© Christoph Kalscheuer

EC tech­nology with full convic­tion

Walter Roller GmbH & Co. began to system­at­i­cally convert their refrig­er­a­tion and air-condi­tioning equip­ment over to EC tech­nology as early as 2011. Pioneers CEO Wolf­gang Krenn and Product Manager Andreas Binder discuss what drives them, how their customers have reacted, and the role that EC plays for them today.

What moti­vated you to switch to EC tech­nology ten years ago?

Wolf­gang Krenn: As a company, what drives us is improving the overall effi­ciency of refrig­er­ating plants — whether this involves the geom­etry of the pipes, conduc­tivity, or opti­mizing the de-icing process. For us, EC tech­nology is another compo­nent of this over­ar­ching philos­ophy. The deci­sion to switch from AC to EC was there­fore completely logical.

Andreas Binder: At the time, there was an increasing focus on climate protec­tion and saving energy. If we take a look at an air cooler, the fan is the compo­nent where we can mini­mize power consump­tion.

Wolf­gang Krenn (left), CEO of Roller, has been with the company since 1997. He was respon­sible for sales when the company switched to EC tech­nology. Andreas Binder (right), Product Manager at Roller, has worked at the company since 2008. He was involved in the tran­si­tion for ten years in his role as devel­op­ment engi­neer. (Photo | Christoph Kalscheuer)

How did your customers react to EC?

Krenn: They were initially very skep­tical. They were worried that there would be elec­tronics in the cold store — where it is cold and damp and pres­sure washers are some­times used! The EC motor was also more expen­sive.

How did you win over the skep­tics?

Krenn: I can still clearly remember my first visit to a customer. I had an evap­o­rator built with a new EC motor and a Q motor (which had been in use to that point) which also displayed the power consump­tion. I loaded it into my trunk and drove to our whole­salers. They could imme­di­ately see that the Q motor was using 80 watts and the EC motor just 27.

And the real high­light is that users save twice over! The EC motor uses less power, which means it also emits less heat that the refrig­er­ating plant has to convey out of the cold store. This really impressed me — twice the benefit, twice the saving. This and the resulting quick payback period are what also won over the skep­tical customers.

But your customers, and by that I mean the whole­salers, do not gain any advan­tage from this saving!

Krenn: Yes, that is true. At the begin­ning, we even assumed a part of the extra cost to reduce the barrier for our customers and to launch the tech­nology on the market. Over time, some­thing inter­esting happened on the market. Various oper­a­tors, for example of large super­market chains real­ized that they could save on oper­ating costs with EC fans. They then explic­itly requested them in their calls for tenders. Those who could already offer EC tech­nology had a clear edge over the compe­ti­tion. This led to a knock-on effect on the market and, as a result, the extra cost became less of a factor.

And what about other cooling appli­ca­tions?

Krenn: Inno­va­tions often have a diffi­cult time in the refrig­er­a­tion industry. This is because energy effi­ciency is not as signif­i­cant in certain appli­ca­tions. However, I feel there is another impor­tant advan­tage to EC tech­nology: the excel­lent control char­ac­ter­is­tics of the motors. This is a huge advan­tage when it comes to sensi­tive chilled goods or appli­ca­tions with fluc­tu­ating loads.

Binder: You should also bear in mind that the fans can easily be controlled to run at other speeds, giving customers a great deal of flex­i­bility in how they are used. Which means we do not have to stock as many fan types, as we can use them in appli­ca­tions where different speeds are required.

What was the role of the Ecode­sign Direc­tive in this devel­op­ment?

In 2012, Roller switched to EC tech­nology in three evap­o­rator series. Now, almost all their devices use the energy-effi­cient and contin­u­ously adjustable tech­nology. Roller is constantly improving the overall effi­ciency of its devices. EC tech­nology is an impor­tant compo­nent in this. (Photo | Christoph Kalscheuer)

Binder: Our customers natu­rally expect the product that they are buying to meet all the direc­tives. But, to be perfectly honest, because we changed over to EC tech­nology so early, the ErP did not concern us at all. We were on the safe side before the direc­tive intro­duced more strin­gent require­ments.

How has the switch to EC continued in your company?

Binder: When I joined the company, we had one EC fan in use. In 2012 we converted three evap­o­rator series, and then other devices were grad­u­ally switched over. Now, approx­i­mately 95 percent of our prod­ucts have EC motors.

Krenn: Servicing is also always a major factor for us. Our EC appli­ca­tion for air coolers is designed as follows: if an AC or Q motor fails, the EC motor can be swapped in like-for-like quickly and easily. This meant that we were also able to change over our supplies of replace­ment parts completely, and only stock EC motors. We were all impressed with the EC tech­nology. You would be hard pushed to find anyone full of more convic­tion than us. For me, EC is state of the art — it is as simple as that. This is also why we essen­tially no longer install any other tech­nology. The super­market oper­a­tors and plant manu­fac­turers would no longer have it any other way.

How is EC tech­nology received in the different regions?

Binder: Other markets are more sensi­tive when it comes to price, which is why it is often diffi­cult to intro­duce EC there. But South­east Asia has seen a lot of devel­op­ment in this area. At the moment, for example, we have a project with a large super­market chain in Thai­land which is installing EC tech­nology as stan­dard.

Krenn: In this Thai project — and this was the first time I have seen this in the region — not only was EC spec­i­fied in the call for tenders, but the permitted power consump­tion was also limited. Our customer is a pioneer there because they have seen how much they can save. But it will defi­nitely take some time before this way of thinking spreads throughout the market in Thai­land. 

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