To Voltage Optimise or not to Voltage Optimise… that is the question
Updated: Feb 27, 2019
Voltage optimisation is the controlled reduction in voltage an energy consumer deploys in efforts to reduce energy use, power demand and reactive power demand. Voltage optimisers are used to regulate the voltage use to ensure energy savings; some optimisers set the voltage to a constant output. In the UK, electricity is supplied by National Grid at 240V, which complies with the Electricity Supply Regulations. Optimisers are transformer-like units used to reduce the overall voltage supplied from approximately down to a standard of 220 volts.
Voltage optimisers are installed in a building’s main electrical supply (fuse box) to ensure that all electrical equipment benefits from an optimised supply of voltage. Any electrical professional can install a voltage optimiser.
Benefits of Voltage Optimisers
There are multiple reasons as to why companies are promoting voltage optimisers as a solution to energy conservation with the biggest reason being savings on electrical bills.
The typical savings claimed for a voltage optimiser user is around 15 percent. With these savings, the initial investment is paid back in three years or less, making a significant savings for a large building or home that uses a high rate of energy consumption.
The installation of a voltage optimiser is beneficial to the environment and is considered green energy as it reduces carbon emissions by up to 25% thanks to its reducing energy consumption. Optimisers work to reduce the overall voltage used, this resulting in lower electricity used and decreased power consumption, which are all benefits for the environment as non-renewable energy is used less.
Optimisers are also said to increase the life of electronics. Since optimisers are usually set to a specific voltage or automatically adjust to a lower voltage, they stop harmful power spikes, which can severely damage electronic equipment.
Disadvantages of Voltage Optimisers
Some feel that voltage optimisers are a waste and do not truly decrease the energy consumption.
For example, if you are cooking at 216V (with optimiser) compared to 253V (without optimiser) the food will just take longer to cook, thus not decreasing energy consumption but having it remain the same.
Devices that rely on thermostats, such as heaters, refrigerators, and ovens, will provide no savings by using an optimiser, because it will just take longer to achieve the desired results. Also, many modern electronics use a switched mode power supply, which means if the voltage is lower, the device draws more current to compensate and ensure the device performs to its standards. Optimisers do work for light bulbs, if the voltage is lower, the light will be dimmer; this can also be achieved with a cost-effective light dimmer.
Also, optimisers can cause over-voltage in low-voltage appliances or electronics. Over-voltage can result in a reduced lifespan and increase in energy consumed. For example, if a lamp runs at 230V and the optimiser is set to 240V, the lamp will decrease its overall lifespan, just as a 230V appliance running at 240V will use more current resulting in more energy consumption.
Another drawback to voltage optimisers is they can be costly.
Whether using a voltage optimiser or not, energy monitoring is important to ensure consumers are aware of their overall usage – and green users (such as wind turbine or solar panels) are aware of their overall output. Energy monitoring ensures efficient use of energy and avoids unnecessary waste.
Because energy is an expensive resource for all businesses and homes, installing an energy monitoring system can help track efficient use of energy, decrease global warming and decrease carbon emissions from using fossil fuels.
Whether you choose to use a voltage optimiser is down to whether you believe there really is a benefit, but there is no better time than the present to move ahead with energy monitoring. After all, the first step to making improvements is arming yourself with usage information.