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How to optimise electricity supply in your business

Posted by Paul Hutchens on 18 February 2013 at 9:33 am

There are a number of technologies available to cut energy demand and reduce electricity bills for businesses. The first that I would like to talk about is one that optimises and harmonises your electricity supply. It is relatively straightforward and very robust technology with few moving parts.

Voltage optimisation is the name given to the systematic controlled reduction in the voltages received by an energy consumer to reduce energy use, power demand and reactive power demand. While some voltage 'optimisation' devices have a fixed voltage adjustment, others electronically regulate the voltage automatically.

Voltage optimisation systems are typically installed in series with the mains electrical supply to a building, allowing all its electrical equipment to benefit from an optimised supply

Why do you need to optimise your electricity supply?

EU directives allow electricity to be supplied at a site or house level at 230V plus or minus 10%; ie between 207V and 252V. Average supply in the UK is around 240V. However most electrical appliances will run quite happily at 220V and, as this results in a smaller rise in current to compensate, there is a saving (Watts = Volts x Amps).

Electrical equipment – such as motors, air conditioning and lighting – performs inefficiently when exposed to excessive voltage and poor power quality. Take a normal 230V rated lamp: when run at 240V, it will fail after 550 hours instead of 1,000, drawing 9% more energy. Now imagine that problem spread across an entire site, with every single component failing faster and wasting energy. That’s expensive and can be corrected with voltage optimisation.

Voltage optimisation can cut your energy use by up to 20%, reduce carbon emissions by up to 15%, reduce your maximum demand by up to 10% and prolong the life and reliability of all equipment in your premises that runs on electricity.*

Voltage optimisation (VO) or voltage power optimisation (VPO) guarantees energy, cost and carbon savings by efficiently optimising a building’s electrical supply voltage.

By reducing the voltage level, we can ensure that you use the correct amount of power in your non-domestic property and help to prolong the life of your electrical goods; which will no longer be overworked by high voltage.

The benefits of voltage optimisation:

  • Immediately improving the power factor by between 5 - 10%
  • Reducing the effect of harmonics; to create a more consistent flow of power to your electrical equipment
  • Protecting you from transient events, such as voltage spikes
  • Saving you an average of 11% on your electricity spend
  • Return on investment on a VO installation is typically above 25%

Circumstances where voltage optimisation isn't as effective

Voltage optimisation does not provide significant savings for the following types of electrical loads (although there will be resilience and life cycle benefits from the reduction in harmonics, transients and so on – so equipment will last longer and be more reliable):

  • Resistive loads (such as heating, kettles, immersion heaters) which will simply take whatever voltage they are given; lower voltage = longer heating times
  • IT equipment or anything with its own transformer as the electricity supply is already being optimised
  • Some modern lighting including T5 and LEDs

Eco2Energy works with PowerPerfector; other Voltage Optimisation solutions are available.

*Source: PowerPerfector website

About the author: Paul Hutchens is founder and director of Eco2Solar, which installs solar systems around the UK.

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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