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4 Ways Integrating Variable Frequency Drives Can Benefit Your Facility

Variable frequency drives (VFDs) have most commonly been used in water treatment plants, where they’re used to regulate water flow. But in recent years, they’ve grown in popularity throughout many areas of the industry. But if you’ve clicked on this article, you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with VFDs, so let’s dive right into the benefits. 

Benefits of Variable Frequency Drives

Any facility that uses an AC motor as part of its process stands to benefit from integrating VFDs. They allow AC motors to run at variable speeds, and they do this by adjusting the frequency delivered to the motor via dual voltage converting. 

Integrating a VFD into your automation system can provide numerous benefits. These include process optimization, increased motor life, energy savings, and time savings.  

1. Process Optimization 

VFDs make automation or industrial process operate more smoothly. With speed control based on flow rate, AC motors operate more efficiently and effectively. By incorporating PLC programming, VFDs can also run via automation, eliminating the need for manual operation.

Through the use of basic communication protocols, PLCs monitor and control motor speeds using the VFD. This leads to a more efficient process. Plus, it effectively cuts out hammering effects due to pipe flow.

Overall, VFDs can make your facility’s operations more efficient and sophisticated while giving operators better control of their processes. 

2. Increased Motor Life

As it turns out, improving the efficiency of motor-based systems can also be great for the motor. By enabling an AC motor to run at speeds appropriate to the flow rate, VFDs decrease strain and wear to the motor during operation. 

VFDs make it possible for AC motors to ease into a startup, rather than only switching between off and full speed. With a gradual startup, motors experience less strain. Both the gradual startup and the ability to adjust speed based on flow rate decrease stress on the motor. 

3. Energy Savings

VFDs adjust to allow a motor to run at slower speeds when needed, which reduces overall energy consumption. With this alone, a VFD tends to pay for itself in under two years. Energy companies are aware of the energy savings VFDs bring to facilities and have started offering their incentives. For example, here’s a look at one energy company’s VFD incentive offer. It goes to show how the energy industry supports VFDs for their ability to conserve energy.  

“Your business can save energy, reduce costs, and improve its bottom line by taking steps to improve the efficiency of motor-driven systems. This can help your business gain year-over-year energy and cost savings. Use our rebates to lower your costs of making energy-saving improvements, from adding variable frequency drives (VFDs), to upgrading to high-efficiency induction or permanent magnet motors.” 

--Xcel Energy

4. Time Savings

Any process inefficiency within a production facility equals wasted time. And wasted time is the same as dollars left on the table. By easing motor wear, VFDs extend motor life and reduce the need for repairs. And by automating what could otherwise be a manual process component, VFDs save on labor costs as well.

Plus, today’s VFDs are becoming smarter than previous systems. Depending on the specifics of your process, there are likely additional opportunities for saving time. 

A Few Words on Installation

Over the last few years, they have become more and more popular, especially in competitive industries looking to increase overall efficiencies, like the food processing industry. While the decision to integrate VFDs may be easy for facilities, installation is more complex. 

To reap the benefits of VFDs, the proper installation is important. At Knobelsdorff Electric, all of our electricians are trained and experienced in the proper installation of VFDs. They’ll ensure proper line and load wiring, motor lead lengths, and airflow during the installation and startup process. Plus, we can build out custom PLCs to automate your drive to your process. 

If you’re looking to add VFD to your facility, get started by talking to one of our automation experts.

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