Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Carl Turbitt, ABB's UK HVAC Drives Team Leader writes: Hospitals don’t have it easy at the moment. The challenge of trying to squeeze the most out of budgets whilst consistently delivering excellent care has meant that hospitals face an enormously difficult time and, the way things are going, money is only going to become tighter in the future.

In few buildings is air quality as important as it is in a hospital. Stagnant air can be a breeding ground for bacteria and disease, and avoiding infection and contamination is of utmost importance, which is why pumps and fans work almost continuously throughout your typical hospital to ensure the air is circulated, regulated and clean.

HVAC systems typically account for 50 percent of a hospital’s electricity costs, which is why they present huge potential for savings.

Many conventional pumps and fans use a throttling arrangement, whereby if they’re not required to run at full capacity, such as during quieter periods, the output flow is regulated using valves, vanes and dampers. The drawback to this system is that it still requires the same amount of electricity as the motor is still running at 100 percent capacity, and the excess is simply wasted.

This needn’t be the case. By fitting a variable-speed drive to your HVAC applications, the motor’s output can be adjusted so that it only runs at the speed required at any given time, and only uses the energy necessary to do so. Even a small reduction in energy can make a big difference – a motor running at 80 percent consumes just half the energy that it would at full power.

Of course, that’s all well and good in theory. You need to know how it works in practice, and whether real savings can be made. Well the answer is yes. Obviously the precise savings vary from case to case, but applying a VSD to a 75 kW motor in continuous duty can save nearly £15,000 a year, with a payback time of as little as six months. And that’s just one motor – imagine how much could be saved if extrapolated to all HVAC motors.

For more information about how variable-speed drives can lower your operating costs, why not read our guide on the subject.

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