Shrinking Retrofit Payback Periods by 20-50%…

10 Years of Experience in 90 seconds

It snuck up on us all… the advance of electronics did us in! Digital electronics don’t play nice with your analog power signal, which is a clean, smooth 60 Hz wave. LEDs, battery chargers, switch-mode power supplies, VFDs, on and on… Electronics run on-off-on-off (non-linear) and this upsets the apple-cart for the nice and smooth 60Hz frequency of your AC power: they are non-linear loads, and, as a result of the way they operate, they produce electrical noise, running at cycles other than 60 Hz. These harmonic frequencies interfere with the operation of all your electrical devices. The problematic ones are the odd frequencies, 3x, 5x, 7x the base frequency and beyond, i.e.: 180 Hz, 300 Hz, 420 Hz and so on, also called the 3rd, 5th, 7th harmonic respectively. This harmonic noise is shared across your entire circuit because it accumulates via the common neutral that runs throughout your entire facility.

All electrical appliances have to work harder if they do not get pure 60 Hz AC power, but noisy power with harmonics. This runs up your power bill.
When your appliances work harder, they run hotter and wear out sooner.
Ultimately, harmonics can also cause the wiring itself to overheat and therefore they are a contributing factor to electrical fires.
The problem is cumulative: the more electronics, the more harmonics.
Another way to solve your harmonics problem is to unplug all electronics, and go back to incandescent bulbs for lighting. Our filters are a better option if you want to stay in business.

Some comments on your measures below. I do have considerable experience implementing them, (spent 20 years at Johnson Controls doing large energy retrofits).
Harmonic filtering – least understood measure out there. Some caution on assuming such a large energy reduction in reality the savings are a function of the recovered energy from non-linear loads escaping through neutrals and as harmonic currents not read by conventional utility meters. That said, I have found this measure across the world to have a sub-one-year payback. I have used both active filtering / regeneration using modified power conditioners and passive filtering.

Paul Rode, Director of Engineering, RXR Realty

Lately, the picture is getting even more interesting because apparently smart meters can be thrown off by harmonics, as this Dutch research showed. Meanwhile, New York State has launched of a new program, called RetrofitNY, and here is some feedback from Paul Rode, who helped to launch that program:

The key point remains that when you address harmonics as part of your retrofit, you are averaging down the project payback period, and making any energy retrofit easier to finance.

Building Solutions

For major buildings we provide more comprehensive solutions of a long term nature. Inevitably, harmonics are not the only problem, and we can provide a more comprehensive solution for buildings with a heavy electrical load, saving both power and wear and tear on equipment. Talk to us.