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July 19, 2018
5 minutes to read  

A Basic Guide to EC Motors: Is it Time to Switch?

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Electronically commutated (EC) motors, sometimes called brushless DC (BLDC) motors, are a boon to the refrigeration industry that relies on continuously running motors. These quiet wonders can offer efficiencies in more ways than just energy savings. If you haven’t done it already, we can give you 7 excellent reasons to consider switching to EC motors from older shaded pole motors:

7 Reasons Why You Should Switch to an EC Motor

  1. We hinted at it already, but EC motors are quiet. You can barely hear them running.
  2. EC motors are highly efficient, they can be up to 70 percent more energy efficient than shaded pole motors.
  3. Because they use less energy, EC motors run much cooler.
  4. With less wear and tear from temperature spikes, EC motors last longer.
  5. EC motors meet the energy efficiency standards outlined by the U.S. Department of Energy.
  6. EC motors are reprogrammable. As a result, a single SKU can be used for multiple operations, increasing the flexibility of your motor inventory.
  7. Over time, EC motors are less expensive as a cost, though they are more expensive right out of the gate.

We mentioned the flexibility of these marvelous motors. In the following video, Dave Purvis, director of motor business development at East West, demonstrates how easy it is to reprogram an EC motor. Take a look:

 

 

 

Are you wondering why EC motors are so much better than older shaded pole motors? Design is a key differentiator, but so are the materials used to make EC motors

In the past, motors have been made from metal; a sturdy material, certainly, but one that was easily compromised by extreme temperature variations, corrosion, vibration or improper electrical grounding. Instead, EC motors are made with sturdy plastics, reinforced with glass fibers. New advanced plastics are tough enough to replace steel and aluminum throughout the motor either as enclosures, structural parts or insulating material and do a great job of diffusing heat and vibration from the motor.

 

How IP Ratings Protect Your EC Motor

We ask a lot of our motors, especially those used in commercial refrigeration systems. In addition to the continuous use they endure, EC motors are exposed to all the common hazards that weaken systems including:

  • Dust buildup
  • Water exposure during washdown
  • Water condensate on metal parts
  • Ice build up
  • Water from melting ice/defrost

Motors receive only so much protection built-in via design. The industry also relies on a rating system called an Ingress Protection (IP) rating code (IEC 60529). These ratings define the levels of sealing effectiveness an electrical enclosure maintains against such contaminants as objects (i.e., tools, dirt) or moisture.

The IP rating is represented by two digits — I P X X. The two digits refer to separate levels of protection; the first place demonstrates the level of protections versus solid objects, while the second place demonstrates the level of protection against liquids. The higher the number, the higher the level of protection.

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For example, an EC motor with an IP54-rated motor would provide limited entry of dust and water as opposed to an IP67-rated motor, which is considered dust tight and can even protect a motor in the event of immersion in water during short periods of time.

 

Questions to Ask a Prospective Motor Supplier

 

Qualifying a new supplier can be tedious, but you probably have an idea of the attributes you’re looking for. Here are some questions we’ve added that will help you narrow down your choices, so you can find the right motor supplier for your company.

Trust

It’s all important to know that your supplier relationship is built on trust. This is a combination of research, references and intuition. If something feels off, wait and see if you can figure out what it is that’s bothering you. Here's a hint: Take a look at their website. Has it been refreshed? Do they have a real email address? Sometimes something as simple as having an up-to-date website sends a signal of professionalism. 

Questions to ask:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you hold patents? Do you have an actual office address?
  • What’s your role? Are you the manufacturer, or are you just the trader or wholesaler?

 

Transparency

Transparency goes hand in hand with trust. There has to be an open door, open floor policy with your supplier or doubt is inevitable. That’s relationship 101.

Questions to ask:

  • Am I welcome to visit your office, factory and warehouse? How much notice do you require?
  • How easy is it to follow all the links of your supply chain?

 

Technical Know-how

EC motors are a specialized subset of motors that require unique design skills. Does your team have this experience? Do they know what they’re doing?

Questions to ask:

  • Have you built an EC motor for my application before?

 

Scale

Okay, they’ve got your business now, but do they have the ability and desire to grow with your company?

Questions to ask:

  • Can you make 1,000 per month or 10,000 per month if demand spikes?
  • How quickly can you scale up my product when it begins to gain market share?

 

Quality

It's essential to determine whether you and your supplier have similar quality values. The best way to get this information is to ask to see their Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP). The APQP is a quality matrix that companies use to develop products in a given industry. Looking at your supplier’s quality plan will give you the best idea of how they will handle your business.

Questions to ask:

  • How long will your EC motor work?
  • Do you have a global quality plan? Can I see it?

Good things take time. A supplier relationship isn’t one you enter into lightly.  The object of these questions isn’t to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but to ensure that you’re engaged with the correct supplier. Take the time to ask the questions and don’t settle until you get the answers back that satisfy you.

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How Much Money Can I Save Using EC Motors?

We’ve been clear about the upfront costs of EC motors. They do cost more than PSC motors. That is a fact. But what is also a fact, is that EC motors are so incredibly energy efficient that it does not take long recoup the investment in savings.

We figured out an example of the energy savings from EC motors using everyone could relate to — grocery stores.

How-much-money-can-I-save-using-EC-motors-infographic-East-West-Mfg

And now we’re getting somewhere. Of course, many companies would be happy with a savings of substantially less than $700 million. I know ours would be.

So, yes, you will pay more for EC motors, but through simple energy savings, those motors will quickly pay you right back.

We've thrown a lot of information at you. Whether or not you're ready to make the switch to EC motors, this blog post probably stirred up questions. If that's the case, click on the download below or get in touch! We're happy to answer talk with you.

 

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Filed Under: EC Motors, Motors