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Fanning the waves of legislative progress

With legislation driving energy efficiency and carbon reduction, specifying the correct fans now needs far more consideration, says Allan Hurdle
Minimising fuel consumption and cutting energy costs have become the two main priorities of the building services sector and a core principle of product design. With legislation driving higher efficiencies, many energy consuming products have been put under the spotlight and it won't have escaped specifiers and building services engineers that changes are afoot.

One product range in particular that has come under scrutiny (possibly more than others) is ventilation fans, with a raft of legislative changes affecting their design and manufacture. This makes the job of specifying units for projects next year and beyond a complicated process.

So what areas do specifiers need to consider and how is the fan industry going to adapt? Well first, and much to the disappointment of EU energy legislators, it's worth noting that fans cannot run at 100 per cent total efficiency.

Some power has to be used to allow the product to fulfil its function. But the first part of the Energy-Related Products (ErP) legislation that has attempted to improve efficiency is Regulation EC No.640/2009 for motors.
Since June 2011, all motors with an output rating of between 0.75 and 375kW have had to meet the IE2 standard of energy efficiency.

The second phase, scheduled for 2015, will further improve these standards with IE3 motors eventually becoming the minimum requirement. For most fan units, this hasn't been too problematic with motor technology meeting the requirements and many motor manufacturers already producing 'super-efficient' IE4 motors.

However, it's still important for specifiers and building services designers to double check the efficiencies of the motors driving all fans, to ensure compliance.

Where legislation will start to have a significant effect is from the ErP Regulation EU No. 327/2011, which comes into force in January 2013. This applies to all fans driven, or designed to be driven, by electric motors with an input power of between 0.125 and 500kW and specifies minimum fan/motor efficiencies for all fan types, regardless of whether they operate as an individual unit or as a component within a device. Manufacturers will have to use a combination of the latest motors, aerodynamically optimised configurations and tightly controlled manufacturing processes to improve the overall efficiencies of their units.

Of course, many products - like Fläkt Woods' JM Axial Fans - have already been engineered to be highly efficient and meet the targets, but not all fan suppliers will be in such a position. So, for any specifiers planning projects for 2013, it will be a key requirement to ensure all units comply with the new legislation.

Second tier of tighter regulations
To add to the long term considerations, the ErP Directive for fans has a second tier of tightened regulations due in 2015. Not only will they be far more onerous, but will also certainly rule out the sale of many products currently on the market.

Whereas some fan units can be 'upgraded' to reach the 2013 targets, the 2015 ErP Directive requires a far more integrated approach with motors, fans and systems designed holistically to help meet these future efficiency targets. One area these changes have particular implications is for emergency high temperature applications such as building and car park smoke extraction.

A key feature of any fan in a high temperature application is higher running clearances, which are designed to allow for the expansion co-efficients of the blade and housing material under the influences of heat. However, fans with higher running clearances are inherently less efficient than standard units (with reductions of up to 20 per cent).

The notable element from Regulation EU No. 327/2011 for fans is that dedicated smoke extract equipment is exempt from the efficiency requirements as, hopefully, there is no 'call to action' other than under testing conditions. So, for building services designers trying to optimise energy efficiency, running dedicated fans in parallel to general ventilation, rather than dual use equipment, is the most effective option.

More efficient products
Savings on the long term running costs are likely to far outweigh the initial investment with end users benefiting from an integrated approach that considers all components of smoke extract systems.

Of course, it isn't just system designers that will need to employ such tactics over the coming years. Manufacturers too, will need to develop their products to meet the new efficiency targets.

Selecting the right material, reducing weight and improving manufacturing processes are just a few of the areas that will need to be examined. Certainly, here at Fläkt Woods we have invested in analytical systems that have allowed us to develop our products and advance the efficiencies of our product ranges.

Overall, European legislation is going to have a significant impact on the fan industry. At the very least there will be far more transparency of a fan's energy efficiency, which in many ways will make it easier for specifiers and building services designers to incorporate products that meet the standards required in 2013 and beyond. And, realistically, energy efficiency targets are not going to remain constant.

They will continue to improve incrementally, push the boundaries of product design and drive down energy costs for users.

It's now up to all in the fan industry to step up to the plate in meeting, or surpassing, the expectations of the sustainability drive and embracing the challenges of future legislation.

The author is managing director at Fläkt Woods
16 July 2012

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