Pizza, doughnuts, curries or ice cream? Guests who get hungry while shopping at the Forum Vijaya Mall in Chennai, India, have a wide range of choices in the huge mall’s food court. But no matter which dish they decide on, they can enjoy it in a comfortably air-conditioned room, thanks in part to ebm-papst India, which carried out India’s first FanGrid project in cooperation with air-conditioning specialists ETA. But until the project’s completion, Ramesh Swaminathan, general manager (sales & marketing) at ebm-papst India, had a lot of persuading to do.
“It all began when ETA got an order from the operator to equip the Forum Vijaya Mall in Chennai with a complete air-conditioning system,” recalled Swaminathan. Since ETA had already been working successfully with ebm-papst India for several years, it contacted Swaminathan to request a proposal for air-conditioning the food court. “The mall’s dining area accommodates 21 restaurants with seating for 850 people. Given these figures, the air conditioning system has to transport 60,000 cubic metres of air per hour at 900 Pascals,” explained Wahab Jainulabideen, deputy general manager for operations at ETA. To date, such tasks have usually been performed in India with a single large, belt-driven fan. “But that has a few disadvantages,” said Swaminathan. “Installing the fan is very time-consuming, its energy efficiency leaves a lot to be desired, and if it fails the entire air conditioner is out of service.”
And then there were ten
To avoid these disadvantages, he proposed a different solution to ETA: a FanGrid with ten RadiPac EC fans arranged in parallel – a solution unprecedented in India. Even for the customers from ETA, who are open to innovation, it required some persuasion. “In this project, the customer took two steps at once with us: switching from a belt-driven to a directly driven EC fan, and from a single fan to ten fans working as a single unit.”
Less space, more energy efficiency
Two steps that ETA was quite prepared to take. “We’re always looking for new solutions. The main things that make the FanGrid so convincing are its energy efficiency, its compactness and the redundancy offered by ten fans instead of one,” said Wahab Jainulabideen. If one of the fans fails, the other nine ensure that the system continues to operate. The space needed is up to 40 percent less than that required for conventional AHUs. In addition, the energy consumption of the ten EC fans is around 20 percent less than that of a single belt-driven fan of the kind required for a system of this size. After the initial consultations, ebm-papst made an offer for the job. The reaction was different than expected, as ETA had received lower offers from competitors. “That was a big surprise for us as we had turned in a well-calculated offer,” recalled Ramesh Swaminathan. Thanks to the good relationship with ETA he was able to compare at the offers and quickly realised that they were not nearly as comprehensive as the one from ebm-papst. “It was an apples-and-oranges comparison since competitors only made an offer for the fans. But our offer included the entire system. Once this difference was taken into account, our offer was more than a match for it.”
An investment that pays off
But still the price was higher than the amount ETA would have had to pay for a single belt-driven fan. “Of course ten fans cost more than one,” said Ramesh Swaminathan. “But if you also look at the operating costs, it quickly becomes clear that this investment already pays off after two years.” For the installer, further savings result from the easier installation and the elimination of maintenance costs for the EC fans. ETA was completely convinced by these arguments and awarded the project to ebm-papst, and Ramesh Swaminathan and his colleagues saw the project through from the design phase to the installation of the fans.
The synchronisation of the ten RadiPacs turned out to be a technical challenge for ETA. “For a solution with one fan, of course you don’t need a controller,” said Swaminathan. “With ten fans, things are different. They have to be synchronised with one another by a controller to deliver their full performance.” To ensure a trouble-free installation, he supported ETA with the search for a specialist for the controller. “The professionalism and cooperation made the project with ebm-papst very pleasant, and were just as important to us as the high efficiency and reliability of the products,” said Wahab Jainulabideen. Ramesh Swaminathan is confident that more customers will show interest in FanGrids after this successful project. “The conditions for them are good in our country. India is a very progressive market for energy-efficient solutions. Today over 65 percent of the products we sell are EC fans and motors. The main reason for this development is the exploding energy costs, so solutions like this one will be in increasing demand in future.”