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Energy Costs Highlight Premium Motors' Promise

Consumers and manufacturers alike seek relief from rising energy costs.

Aw 4887 Csmotors10

Soothing industry is the National Electrical Manufacturers Association's (NEMA's) Premium energy efficiency motors program ( "A premium-efficiency motor meets NEMA Premium and [Consortium for Energy Efficiency Inc.] CEE efficiency levels," observes Ilene Mason, manager of Boston-based CEE's ( Motor Decisions Matter (MDM, campaign.

For specific demand loads to accomplish work required, these motors require less energy input than less-efficient ones, explains Rick Munz, product manager for Marathon Electric Inc. (, a Wausau, Wis.-based motor manufacturer. Too, such motors waste less energy in undesirable by-products such as heat, he notes. NEMA Premium motors also offer longer product warranties, better materials of construction and, often, lower vibration, he adds.

Yet, barriers still exist to adoption of these premium motors, as well as best-practice repairs and other motor-management strategies. One huge barrier is lack of awareness, Mason asserts. According to a recent MDM survey of individuals who specify motors as part of their jobs, only 7 percent of respondents understood that a motor's annual energy costs are often five times or more higher than its initial purchase price, she notes. "That means 93 percent of respondents were not aware where the true costs of operating their motors reside." Thus, money that could be saved, isn't. "They do not realize that efficiency gains - even small ones - can add up to significant savings over the life of a motor."

To overcome unawareness, an industrial paradigm must change, suggests John Malinowski, product manager for AC/DC motors at Baldor Electric Co. (, another motor maker based in Ft. Smith, Ark. The paradigm's core, he believes, is a decree from plant managers to keep facilities operating, "but don't spend a nickel more than you have to." That operating attitude inspires the purchasing agent, who then gets rewarded for saving the company money, Malinowski explains.

False savings

That's understandable and commendable. But with the purchase of motors, a practice that may lead to short-term savings may produce unnecessary long-term expenses. For example, Malinowski says that a Premium-labeled 50-horsepower motor rated at 94.5 percent efficiency may cost approximately $2,280. "It will cost approximately $25,900 to operate continuously for one year at 7.5 cents per kilowatt-hour," he estimates. That's 11.4 times more than the motor's purchase price. But if the purchasing agent buys a non-premium motor, possibly saving 15 percent to 20 percent on the purchase, the additional yearly operating costs could rise by $2,000 for that motor's effective life of 15 to 20 years, he notes. The bottom line: while the buyer may save about $450 on the initial purchase price, the non-premium motor will cost $30,000 to $40,000 more to operate over its lifetime.

Mason agrees. She adds that the first-cost-vs.-lifecycle-cost issue ties directly into another cultural issue that is a barrier to using premium motors: lack of preparation of many industrial facility managers for motor failure.

"When a motor fails and the production line is down, motor availability and/or first cost become the primary parameters on which decisions are made," she observes. But, Mason emphasizes, facility managers can avoid such hasty decision-making. How? By increasing their awareness of the long-term cost implications of purchasing a motor, based on optimal selection criteria, rather than just equipment availability, she believes.

"You can use 'Motor Decisions Matter™', '1-2-3 Approach to Motor Management™', or the 'Estimated Annual Savings Chart™', with different energy price scenarios to get a sense of the savings involved," she explains. Both tools are available on MDM™'s Web site. 

C. Kenna Amos,  

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