The world faces an ongoing climate crisis, and every reduction in greenhouse emissions helps stem the tide. According to UN Environment Programme, buildings contribute 33% of greenhouse emissions and 40% of global energy consumption. Left unchecked, the immense energy requirements and wastage will result in economic losses and grave climate concerns.
To address the issue, organisations integrate building energy management systems (BEMS) into buildings to optimise energy usage. BEMS provides better oversight and control on energy efficiency, wastage, and distribution across premises.
In this article, we’ll explore how automatic voltage regulators (AVR) can further align organisations toward better energy management policies.
What is an AVR?
AVR is an electrical device that converts fluctuating incoming mains AC into a stabilised output voltage. The AVR continuously senses irregularities in the power supply line and rapidly removes them by compensating for the offset.
Why is AVR important?
Buildings are exposed to voltage anomalies, such as undervoltage, overvoltage, electrical transients, and noises. Such irregularities on the AC mains cause equipment to operate outside their nominal voltage. This might lead to equipment failure, shortened lifespan, safety concerns, and performance issues.
AVR ensures that building infrastructure receives voltages at their stipulated output. It allows the equipment to run at the specified voltage, preventing inefficiency, failure, or other power issues. Buildings install AVR to protect more expensive equipment from unexpected but avoidable failures caused by voltage sags, spikes, or surges.
How does an AVR work?
Automatic voltage regulation is a specific way of stabilising voltage from the AC mains grid. There are several types of AVRs, but let’s take the servo AVR as an example to explain how such devices work.
The servo transformer consists of an autotransformer connected to a buck-boost transformer on one end and the servo motor on the other. It continuously monitors the output voltage with control circuitry, which calculates and adjusts the servo’s position to compensate for any voltage variation. This results in fast and precise regulation and flexibility over a range of input voltage.
Most types of AVR work with the same principle despite differing mechanisms. They aim to stabilise and provide clean output voltage for the connected loads.
How does AVR work in building management?
Building management involves automating the control and monitoring of various electrical systems via a centralised solution. Technicians use building management systems (BMS) to respond to technical failures, security concerns, and other issues across the building. Despite its sophistication, BMS relies on clean and stable power to operate efficiently.
AVR provides a stable foundation for electrical equipment and BMS to run optimally. It ensures that all electrical distribution points in the building receive constant and precise voltage. Even if the generator or power grid causes the AC mains voltage to swell or sag, the AVR prevents the anomalies from affecting the connected loads.
With AVRs, building managers can control electrical systems more efficiently and prevent breakdowns stemming from voltage irregularities. This helps organisations avoid costly disruptions, unsatisfactory tenant experiences, and safety incidents.
What is Building Energy Management?
Building energy management is an approach to streamlining energy usage granularly by integrating different electrical systems such as HVAC, lighting, elevators, and security with intelligent control units. Building energy management systems (BEMS) help organisations mitigate increased energy consumption and carbon emission.
According to International Energy Agency (IEA), BEMS consists of control and monitoring units that allow automatic parametric adjustments. Modern implementations of BEMS involved deploying industrial IoT sensors and edge processing devices across the premise. For example, the control unit collects room temperature and occupancy data and turns off heating units in unoccupied rooms to reduce energy usage.
BMS vs. BEMS
Despite their similarity, BEMS differs from BMS in its ability to intelligently analyse and control energy usage. BMS focuses on the control and automation of electrical systems, while BEMS adds a layer of energy monitoring and analytics to optimise energy consumption and reduce carbon footprint.
What are the benefits of AVRs for Building Energy Management
On the surface, there is little overlapping relevance between AVR and BEMS. However, installing an AVR will benefit your building energy management implementations in several ways.
Improves energy efficiency
|AVR ensures all equipment operates within its nominal power rating and prevents energy wastage. For example, electrical equipment exposed to overvoltage might turn excessive voltage into heat. This results in wasted energy and a higher energy bill.|
Protects electrical equipment
|AVR prevents sudden voltage spikes or sags from damaging electrical loads or sensors in BEMS. Some AVRs are built with surge protection, safely channelling lightning surges to the ground. AVRs are also helpful in mitigating electrical interference, which might affect data transmission and sensing integrity in BEMS.|
Stabilises voltage level
|Voltage fluctuations affect the electronics modules that power the BEMS. To prevent that, installers use AVRs to provide a precise voltage level for microelectronics, logic controllers, and sensors. This reduces unplanned outages, both for the BEMS and connected loads.|
Optimise equipment performance
|Prolonged undervoltage or overvoltage causes detrimental effects on equipment performance. For example, heating elements receiving a lesser voltage takes longer to increase the room temperature. Likewise, an electrical motor would ramp up current to compensate for below-nominal voltage, leading to overheating issues.|
Empower sustainability policy
|AVR fits into the larger picture of building energy management objectives, including reducing carbon footprint and supporting long-term sustainability efforts. Many modern AVR provides remote monitoring capabilities, allowing BEMS to integrate, acquire and analyse energy data on a single dashboard.|
Case studies and real-world examples of AVR in actions
AVR is a helpful component in building energy management. However, the former played critical roles long before greenhouse emissions became a critical concern. We share several real-life examples of how AVR helps buildings and facilities address their power concerns.
Collaborative research between the National University of Sciences & Technology, Pakistan and the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada evaluated the impact of energy efficiency initiatives in an automobile factory. Researchers installed data logging systems in the factory to collect energy and power quality data. In some production units, AVRs are required to provide stable voltage for sensitive equipment. They positioned sensors strategically to generate insights into energy usage across the facility.
Using the acquired data to enforce specific energy conservation policies, the factory charted an 8% improvement in energy efficiency.
Glavcom, a joinery manufacturer, installed an industrial energy management solution to provide round-the-clock oversight into its energy usage. The move reveals daily voltage surges that are significant enough to push equipment to operate beyond their nominal voltage. It also explained why Glavcom suffered from persistent equipment issues.
To prevent further technical fallouts, Glavcom installs an AVR to stabilise the incoming voltage. The result was immediate, with the manufacturer enjoying 28% kWh savings daily and no longer troubled by frequent equipment failures.
Banyan Tree, Seychelles, is the go-to destination for a luxurious getaway. While its sea-fronting premise is strategic for holiday-goers, the hotel faced serious power issues due to its distance from the nearest power distribution station. It witnessed large voltage fluctuations that caused frequent equipment failures. Also, the hotel obtains power from an isolated transformer, limiting its ability to handle varying energy demands at peak periods.
After installing an AVR, the hotel enjoyed stable power across its building and facilities. Not only that, they opted for a robust AVR that could withstand harsh environmental elements, such as salt air corrosion. This ensures stable operations without frequent AVR maintenance.
How to choose the right AVR for building management
When selecting an AVR for building management, two factors come into play – ongoing maintenance and AVR types.
Most AVRs don’t require heavy maintenance. As long as they’re installed correctly, AVR could last for months or years before it needs part replacement. An AVR maintenance schedule usually includes the following.
- Visual inspection, where technicians check for signs of wear and tear on electrical wiring connection and mechanical damages. (etc PCB/Variable transformer/Motor assembly)
- Cleaning dust accumulating inside the unit.
- Lubricating moving parts to prevent friction and degradation.
In some instances, you might need the AVR manufacturer’s support in
- Troubleshooting problems that prevent the AVR from functioning.
- Calibrating the unit to ensure regulation precision.
- Repairing or replacing faulty parts with new ones.
Some AVRs are more long-lasting than others, while certain types will require frequent maintenance. The cheapest AVR is unlikely to be the best option for building management.
- We don’t recommend static AVRs because they are using IGBT(Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor) excessive power dissipation can take place at the time of turn-off due to the “current tail” present in the turn-off characteristics
- Servo AVRs are affordable, precise and require low maintenance. They can handle large fluctuations and respond quickly to stabilise the voltage.
- Magnetic induction AVRs are robust and need virtually no maintenance. They are suitable for installations in harsh environments or remote locations.
AVR provides clean, stable voltage and steers buildings towards sustainability and energy efficiency. They work in tandem with building energy management systems to improve power quality, reduce energy costs and achieve carbon emission goals.
We’ve shown how AVR effectively solves power issues that cause equipment failures and operational disruptions. Also, we listed AVR types that demonstrate precision and robustness, which require low or almost no maintenance.
Talk to us to learn more about optimising your energy management strategies.