DENVER, CO – Commercial property operators and homeowners alike are all looking for ways to cut energy consumption and utility bills these days without sacrificing work load or lifestyle, and they are increasingly turning to such “green” products as highly efficient lighting systems and light bulbs, EnergyStar and more efficient HVAC systems and appliances, improved insulation, newer more efficient windows, and more.
One of the more interesting “green” product developments coming into vogue are Energy Controllers, devices that regulate the flow of electricity, that can cut electrical usage – and costs – anywhere from 6% to as much as 30%. And since electrical costs the most expensive component in utility expenses any savings here can ease the burden of that monthly utility bill and add significantly to the bottom line in a commercial operation.
Energy controllers are essentially capacitors that attach near to a home’s electrical box and on the service panels at commercial facilities. The science involved is very detailed and it would take an electrical engineer from MIT to explain all the ins and outs, if that EE could be understood by the layperson.
In simple terms, however, electrical power is delivered by utility companies over lines and systems that are designed as one-size-power-for-all strength, and yet each individual user has different demand needs depending on the types of electrical devices used in the property. Also, this power from the utility company ebbs and flows as demand rises – like on a hot summer day when every air conditioner is working overtime – or falls, like in the middle of the night when businesses are closed and homeowners have darkened the house until morning. The fact is that often there is too much power feeding the electrical system in a home or commercial facility and the excess is dissipated as heat and wasted. Energy controllers manage the flow of electricity to the structure so that the right amount of power is supplied and the excess power drawn is minimized – thus, lower electrical use and lower electrical bills.
The measurement of all of this is generally conducted by licensed and qualified electricians and involves what is known in the trade as the Power Factor – and those electrical systems with a Low Power Factor can benefit more from an energy controller than those with a High Power Factor. Indeed, the idea behind an energy controller is to correct the Power Factor within a facility where the utility-supplied electricity is delivered, so that the system itself will draw less current.
Moreover, this fluctuation in electricity being delivered to electrical devices can be hard on them, particularly on electric motors that drive such things as AC units, HVAC fan systems, refrigerators and freezers, dishwashers and electric dryers, and on pumps for swimming pools, spas, French drains and septic systems. The extra power and the heat generated can and often does shorten the life of electrical devices so the use of an energy controller also delivers savings in the longevity of such equipment.
Capacitors themselves, formerly called condensers, have actually been around since the late 1700s, and they were the beginning of what we today call battery technology as those early scientists discovered that these inventions – a glass jar or Leyden jar – could store electrical charges. Capacitors are used in all kinds of electrical devices to both store and separate different types of current. To offer some practical idea of what this means is that it is a capacitor that allows such electrical devices as radios and computers to maintain information like the time of day, favorite stations and other settings for short intervals while power is out or batteries are being changed.
The savings effect of energy controllers – which must be installed by a certified electrician to guarantee proper operation – is much more pronounced on devices equipped with electric motors and on many types of lighting systems, particularly in commercial applications, so the savings derived will vary widely depending on the use and the equipment.
In a typical home, one where there is an AC unit or swap cooler running often during the summer months, estimates are that the savings in kilowatt (kW) usage can be anywhere from 6% to 15%, again depending on the size of the home, the devices used and the frequency of that use. The payback on the initial cost of the energy controller and installation and the savings realized can range from 1 year to three years. The energy controller themselves are designed for a 20-year life span.
In commercial settings – and most electricians recommend energy controllers more for industrial locations more ballast-type lighting systems and where more electric motors may be in use – the savings ranges from approximately 12% to as much as 30%, with payback periods ranging from three to six years. Energy controllers are found very often in small manufacturing plants and shops, and also in such businesses as restaurants.
And for those concerned about the carbon footprint, energy controllers will of course reduce the amount of energy needed to be produced by the power companies so even an application on a home can reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by up to several pounds per month.
Allstar Electrical Services, serving the Denver metro residential and commercial electrical service needs since the 1990s, has fully licensed and highly experienced electricians who can perform Power Factor audits on both homes and commercial facilities and then, if called for, recommend and install the proper energy controllers. Not every home or every business can benefit much from adding an energy controller, but for those subject to a high Power Factor the savings can be immediate and substantial.
For all of your commercial and residential electric service needs, from minor repairs to full installation of electrical service, call on Allstar Electrical Services at (303) 399-7420