Space heating and cooling are among the biggest consumers of electricity in the U.S. residential and commercial sectors. In manufacturing, more than half of electricity powers various motors, with other significant uses covering heating and cooling.
Considering the amount of power needed, manufacturers of electric motors and pumps would do well to consider that, in the U.S. alone, about one in three consumers prioritize companies that are committed to actively reducing their impact on the environment. If their consumers’ worry about the natural environment is not enough, it’s also worth remembering that environmentally friendly designs tend to be more efficient, saving money and energy at the same time. This ticks all the boxes for everyone involved: the manufacturers, end users, and the environment.
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning
There is only so much a regular person can do to help the environment when it comes to heating and cooling systems. Lowering their thermostat in the winter and raising it in the summer (thereby decreasing their energy use) is a drop in a bucket. And not everyone is willing to go all out and switch to energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, replace windows with multiple-panes glazing, and seal and insulate ducts and water heaters. And even if they did, it would only go so far. Especially when air conditioning depends on a lot of electricity (which is often produced by burning fossil fuels).
CFCs and HFCs—cooling agents used in air conditioners—create gas byproducts harmful to the environment. Thankfully, CFCs have been banned and are not used in any new systems while HFCs are currently being phased out. It’s a huge step forward. But the electrical grid is still feeding these systems at an increasing rate.
Heating, cooling and ventilation add up to over 25% of electricity used in the U.S. commercial sector alone. The International Energy Agency (IEA)predicts that the number of HVAC units in the world will grow to 5.6 billion by 2030. In 2018, air conditioners and electric fans already accounted for about 20% of the total electricity used in buildings around the world (10% of all global electricity consumption at the time) and AC use will likely be the second-largest source of global electricity demand growth.
The IEA predicts that “(w)ithout major efficiency improvements to cooling equipment, electricity demand for cooling in buildings could increase by as much as 50% globally by 2030.” What’s more, according to their 2020 report, “direct and indirect emissions from air conditioning and refrigeration are projected to rise 90 per cent above 2017 levels by the year 2050.”
With a more energy efficient technology, combined with transitioning away from polluting refrigerants, we could avoid up to 460 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) over the next four decades (this equals 4-8 years of emissions based on 2018 levels). And doubling the energy efficiency of air conditioners could also save up to USD 2.9 trillion by 2050 (in the form of reduced generation, transmission, and distribution costs alone).
Moving to scalable motors and pumps that are smaller (and therefore require fewer materials for their manufacture) would already contribute towards appliances and machines being greener. But making these motors and pumps more efficient would also save on electricity and emissions.
Total system efficiency is something that manufacturers and engineers always consider for their customers and for their bottom line. But it’s also something that will make our machinery and appliances greener. It doesn’t even matter how complex a system is, because they all use motors. And it’s the motor and controller system that affects the energy consumption and the amount of harmful emissions caused.
With recent improvements to electric motors and their systems, we can make them all greener.