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Voltage optimisation helps cut energy bills

Installing voltage optimisers helped industrial printer cut its energy consumption by 8%

Voltage optimisation (VO) is an established technology, but is often unknown to facilities managers and misunderstood by electrical engineers. However, VO is now enjoying a rising tide of investment as increasing energy prices and the drive toward sustainability encourages companies to explore VO as an option. James Goodby describes how VO installations were able to save money on energy bills

In a climate of rising energy costs and growing concerns about sustainability, more businesses are interested in cutting their energy bills and reducing their carbon footprint. Domino, a provider of coding, marking and digital printing technologies was alerted to the potential benefits of Voltage optimisation (VO) via the manufacturing association Make UK.

“I’ll be honest, I hadn’t previously heard of VO,” explains Steve Impey, Head of Facilities at Domino. Steve’s director Carl Haycock chairs the regional board for Make UK, where discussion of VO had caught his interest. “When I looked into the technology, it was a no-brainer,” he quickly recalled. ‘‘It offered a quick return on investment with continued savings going forward and completely fitted with our environmental strategy.’’ Domino’s parent company, Brother Industries, recommended Powerdown220, having successfully worked with the company before.

Voltage optimisation basics

In the UK, CE marked equipment is designed to operate normally at 220 volts, but the average supply voltage from National Grid is 242 volts. There are historical reasons why UK grid supply is so high, but UK business end up paying more for their electricity than they need to, often without realising it.

VO is a transformer-based technology that lowers the voltage supply from the National Grid to 220 volts.  This means guaranteed savings on energy bills as well as a reduced carbon footprint. Powerdown220 forecast a saving of 7.5% on Domino’s energy bills and recommended installing three optimisers.

They could also offer a savings guarantee, meaning that if the investment did not deliver the estimated savings, Powerdown220 would happily fund the difference themselves. This additional guarantee was a “big tick in the box,” Steve recalled.

A straightforward project?

For this project, Powerdown220 partnered GWE, who manufactured the voltage optimisers in Sheffield. After the initial site survey, Powerdown220 put together a plan to ensure the installations could be carried out with minimal disruption to business operations. The final connection would require the power to be briefly turned off, so this crucial part of the process was carefully planned in advance.

In total, three optimisers were installed at Domino’s site, consisting of a large optimiser at headquarters, and two smaller units at the R&D facilities. Each optimiser also has its own portal, which Steve can access via his computer, for real-time data on voltage levels and savings calculations.

Although Steve describes the project as an easy one, there was a minor issue after the power was switched back on. An intermittent relay in the circuitry of a fan was causing it to malfunction. It later turned out this fault was a coincidence, and not connected to the VO installation. However, keen to ensure that the rollout was as smooth as possible, Powerdown220’s technical director, Ged Hebdige took the lead in investigating the problem and identifying the fault. 

Results

“More and more of our customers want to know what we are doing to reduce our carbon footprint and our energy consumption,” Steve explained. Although Domino already receives its power from renewable sources, investing in VO has allowed them to go further in demonstrating to their biggest customers that they are not wasting any energy.

Following the installation of VO, the site and its equipment are now receiving approximately 221 volts. The portal for each machine tells the company both how much money is being saved, but also the equivalent savings in CO2 reduction.

In terms of energy savings, the results speak for themselves. The initial investment paid for itself with 12 months and Domino will continue to enjoy savings year after year. With an estimated electricity bill of 1.5 million GBP per year, an annual saving of 7.5 per cent represents real value for money.

In fact, it would turn out that Powerdown220 had predicted a lower saving in their initial forecast. As Steve monitors the portal on the three units, he is pleased to report ongoing savings of just over eight per cent.

Considering whether more facilities professionals will follow Steve and Domino in investing in voltage optimisation, Steve reflected that, “I don’t think it’s well publicised.”

However, as energy prices continue to create problems for UK businesses, and large companies demand more from their suppliers in demonstrating commitment to sustainable practices, the profile of VO is gradually beginning to increase.

James Goodby is a director with powerdown220.com.

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