Home|News|Blog|Variable Speed Drive & Variable Frequency Drive Applications – Back to Basics

Variable Speed Drive & Variable Frequency Drive Applications – Back to Basics

Gary Panttila, Channel Partner Manager West Region

Today’s compressor technology has evolved greatly for the controls of the rotary screw compressor. Most notably is the introduction of variable frequency drives (VFD) and variable speed drives (VSD). Although there are differences, both types of controls work to conserve energy. When utilized properly, they are very energy efficient. When undersized efficiency is lacking, and when oversized they have major component issues.

This subject can be very complex. To keep it simple let’s review location and application overview.

Proper installation and location are critical. In facilities that have extreme contaminants, visible and invisible, a VFD could fail prematurely. They can attract particulates that could cause short in the drive itself. Dust, water, heat and other conditions can and will cause expensive failures. These units need relatively clean and cool operating conditions.

Application is just as critical. Under sizing the unit makes it run less efficiently above 90%. Under sizing the unit will cause drive failures, motor failures, and oil carryover. Most compressor manufacturers say the optimum range of consistent operation of a VFD is 50-80%. Operating them below 50% can be beneficial if they are set up properly, but in many cases they aren’t or the load fluctuates, and this causes problems.

These controls are extremely efficient when used properly and should be promoted in the right configuration. Some states, especially California, mandate VFD’s on any new units above 25 horsepower. These systems can be supplemented with automation, but title 24 when enforced, requires at least one VFD in the system.

Air system audits can be very beneficial in determining the size and application of baseload units and VFD’s and it is strongly recommended that experienced auditors looking at the supply and demand side of every application to determine the effectiveness of a VFD.

To learn more about the differences between variable speed drive and variable frequency drives and their proper applications, contact or find a distributor here:

Follow us for more updates! Facebook Twitter YouTube


1905 Kienlen Ave
St. Louis, MO 63133