as much as 30 percent. This is especially true if your assessment reveals you've been using the wrong size compressor. Making the switch substantially increases average savings.

In addition, making these types of changes frequently qualifies your organization for rebates due to green initiatives occurring across the country.

In the end, upgrading equipment typically pays for itself through increased efficiency and decreased energy costs.

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