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Variable-speed drive systems supplied by Ralspeed have enabled Whitford, a fluoropolymer coatings supplier, to reduce running costs and noise of the extract fans at its manufacturing plant in Runcorn.

To ensure that its production operatives always have a clean and pleasant environment in which to work, Whitford makes extensive use of air extraction systems.

Until recently, the fans used in these systems were driven by motors with ordinary direct-on-line starters that provided no speed control.

However, in their constant quest to improve the energy efficiency of the company’s operations and to minimise environmental impact, the engineers at Whitford decided to take advantage of Ralspeed’s energy appraisal service.

It discovered that each of the extract plant’s 7.5kW fan motors was running at full speed for 59 hours per week, 50 weeks of the year, consuming 18,800 kWh of electricity per year at a cost of GBP1,540.

Ralspeed suggested fitting the fans with variable speed drives that would allow them to run at a speed optimally matched to the requirements of the manufacturing process.

Calculations showed that this would allow the annual consumption for each motor to be cut to around 6,500kWh and the energy cost to GBP528.

The calculations also showed that the carbon footprint of each fan would be reduced from 8.09 tonnes of CO2 per year to just 2.78 tonnes.

To date, Ralspeed has converted five extract fans to variable-speed operation and conversion of the site’s remaining fans is planned for the near future.

In each case, the conversion has involved fitting a control panel designed and built by Ralspeed, which incorporates a Vacon NXL AC variable speed drive.

These drives were chosen on the basis of their consistent performance, proven reliability and value for money.

Once the new drive systems had been installed, it quickly became apparent that they would not only reduce energy usage and costs, but that they would also provide other important benefits.

For example, smooth controlled starting and stopping of the fans, as well as the lower running speed for much of the time, is minimising wear and tear on the drive belts and bearings, which will extend the life of the equipment and reduce maintenance requirements.

In addition, when they are operating at reduced speed, the fans run much more quietly, something that is greatly appreciated by the plant operatives who now find that they can converse without shouting.

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