Know Your Motor

July 8, 2002
Reducing Your Building Energy Usage and Cost
Reduced equipment downtime, increased tenant comfort, and lower energy costs are just a few of the many perks enjoyed by building owners and operators who develop and initiate motor management plans.By auditing a building’s motor system and being prepared for motor failure, building professionals can make better decisions regarding the motors they use, and in return reduce their energy costs. There are several areas within a building where motor energy consumption may be reduced through better management including:HVAC systems.Sump pumps.Supply and exhaust fans.Chilled and hot water pumps.Chillers and boilers.Elevators.When a motor fails, the information needed by the repair shop or your purchasing department to replace or repair the motor is on the nameplate. Collecting this nameplate information ahead of time and processing it before the motor fails increases the speed of the decision-making process and helps reduce downtime. Capture and maintain this information in a database or spreadsheet inventory and place tags on the motors that tell an operator/maintenance person exactly what to do when the motor failsCreating a motor inventory allows you to examine the operating costs of your motors ahead of time and execute the most cost-effective option automatically when failures occur. The first step to managing your motors wisely is to know how many and what kind of motors you have. There are several free tools available to help get you started, including MotorMaster+ software from the U.S. Department of Energy ( and The Motor Survey How-to-Guide from Advanced Energy (1-800-869-8001). According to the DOE, greater attention to motor system management can reduce motor energy costs by as much as 18 percent, while helping to boost motor productivity and reliability.Motor plans often include criteria for determining when a motor should be repaired or replaced, as well as specifications for new motors (including premium efficiency), and motor repair services. A repair/replace decision procedure should consider the operating costs over the life of the motor, not simply the repair or replacement cost. Lifetime operating costs far exceed the one-time purchase price or repair cost for a motor, and can be reduced by selecting an energy-efficient motor. For most every motor, the operating costs over the lifetime of service represent approximately 98 percent of the total life-cycle cost, while the purchase price and/or the repair cost accounts for only 2 percent of the life-cycle cost. Bottom line: DON’T negotiate for price; DO negotiate for efficiency.To broaden awareness of motor planning’s benefits, Motor Decisions Matter(SM)(, backed by the DOE and EPA, encourages the use of sound motor management and planning as a tool for cutting motor energy costs and conserving energy.Kitt Butler is business development manager at Advanced Energy (, a Raleigh, NC-based non-profit, independent consulting firm that seeks to improve the return on its clients’ energy investments.

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