Variable Speed Compressors: Emerging Technology Poised to Drastically Reduce Energy Consumption
November 10, 2017 by IDW
Modern commercial refrigeration manufacturers are driving towards creating the most energy efficient units possible. From the use of more efficient designs, components, and refrigerants, refrigeration units today are significantly more efficient and cost-effective than previous generations. One of the most profound areas for increased efficiency in design has been through the incorporation of variable speed compressors into modern refrigeration units. This article will discuss how variable speed compressors have helped drive markedly increased efficiency in commercial refrigeration units, while also leading to the creation of units that are more stable, need less frequent maintenance, and provide a better shelf-life for the products they contain. We will also outline how commercial refrigeration units equipped with variable speed compressors integrate more readily with emerging technological applications such as Internet of Things networks, which provide data that can further enhance the efficiency and operation of refrigeration units equipped with variable speed compressors.
Variable Speed Compressors and Efficiency
The most obvious tangible benefit of variable speed compressors has been the increased efficiency that they produce. In the past, refrigeration units were necessarily designed to operate at maximum load. This was due to the fact that units needed to be able to run at peak performance for as long as necessary in order to ensure the stability of the products that they contained. For example, if a product needed to be refrigerated at 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the refrigerator that contained those products would need to be designed to operate at 50 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. Prior to the introduction of variable speed compressors, many units would spend the majority of time running at peak capacity. At other times, when the unit was able to idle, the lack of intelligent control systems would cause the unit to cease operation until it was necessary to run again, at which point it would run at maximum speed. To overcome the inertia of the idling refrigeration systems, the unit would require a large influx of energy to bring the equipment up to peak performance.
The frequent on-off cycling of refrigeration equipment, combined with unnecessary performance at peak capacity, resulted in highly inefficient operations. In addressing this issue, the introduction of variable speed compressors has fundamentally changed how refrigeration units function. A refrigeration unit equipped with a variable speed compressor is able to intelligently match the output of the unit to the load required. Since refrigeration units rarely need to be operating at peak capacity in order to maintain the stability of their contents, this results in significantly less frequent peak performance in the unit. Additionally, the idling systems of units equipped with variable speed compressors allow the unit to maintain inertia within the system which ultimately boosts efficiency. In this way, variable speed compressors are able to intelligently match output to the requirements of real-world conditions, maintaining consistent temperatures while also reducing energy consumption. This significantly drives down the ongoing costs of operations over time.
Added Benefits of Variable Speed Compressors
Variable speed compressors have not only resulted in significant energy reductions, but have also been shown to drastically improve equipment longevity. By reducing the frequency of on-off cycles, variable speed compressors cause less strain on commercial refrigeration equipment than traditional compressors. This leads to reduced equipment fatigue and failure over time. By placing less strain on equipment components, variable speed compressors extend the lifespan of equipment while also reducing maintenance costs over the long term.
An additional secondary benefit of variable speed compressors lies in the accuracy with which these compressors can anticipate necessary output. By accurately gauging necessary output, variable speed compressors result in commercial refrigerators that maintain more consistent temperatures over time. Constant internal temperatures result in less spoilage and greater shelf stability for the items that the refrigeration equipment contains.
Lastly, variable speed compressors will be able to integrate more fully with Internet of Things (IoT) technology within commercial refrigeration equipment. An IoT sensor network provides more accurate environmental readings and more precise and results in more efficient operations. IoT technology has already been applied to commercial refrigeration units to boost efficiency and improve operations. As this technology develops and commercial refrigeration equipment manufacturers further integrate variable speed compressors with the IoT sensor network, management will be able to see in real-time their refrigeration unit’s workload and energy consumption, as well as be aware of any inefficiencies that could be a warning sign of impending equipment failure.