Saving energy doesn’t have to be sexy

A power line and pylon on a green hill

Don’t Overlook Voltage Optimisation

When businesses are looking for energy-saving technologies, there are many different options to invest in. Not all of these technologies are equally visible, or receive significant governmental backing. We think voltage optimisation has been wrongly overlooked.

In the current energy crisis, businesses are keen to save money on their electricity bills and operate in a more sustainable way. If I told you there was a simple technology that was almost guaranteed to tick both boxes, you would assume you might have heard about it already, but you probably haven’t heard of voltage optimisation?

In the UK, the National Grid supplies electricity at an average of 242 volts. Most electrical equipment is designed to perform optimally at 220 volts, meaning that many UK businesses are paying extra for additional voltage they do not need. Furthermore, over-volting your equipment by running excess voltage through it not only costs money, it damages the equipment and shortens its lifespan.

The simple principle behind VO is that by lowering the voltage to a level your equipment needs, you will save an average of eight per cent on your energy bills while at the same time helping reduce your operation’s carbon footprint.

Given how simple and effortless this all sounds, surely more people would have heard about it? You might assume that this is therefore a new technology. In fact, voltage optimisation is an established technology that has been in use for many years. And if you were wondering about costs, the energy savings provided by a VO unit mean the typical ROI is within 18 months, quicker than with a technology like solar panels.

A Hidden Technology

In my time working in this industry, it is far more common to encounter facilities managers or energy managers who have simply never heard of VO, than it is to come across one who is aware of the potential benefits but chooses to rule it out. People simply haven’t heard of VO. I found myself asking, why this could be?

My colleague Ged Hebdige, who has extensive experience as an electrical engineer and is arguably the UK’s leading expert on VO, suggested voltage optimisation was simply ‘‘not sexy enough.’’ He’s right of course, but does saving energy need to be sexy? Does it have to be something we show off about, when surely we should just pick the option that works best?

Even a non-specialist will have heard of solar panels. Part of the reason is that the nature of the technology makes it very visible. Solar panels are clearly displayed on the roofs of many buildings around us, bringing them into the everyday consciousness of ordinary people. In contrast, voltage optimisers are often stashed away in places we are unlikely to see.

For example, if you have been to a Toby Carvery or a Harvester recently, it is highly likely that it is fitted with a voltage optimiser. We recently completed the largest rollout in UK history, installing optimisers at over 1,100 sites across the UK. However, most of these machines are located in the basements of buildings and so you will never see them.

In the UK, we consumed 266 terawatt-hours of electricity in 2023. If voltage optimisers were installed across the UK, delivering an average reduction of eight percent, we would reduce the country’s energy consumption by 21 terawatt hours. Voltage optimisers arguably deserve more recognition for their potential. Hopefully not being sexy enough won’t discourage more people from exploring VO.

How Can Voltage Optimisation Help You?

To explore the benefits of voltage optimisation or calculate potential savings for your business, visit our free savings calculator here.

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