Maximizing Motor Systems Efficiencies

By Ted Clayton and Mike Polo


Built on standards established by the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct), the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) authorized the U.S. Department of Energy to set minimum efficiency standards for certain motor classes. Additionally, motors that were previously regulated by the EPAct were required to meet premium-efficiency standards established by the National Electric Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and motors that were not previously regulated were also given energy efficiency requirments.

NEMA Premium® Motors, made of more copper and higher-grade steel than lower-grade motors, can produce efficiency gains of up to 3% when compared with EPAct motors and up to 8% when compared to standard efficiency motors. While the initial costs of NEMA Premium® Motors are steeper than others, they can drastically reduce operating costs and have reduced total costs of ownership, often paying back the difference in less than two years. Additionally, longer life, quieter operation, increased warranty periods, and greater application versatility are other benefits that can be achieved by purchasing a NEMA Premium® Motor. Moreover, most of these systems can fit into previous envelopes, allowing for direct replacement of old equipment.


A Systems-Wide Approach

As highlighted in our Steam Systems Efficiencies series, optimization of system-wide efficiency over concentration on partial-system efficiencies can increase energy and cost savings tremendously. Up to ten times the savings can be achieved through a motor upgrade, alone. What’s more, variable-load applications including pumps, fans, blowers, dust collectors, and cooling towers offer the greatest returns on investment, yielding energy savings of 30-50% allowing for on-demand operation and adjustment for specific applications.

Energy Asset Management

The U.S. Department of Energy has reported that even plants with energy management systems in place can increase savings by 10-15% by using best practices to increase efficiency. ENERGY STAR, a joint initiative between the Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has been shown to improve energy and financial performance of plants while distinguishing them as environmental leaders.

By adhering to the following ENERGY STAR process, industrial users can improve financial operations while also benefitting the environment and decreasing waste:

1. Make a commitment by forming an energy team that includes a full-time “energy champion,” and instituting an energy policy.

2. Assess performance by periodically evaluating energy use, establishing baselines and benchmarking results.

3. Set clear, measurable performance goals to drive energy management and promote continuous improvement.

4. Create a detailed action plan that lays out a systematic process to implement energy performance measures, including defining technical steps and targets, and determining roles and resources.

5. Implement an action plan that includes internal and external communication to raise awareness across the organization.

6. Evaluate progress by comparing energy-use data and activities compared to performance goals .

7. Recognize achievements to sustain momentum and support for the program.

Kaman Industrial technologies