Variable speed drive or fixed speed drive? - Atlas Copco Taiwan
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Variable speed drive or fixed speed drive?

Which compressor is better for you in terms of energy efficiency?

The need for resource preservation and energy-efficient equipment has never been greater than today. Fuels that we once believed would be in endless supply are either running out or are no longer viable energy sources – both for economic and environmental reasons. 

This has led to a radical shift in how we view energy. While it used to be something we thought we could consume at will, it is now seen as a precious resource that has to be preserved.

Human ingenuity has led to major advances in some areas. For example, the compact fluorescent lamps we now use last longer and consume between 25-80% less energy than traditional lightbulbs that could still be found in every home until a few years ago. But this case also illustrates how governments will intervene on behalf of a more sustainable technology and demand that obsolete products are phased out.   

Variable speed drive (VSD) compressors – an ingenious environmental technology

In other areas, achieving similar results has proven to be more challenging. For a long time, one of them was the field of compressed air. Now, however, thanks to the revolutionary variable speed drive (VSD) compressors, businesses can realize similar energy savings. That is not only good for the bottom line but also for the planet.

While traditional air compressors control the speed with a fixed speed motor, a VSD compressor will adapt its motor speed. In other words, it only gives you as much compressed air as you need at any given time. That doesn’t make a lot of difference if you need the same amount of compressed air all the time. If, however, your compressed air demand fluctuates, then you can achieve major energy savings with this environmental technology; an adjustable speed drive.

Variable speed drive (VSD) energy savings add up

Total compressor life cycle cost

Total compressor life cycle cost

When it comes to compressed air, saving energy means saving big. The reason is simple: the initial investment in a compressor is only a relatively small part of the total cost of ownership. Energy costs, however, make up the biggest share – 70% over the lifetime of the compressor – which makes energy-efficient equipment extremely valuable in this area.

A Variable Speed Drive compressor, for example, can reduce these energy costs by one-third. A GA VSD+ from Atlas Copco can achieve even bigger energy savings and cut the costs in half. The difference between the two is that the VSD+ compressor also features a highly efficient iPM (permanent magnet) motor as well as a patented compression element and a sentinel valve. 

In addition, because VSD compressors are so energy efficient, they qualify for tax incentives as an environmental technology in some countries.

Variable speed drive or fixed-speed compressor, which is best for you?

Energy savings
So how do you choose the most energy-efficient solution for your production? First you have to understand your compressed air demands. If your application requires a constant speed at all times, then a fixed-speed compressor will often get the job done. Once you switch it on, it gives you full power. Most industrial applications, however, have a fluctuating air demand. In that case, a VSD compressor is the better choice because it will realize large energy savings in the long run. And energy efficiency is not their only benefit. A variable frequency drive compressor can start and stop under full system pressure without needing to unload. That not only saves time but even more energy. Because no idling time is lost, there are also no blow-off losses in normal operation. Finally, thanks to lower system pressure, system leakages are minimized. All of these features make VSD compressors an environmental technology that can add value to just about any business. But don’t just take our word for it.

Real world examples

By switching to VSD compressor technology at its UK manufacturing plant, International Flavors & Fragrances, which makes flavors and fragrances for consumer products, saved more than €10,000 annually.

And automotive supplier Matrival reduced its energy costs by up to 50% when making that switch.

If you are ready to become the next VSD success story, or if you have questions about the benefits of our innovative VSD technology, then please get in touch with us.