© 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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