Industrial companies seek to remain competitive and profitable by continuously improving industrial processes. They train personnel, optimise workflow, and invest in advanced technologies to maximise output, optimise workflow, and reduce wastage. While commendable, such efforts risk being jeopardised if the facility fails to secure a stable voltage supply.
Voltage irregularities, such as undervoltage or transients, often affect industrial equipment and lead to productivity loss. To overcome that, you must provide clean, stable voltage with an automatic voltage regulator (AVR). Then, you introduce best practices that boost industrial output.
In this article, we’ll explain AVRs in-depth, explore how they solve voltage fluctuations and improve process efficiency.
What is an AVR
An automatic voltage regulator (AVR) is a device that stabilises the output voltage at a specific value. The AVR reacts to voltage fluctuations in the incoming mains by rapidly compensating for the offset. Most AVRs use a servo mechanism and feedback circuitry to produce precise voltage levels for the electrical load.
Why AVR is Important for Industrial Processes
Industrial processes are a series of procedures that turn inputs into desirable outputs. Each industry applies different sets of processes to manufacture products, deliver goods, or provide services at scale. For example, the food industry runs several processes, such as packaging, pasteurising and drying.
In practical implementations, factories operate different industrial equipment, such as dryers, pumps, grinders and robotic arms, to achieve specific purposes. Many such equipment are sensitive to voltage fluctuation, so installing an AVR is helpful. AVR regulates the incoming AC from the distribution grid and ensures all equipment runs on their nominal voltage.
Understanding voltage fluctuations
Voltage fluctuation is a phenomenon that affects power supply stability. Instead of retaining the voltage at the nominal level, the voltage varies at different amplitudes and paces. For example, the mains input voltage from distribution grids in Australia is 230 VAC with a tolerance of +10% to -6%. However, voltage fluctuations can cause the voltage level to exceed tolerance randomly or continuously.
We share several causes of voltage fluctuations.
- Voltage irregularities might originate from the distribution grid. This causes the premise to receive noisy power, affecting all underlying electrical loads.
- Reactive loads, such as motors or other inductive equipment, might destabilise the voltage supply by suddenly drawing substantial reactive power.
- Varying electrical loads, for example, sudden activation of machines, can also cause the voltage to fluctuate.
- Electrical interference, whether from adjacent machines or lighting strikes, might lead to transients or sudden changes in the voltage level.
Why voltage fluctuations are detrimental to industrial processes
Voltage fluctuations are minorly disruptive at best and cause grave repercussions to industry stakeholders in severe occurrences. Either way, industrial companies face significant financial, productivity and reputational losses. When industrial equipment operates outside its tolerance voltage level, it gradually degrades or suffers an outright breakdown.
In some industries, voltage fluctuations and subsequent operational outages are intolerable. For example, hospitals must ensure mission-critical systems, such as operating theatres and imaging devices, receive accurate and stable voltage supply. Likewise, data centres rely on clean and regulated voltage to keep clusters of servers running.
Benefits of Industrial AVRs
Industrial AVRs prevent voltage fluctuations from affecting electrical equipment. An AVR constantly monitors the load supply level to ensure it is at the nominal level. When the AVR senses a sudden voltage drop, it raises the voltage upward to ensure industrial equipment continues to operate within the appropriate voltage level. Likewise, the AVR suppresses the voltage when lightning surges or other transients occur.
An AVR proves helpful in improving industrial processes, and it’s an investment that far outweighs the cost, particularly in the long run. For example, voltage fluctuations might cause critical power distribution systems in manufacturing facilities to experience failure. According to a study, a facility-wide power outage costs up to $5 million per hour for large enterprises.
Purchasing an AVR costs a fraction of the financial losses affecting your business when an outage occurs. Rather than considering it as an unnecessary expense, your business will benefit greatly from an AVR.
- Operating with a clean and stable voltage level will allow industrial equipment to last longer and be less likely to fail prematurely. You will get the maximum ROI for the machines automating the industrial process pipeline.
- Your company spends less on maintenance and repair because AVRs protect industrial equipment from voltage sags, surges and overvoltage. Instead, you can channel the budget into improving the process workflow and other purposeful investments.
- AVRs prevent unplanned outages stemming from voltage irregularities. This ensures that your machines remain operational despite electrical disturbances. There will be lesser disruptions – a key advantage for time-sensitive workflows.
- Besides, AVR also increases energy efficiency, which translates into financial savings and lower process costs. It helps industrial enterprises maintain healthy profit and growth.
The benefit of voltage regulation was well documented in this case study by South Dakota State University. Researchers found that regulating voltage during peak hours allows Sioux Valley Energy to conserve energy and enjoy savings of up to $290,000/per year.
Types of AVRs
Generally, an AVR turns noisy incoming power into clean and stable voltage. There are several types of AVRs in the market, and each differs in performance. We share common types of AVRs and their respective pros and cons below.
A servo AVR controls the output voltage by adjusting its transformer’s winding ratio. It has a servo motor, which rotates its arm according to the feedback signal and moves the autotransformer to a new position. After comparing the output and nominal voltage, the servo AVR rapidly compensates for the voltage offset to stabilise the electrical load.
- Servo AVRs are fast and accurate. They can regulate the output voltage within ± 0.5% ~ ± 1% of the nominal rating as fast as 1.5 ms.
- Servo regulators can withstand an in-rush current of up to 10x of their max rating for 2 seconds.
- They offer a balance between value and money.
- It requires regular maintenance on cleaning the units to prevent accumulation of dust and debris on the unit especially on the variable transformers.
A magnetic induction AVR stabilises voltage by controlling the proximity between the primary and secondary inductor winding. Like an induction motor, it features a stator and rotor. However, magnetic induction AVRs rotate the winding to 180 degrees, or 120 degrees (3-phase), based on the calculated position. It is fast and accurate, thanks to the microcontroller-based feedback circuitry.
- Magnetic induction AVRs are robust and designed to withstand harsh operating conditions.
- Magnetic induction voltage regulators require almost no maintenance. They’re suitable for installations in remote or non-serviceable areas.
- They provide accurate voltage regulation within ± 1.5% of the nominal rating.
- These AVRs can handle overloads and power factor irregularities without failing.
- Magnetic induction regulators are generally more expensive and bulkier.
Static-type AVR, also known as a tap-switching regulator, uses an array of Silicon Controlled Rectifiers (SCR) to change its transformer’s winding ratio. Despite having no moving parts, static AVRs are the least robust of the voltage regulators we mentioned. They are inefficient and can’t stabilise fluctuations beyond 15% of the nominal voltage.
- Static AVRs are cheap and readily available from online marketplaces.
- They have a simplistic design, which results in lower production costs.
- Static AVRs protect SCRs with fuses to prevent short circuits.
- Static AVRs cannot provide accurate regulation. At best, they can regulate up to ±5% of the nominal voltage.
- The SCRs are prone to damage from inrush current. Besides, these SCRs drastically degrade when exposed to high temperatures, making static AVRs unsuitable for industrial environments.
How to choose the right AVR for Industrial Processes
The cheapest AVR is seldom the best choice for industrial purposes. Rather than cost, consider the following factors when selecting an AVR.
- Accuracy – Industrial facilities, particularly those running mission-critical processes, require near-perfect regulation. In most cases, a servo regulator would be a good choice.
- Input voltage – Some premises experience large fluctuations or are susceptible to frequent lighting surges. This calls for robust magnetic induction AVRSs.
- Reliability. Avoid tap-switching regulators, which will likely fail after a short usage period.
- Electrical load. Are you running a complex setup of linear and non-linear loads in your industrial facility? Some types of AVR are better suited than one or the other.
- Response time. The AVR should mitigate the fluctuations in a reasonable time to prevent ill effects on the connected machines.
Ashley Edison has been helping industrial enterprises overcome operational challenges for decades by providing robust and precise AVRs. Our series of AVRs solve typical voltage irregularities that trouble manufacturing, energy, food and other industries with carefully-engineered features. We share some examples below.
Glavcom is a joinery manufacturing company in Australia and was experiencing heavy voltage fluctuation on its incoming power line. With spikes way exceeding the nominal level, Glavcom’s equipment starts to fail, abruptly or gradually. Upon our recommendation, Glavcom installed a 3 Phase AVR, stabilising the incoming voltage to 220V, an optimal value for its equipment.
The move resulted in substantial savings for Glavcom, thanks to better energy efficiency. Here’s the breakdown.
- kWh Savings Per Day
958 kWh – 690 kWh = 268 kWh
- Cost Savings Per Day
268 kWh x AU$0.40 = AU$107.20
- Cost Savings Per Year
AU$107.20 x 365 days = AU$39,128.00 in 1 Year
Besides benefiting from energy savings, Glavcom was no longer troubled by power issues that caused unplanned downtime.
SP Group is Singapore’s national grid operator. It undertook a project to install transmission cables on three tunnels spanning 1,200 metres. However, they soon face severe voltage drops below the 4% tolerance of 400/230V across long distances. Instead of replacing the existing cables with thicker ones, they opted for a more economical solution – installing Ashley Edison’s magnetic induction voltage stabilisers.
Our client saved over $9 million in this case study despite installing 12 AVRs of varying capacities. Here’s how the maths works out.
- Original solution (replacing transmission cables) = $11,845,920.
- Adopted solution (installing Ashley Edison’s AVR) = $2,441,120.
- Estimated savings = $9.404.800.
Besides financial savings, it takes less time to install and commission the AVRs than replacing cables.
Coca-Cola runs several beverage manufacturing plants globally. Its Saudi Arabia facility faced severe voltage fluctuations that resulted in equipment failure, which affected its production capacities and revenue growth. Coca-Cola turned to Ashley Edison for an effective solution and stabilised the power supply for its facility with a 1,000 kVA, 3-Phase AVR.
The result was immediate.
- Before installing the AVR, voltage fluctuation was as high as 18% beyond the nominal rating.
- With an AVR, the facility’s voltage level was regulated to within ±0.5% of the tolerated limits.
More importantly, Coca-Cola can continue to produce beverages smoothly without requiring frequent equipment repair and replacement.
AVRs are an essential component in ensuring efficient and cost-friendly industrial processes. They prevent harmful voltage anomalies from disrupting operational flows and damaging equipment. We’ve shown you which types of AVRs are best suited for industrial purposes and which to avoid. Our case studies demonstrated that installing AVRs provides measurable benefits in efficiency, cost and other metrics.
Are you ready to improve the efficiency of your industrial processes and reduce downtime? Our expert team can help you choose the right solution for your specific needs and provide ongoing support to ensure your equipment runs smoothly. Don’t wait to optimise your industrial processes – contact Ashley Edison now to get started!