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Pump Applications Using VFDs

Are VFDs worth it for pump applications?

Have they been oversold to the market?
Presented by
Geoffrey D Stone C.Eng FIMechE; CP Eng FIEAust RPEQ
Design Detail & Development Skype address geoffrey.d.stone
Why Are VFDs Specified for Pumps
Process conditions are not Electrical supply restraint-
fully developed Soft starting
Variable process conditions Braking- Dynamic or hold
Poor pump selection Unlimited number of starts
Future process upgrades and stops
Energy efficiency-Reduced Waterhammer mitigation-
operating cost Fatigue
Prior art-Industry practice Ignorance -Engineer having
Over-speeding a pump to no understanding of other
reduce pump frame size process control solutions
Pump Speed Control Solutions
Mechanical Electrical
Cone & disc variator Variable Frequency Drive
Cyclic variator Eddy current drive
Vee belt & pulleys Two speed motor
Gearbox Direct Current drives
Internal combustion engine Slip ring motors
Scoop control fluid Multiple pole motors
couplings Relay pulsed motors
Hydraulic drive
Process Solutions-Alternatives
Pressure, temperature Change pump impeller
or flow control valves diameter
Bypass valves Alternate pump type
Larger suction tanks or Multiple pumps
sumps Different sized pumps
Holding tank
Pump for longer
Stop/start controls
Pump Considerations
Pump Selection-The Issues
Duty point(s) Casing pressure rating
Static head (Hs) Efficiency
Friction loss (Hf) Specific speed
Dead head Moment of inertia
Transients Curve shape
Design factors Stability over range
- head Best efficiency point
- flow 1st Critical speed
System Design-Issues
Software allows the Motor/VFD Efficiency
analysis of systems Wire to Water kW
Excessive design The original Affinity
factors used Laws are based on
Pump suppliers design systems with no static
factors head
New vs. Old pipe Affinity Laws overstate
friction losses energy savings
Pipe wall /lining Revise the 2nd Affinity
tolerances Law for Minimum Flow
Pump Curve #1-VFD Viable
Pump Curve #2-VFD Not Viable
Existing Pump Oversize?
This is a common pump dilemma that VFDs are used
to solve but the VFD does NOT save the energy! The
credit goes to the reduced head/flow requirements.
VFD suppliers offer the retro-fit of a VFD to change
pump speed to meet reduced process conditions
Change of pump or impeller reduced diameter
achieves the necessary reduced flow, hence power
A flow control valve achieves the necessary reduced
flow and maintain the best efficiency point (BEP)
A multiple small pumps and motor could be cost
Pump Curve #3-VFD, control valve or reduced
impeller viable
Pumps using VFDs- Considerations
Energy savings with a VFD occurs for duties reduced
to between 60% to 85% of the BEP.
Where duty is reduced to only 85% of BEP, a control
valve or reduced impeller energy demand is less
than that for the combined VFD installation
Wire to water energy kW-hr per m3 delivered
should be the criteria used in assessing a VFD
VFDs offer little benefit for systems with more than
50% static head
VFDs are ideal for closed systems with varying
process duties-no static head
Electrical Design Considerations
What is a Variable Frequency Drive?
Legacy- < 600Hz Today >20kHz
BJTs (Bipolar Junction IGBT (Insulated Gate
Transistor) Bipolar Transistor)- these
SCRs (Silicon Controlled offer the benefits of higher
Rectifier) frequencies and increased
GTO (Gate Turn Off
Electrical Factors to be Considered
Voltage (LV, MV or HV) Overspeed capability
Power Braking requirements
Line & load side harmonics Power loss
Load torque Ride through time
Speed range Audible noise
Speed regulation Length/type of cable
Failure mode Power factor correction
Acceleration/deceleration Altitude
times Motor, insulation and VFD
Efficiency life

Mechanical engineers are required to

understand the electrical issues

Voltage peaks at motor terminals can be increased

to 2 times the peaks of the VFD output for a long
25m is the recommended cable length
Cables longer than 25m have an inductive load that
affects a motors life
Cables need to be screened to avoid EMI
Motor Considerations
Bearing Damage Induced Shaft Voltage
Induced Shaft Current Types
1. Conductive mode bearing
current-low speed , good
2. Discharge mode bearing
current-higher inverter
output frequencies-The
capacitive voltage builds
up until it is able to break
down the dielectric
resistance of the grease.

Induced shaft voltage with no

shaft brush or insulated bearing
Motor Cooling
Below 25hz motor fan speed will not cool motor
Supplementary fan required
Added cost of drive, cable, SCA, controls, access and
Reduced reliability
Published motor efficiency
data is based on a pure
sinusoidal voltage
The high frequency
harmonics created by VFDs
increase copper and core
losses decreasing the
efficiency of the motor
Materials behave differently
under these operating
conditions resulting in a
higher efficiency drop when
fed by VFDs.
A higher r.m.s. current to supply the same
output (about 10% higher)
Increase in motor operating temperature
On average, VFD fed motors will have a
temperature increase of about 15C, at rated
speed and load
Noise Level
Due to the harmonics, the motor noise level will
increase when it is operated using a VFD
Experience shows that the sound pressure level at A
scale at motor rated speed is increased by anything
between 2 and 15dBA with a VFD
This extra noise level depends mainly on the
inverter switching frequency and harmonic
Noise mitigation costs increase
Motor Design Life
Standards Damage
IEC 34-17 and DIN VDE 530 VFD Repeated voltage peaks
voltage peaks (Vp) < 1,000V and breakdown die-electric
dV/dT <500 V/s but VFD strength of insulation
motors are subjected to 5000V/s Die electric strength reduced
and 1,500V by humidity & temperature
Voltage peaks depend on carrier Corona & partial discharge
frequency destroy motors
dV/dT affects the insulation Standard motors design life
between turns, the high voltage reduced by up to 75%
spikes affect the insulation between Standard insulation varnish is
phases and phase to ground
NOT acceptable
Commercial Considerations
Costs of a Pump/VFD Installation
Capex Opex
VFD components with a VFD inefficiency 95%
design life < 10years Inefficiency of motor
Larger switchroom Supplementary fans
Increased air conditioning Special motor spares
Screened cable Air conditioning energy
Harmonic protection Reduced life of motor
Special motors Spares for VFD
Supplementary fans Spares costs oversize pump
Increase in noise mitigation Risk & reliability (FMECA)
Increased design costs Increase in noise
Engineers who use suppliers to select pumps or process
solutions lose engineering control of the procurement
Pump suppliers do not necessarily know, or care, about
the process vs. electrical requirements of the VFD/motor
interface-divided responsibility
String testing motor/pump/VFD is difficult during the
contract period for larger motors because of :-
-manufacture location of components
-responsibility of the other parties equipment
Engineers need to specify all operating & electrical conditions to
pump, motor & VFD supplier
Invest in the mechanical engineering and specify correctly
Future operating conditions may not occur. If they do they can be
met with alternate solutions
VFDs do not always save energy, Capex or Opex
VFDs do not avoid transients from power loss
VFDs provide a suitable solution to some pump operating
conditions but should not be considered a panacea
You just can't ever beat the energy efficiency of running a
properly sized pump at 100% BEP rated flow.
Mechanical engineers have a poor understanding of electric motors
& VFDs and fail to communicate with process or electrical

Please ask questions remembering

I am a mechanical engineer!
Useful links
This presentation was by
Geoff Stone
Tel 0402 35 2313
02 8850 2313