Transforming Efficiency: What You Need to Know About Changing Government Standards

ElecStation_Insights.gifThe way I see it, there are two ways to look at the energy-efficiency profile of a transformer. Since a transformer is always on, it is either always wasting energy or always saving energy through lower energy consumption. With a new low-voltage, dry-type transformer efficiency standard on the way, the difference is more than a point of view. Ultraefficient transformers deliver significant energy savings that cut costs and lower the environmental impact of commercial and institutional buildings.

The Department of Energy’s new low-voltage, dry-type transformer efficiency standard takes effect January 1, 2016, for 15-1,000 kVA dry-type transformers. Just as with the implementation of the TP-1 mandate in 2007, this is a new government standard that will impact all transformers sold in the United States. Compliance requires that as of the effective date, all transformer products manufactured for sale in the U.S. must meet the new efficiency standard. To ease the transition, the standards implementation allows noncompliant products manufactured prior to the effective date to continue to be sold until that inventory is depleted. This transition spanned about six months for the 2007 standard change.

Though the change is still a few years away, the benefits of these technology advances can improve the performance and total cost profile of transformer decisions we make today. And there may be ways to help your customers maximize savings by adopting upgraded transformers earlier.

Ultraefficient transformers can save a lot of energy. Before the current TP-1 transformer standard was adopted in 2007, transformers lost more than 3 percent of their electricity to operational waste. The TP-1 standard lowered that waste to approximately 2-3 percent. The ultraefficient standard requires that less than 1.5 percent of the energy entering a transformer is lost.

Calculate the Savings and the Cost

Since transformers are always on, they’re always consuming energy, but ultraefficient transformers consume less energy and may lower operating costs by about 30 percent when compared with TP-1 models. In a facility the size of a typical elementary school, for example, users can save nearly $4,000 per year in operating costs. Over the life the facility, that adds up to more than $100,000 in savings.* The savings are even greater in larger commercial buildings, healthcare facilities, government buildings, and mixed-use developments. You can help your customers understand their individual savings with this simple calculator from GE:

While there will be operating cost savings with ultraefficient transformers, they will be priced higher. The technology behind the efficiency gains will cost significantly more than TP-1 units. When TP-1 technology was first introduced, it also resulted in higher priced transformers. After factoring in the energy savings, TP-1 buyers were able to realize a three-year payback for their upgrades.

The payback for most ultraefficient transformers is still unknown because there are several ways manufacturers can meet the new 2016 efficiency requirement. They may adopt different combinations of design, manufacturing, and materials changes in their new transformers–each with its own cost profile. The actual payback will become clearer as manufacturers modify their engineering across product lines, install new manufacturing equipment, tool up for production, and announce prices.

Identifying the Right Opportunities

Every building can cut energy consumption with ultraefficient transformers, but buildings that see large periods of low-demand energy use in the evenings or on weekends may save the most. The load profiles for buildings like schools, offices, churches, and stadiums realize the greatest savings from ultraefficient transformers. D