From turning appliances off when you’re not using them to installing smart meters, there are a range of things you can do to help cut your domestic or business electricity consumption. But what about using voltage optimisation technology? Many people have never heard of these solutions before. To help get you up to speed on this electrical energy saving technique, the following guide looks at what voltage optimisation is and whether it may benefit your household or business.
How does voltage optimisation work?
Voltage optimisation is a form of voltage management technology. Installed to match the voltage of the incoming grid supply to the specific equipment in a home or business premises, it can be used to save energy.
Mains electricity supply in the UK is currently 230V with a tolerance of +10 per cent to -6 per cent. If your home or business is being supplied with power at a higher or lower voltage level than you require, you may have operational issues or you might be wasting energy and therefore money.
Some items of electrical equipment can consume greater levels of energy at higher voltages – and this is where voltage optimisation solutions can help. This equipment is designed to change the voltage level from the grid supply to the level needed by appliances in your home or business – and to save energy in the process. In other words, it reduces the voltage of the electricity that is supplied to equipment, meaning that excess voltages from the grid supply aren’t used on site. The technology uses a series connected transformer to reduce the voltage level.
According to BEAMA, formerly the British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers’ Association, by reducing supply voltages to the lower end of the statutory voltage range, these solutions could help users to make average energy savings of around 13 per cent.
Commercial voltage optimisation technology has the potential to deliver significant savings, particularly if used in large scale industrial systems. These solutions are installed wherever the mains supply enters your building, and it may take around a day for a provider to fit the technology. For large premises or bespoke solutions, installation may take longer than this.
As power usage is often less in homes than in commercial premises, the savings available through voltage optimisation can be lower for households than businesses. However, there is still the potential to make worthwhile savings. As with business units, the systems are installed in series with the electricity supply wherever mains power enters your home. Often, this is under the stairs, but it may be elsewhere. Installation typically takes around half a day.
Does voltage optimisation work?
As BEAMA states, this technology can be effective in reducing energy usage. However, there are a number of issues that you should bear in mind when deciding if these systems are right for you – and which particular solution may work best.
Electrical equipment is designed to function using a power supply that’s within the range detailed on its name plate. If the voltage provided is less or more than this range, the appliances may fail to work correctly and they might switch themselves off. In some instances, this may pose a safety risk. So, if you decide to change supply voltages in your home or business, you will have to ensure that the supply remains at an appropriate level.
Is voltage optimisation worth it?
When assessing whether voltage optimisation technology is worth it for you, it’s important to know how much of the electrical equipment you use in your home or business is voltage dependent, and how much of your energy consumption these appliances equate to. If a high proportion of the power you use is consumed by appliances that are voltage dependent, there may be a strong case for adopting this technology. In contrast, if your electricity consumption is predominantly made up of voltage independent loads, you may not stand to save a lot of energy by installing this technology.
So, while for some homes or businesses, voltage optimisation could result in significant energy and cost savings, for others it may not be worth the investment.
An example of a piece of voltage dependent equipment is a GLS halogen energy saving lamp. Reducing the supply voltage to these lights results in a directly proportional reduction in energy consumption. It also slightly reduces the amount of light produced. Fluorescent lamps fall into this category too. In contrast, LEDs with integrated circuit based drivers have the same power demand no matter what the supply voltage is, meaning that the energy consumed by these appliances does not vary in line with voltage.
It’s not always easy to determine if a particular appliance or piece of equipment is voltage dependent, so you may need to seek expert advice to help you decide if voltage optimisation technology would be a smart addition to your home or business.
How can I measure the results of voltage optimisation?
Assessing the effects of installing one of these solutions in your home or business isn’t as straightforward as comparing a bill before you got the technology with a bill after installation. This is because there may be a range of other variables that impact on your home or business electricity bills. For example, you might have replaced or removed certain appliances or your energy demand may have risen or dropped. Even external factors, such as the weather, could have an effect too.
According to BEAMA, one way to more accurately quantify the results of voltage optimisation on your energy usage is to look at three months’ of energy usage data from before and after installation, while taking into account other issues that may have impacted on your energy consumption.
What are the pros and cons of voltage optimisation?
Highlighting the potential benefits of voltage optimisation, electrical engineering company GWE provides examples of customers using the technology that have made energy and cost savings as a result. For example, it states that a retailer is saving more than £3,500 a year across five shops, while a four-bed home has achieved a return on investment on the technology of 27 per cent.
There are a variety of potential pros and cons associated with voltage optimisation. Disadvantages can include the initial set-up costs and the disruption this process may cause – and for some households or businesses, any savings made may be minimal. However, for other domestic and commercial users, these systems can result in significant energy savings, bringing environmental and financial benefits.
Before deciding whether to invest in this technology, it’s important to do your research and – if necessary – take expert advice.
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