Variable Frequency Drives 101

Utilizing pumps on a regular basis can be a costly operation; they can run for hours at a time and require a tremendous amount of power to run.

We all know (or might not know) that energy efficiency starts with motor speed control. To keep things efficient, there needs to be a technology implemented that provides an effective solution for speed control and a reduction in power consumption.

That’s where Variable Frequency Drives, or VFD, come in.

Pumps that include VFD technology can significantly cut down on energy costs for your business. And with ever-improving technology, VFD are smaller, cheaper, and more efficient than ever before.

So what exactly is a Variable Frequency Drive?

To start, VFD is known by a number of other names, including:

  • Variable speed drive
  • Micro drive
  • AC drive
  • Inverter drive
  • Adjustable frequency drive

Unfortunately, all of those terms can be confusing to someone trying to grasp the concept for the first time -  don’t let them be. Let’s first explore the basics of what VFD means.

The Basics

VFD is a kind of adjustable speed drive; it’s mainly utilized in electro-mechanical drive systems. Through differing motor input frequency and voltage, a VFD can govern torque as well as AC motor speed.

An electrical AC motor is used in a VFD structure. Although on rare occasions a single face motor is used in a VFD structure, that isn’t the norm - a three-phase induction motor is what’s typical and favored. The main reason for this is that the three-phase motor is more affordable.

The drive system of a VFD consists of three main underlying systems, they are:

  • Drive/operator interface
  • AC motor
  • Main drive controller assembly

Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) can be found in electrical devices from large drills to air compressors and small kitchen appliances. The efficiency that results from VFD will have the ability to save significant amounts of money in the future.

Pump Control with VFD’s

Valves in pumps are often used to regulate flow or pressure in liquid pumping systems. However, the valve can be a significant source of energy loss by causing a restriction in the flow path, which in turn increases pressure.

A VFD provides more efficient flow control by varying the pump motor speed. If you compare the energy requirements and costs when a throttling device is used for control on a centrifugal pump with the power used when a VDF is in place, the potential savings are extremely evident.

Using a variable frequency drive in a pumping system provides additional savings since many elements required in a valve-con­trolled system are eliminated or reduced without affecting the function.

Cube of velocity equals the energy that a fan or pump uses, and as a result, when a fan is at 80 percent of its capacity speed (at least in theory), only 51 percent of available power is used.

The Route to Added Efficiency is Not Over

Although VFD technology is not new, it is constantly being improved upon and studied. One such area of study relates to how VFD could be used to increase power when used in conjunction with wind turbines and projects involving hydroelectric production. With that being said, the study for continuous improvement is still on.

If your business is in the market for a pump, it’s well worth your time and effort to consider a pump that includes VFD. Over time, the savings can really add up. Pumps with this component will become increasingly commonplace as their value is more widely known.

If you have any more questions about the value of VFD’s in pumps, our experts at JETT Pump & Valve would love to help. Contact us today!

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