A UK company has launched a system that it claims can shave 10 per cent off electricity bills for the average household.
The device stabilises domestic voltage to a lower level (usually 220V in the UK and EU), regardless of the fluctations in the incoming supply voltage.
The product shares its name with the company that created it, Chester-based VPhase and is expected to be commercially available by the end of the year.
The VPhase technology fits inside a plastic box about half the size of a standard fuse box. The device incorporates a two-winding transformer, small printed circuit board and switching components. The entire unit is wired to the fuse box.
‘The circuit we developed enables the voltage at a property to be held at a fixed level regardless of the incoming supply voltage and how it fluctuates,’ said Dr Lee Juby, VPhase chief executive officer and one of the inventors of the technology. ‘We do this by generating anti-phase components of voltage.’
Juby gave an example of how the transformer converts the voltage. ‘Say there is 250V being delivered to the house and you want 230,’ he said. ‘You need to get rid of 20V, so we create 20V in anti-phase and effectively subtract that from the incoming voltage to the property.’
The printed circuit board has been designed to maintain consistency even when incoming power fluctuates.
‘If the voltage to the property starts to fluctuate, say it drops to 245V, but we still want to achieve 230V, our anti-phase component reduces to 15V so we still maintain the desired output at the property,’ said Juby.
After testing the VPhase technology, the developers found that the device consumes about one per cent of the household power load. The net saving is 10 per cent.
‘We expect VPhase will deliver a payback of three years for the average UK home,’ claimed Juby.
The VPhase is designed to handle 2kW of continuous power, but it is able to run for short durations into an overload capability.
‘If the overload continues or if the loading goes even higher, then the system bypasses VPhase for a short period of time,’ said Juby.
The challenge for the developers in the initial design stage was to find the right contactor to bypass the device and switch the power circuit.
‘We knew if we wanted to bypass the device we had to have a contact that could carry 50A of power and be a single phase contactor,’ he said. ‘They’re few and far between and most of them have a continuous power draw.’
The developers then stumbled upon the idea of using the same contactors used in electricity card meters. When the electricity card meter runs out of credit the contactor can allow for £5 worth of grace before cutting the power off. ‘It’s a latching device so there is no continuous power draw,’ said Juby.
While voltage control reduction and stabilisation for energy efficiency is not a new idea, this is the first time the technology will be available at a low cost of around £100 for households and small commercial applications.
Most electrical devices in UK homes are designed to operate in the 216 to 253V range and the VPhase developers said test results demonstrate that volts above 216V do not necessarily give additional performance. High voltage levels often cause surplus energy to be wasted in the form of heat. For example a fridge does not get colder with a higher voltage supply.
Tests conducted by the VPhase developers also showed that light bulbs operating with higher voltage burn out sooner than those operating with lower voltage. This gave further proof that, for the majority of appliances, high voltage wastes energy and can shorten the operating life.
Juby said the initial VPhase product is designed to be a stand-alone unit, which will sit along side a fuse box in a house.
‘We are in discussions with fuse box manufacturers about future projects that will integrate the unit inside the fuse box itself,’ he said.
At the same time the company is in discussions with a number of utilities to carry out independent testing of the product, with the intention of determining the suitability of VPhase’s product for the UK Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) scheme.