Chapter Corner

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

Posted in: Features, August 2013

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. During times when these buildings are not in use, transformer operation is most efficient. So it makes sense to consider ultraefficient models for these applications first.

Watch for Programs to Help Your Customers

You may be able to help customers earn faster payback on the new transformer standard. The U.S. Congress is currently considering a rebate program for ultraefficient transformers installed before the standard takes effect in 2016. Ultraefficient transformers are already available today.

Rebates will accelerate payback and enable users to save more sooner. Depending on the final details of the rebate program, it may even be worthwhile upgrading currently operating transformers for the energy savings. Calculators, like the one mentioned earlier, can help you analyze the payback potential and propose savings to customers.

More than Efficiency Gains

Early adoption of ultraefficient technology can help a project earn LEED® certification points from the U.S. Green Building Council. Your customers can meet their sustainability and environmental objec- tives while saving money at the same time.

Determining the Best Ways to Help Your Customers

Ultraefficient transformers are more expensive; however the payback in efficiency savings over the lifetime of the transformer may be worth the investment for your customers. By calculating efficiency gains, pursuing rebate programs, timing installation, and understanding the implications of the new standard, you can lead your customers to the right decisions for their unique applications.

More than 400,000 low-voltage, dry-type transformers are installed in the U.S. each year. That’s 400,000 opportunities to help customers upgrade from transformers that continuously waste energy to transformers that continuously save energy.

*Based on upgrading pre-2007 transformers at an elementary school that uses 13 GE non-TP-1 trans- formers, ranging in size from 30 kVA to 112.5 kVA and energy costs of $.077/kwh to the equivalent GE QL Ultra transformers. Lifetime savings based on a building life and usage of 30 years.

Bill Forsythe is the Senior Product Manager for dry-type transformers for GE’s Industrial Solutions business, a GE heritage business, which is leading the future of electrification with advanced technologies that protect and control the distribution of electricity throughout a facility's infrastructure. Leading the transformer product strategies and execution globally, Bill manages a portfolio of transformer products for commercial and industrial applications including TP-1,K-factor, ultraefficient, and harmonic mitigating dry-type transformers.

Bill joined GE in 1998 as a marketing manager for the residential product team serving distributor, home builder, and electrical contractor customers. He then progressed to his current product role with transformers, first for North America, and then an expanded scope to a global position. Bill holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).