How ECM Motors are Making a Difference

Electronically commutated motors (ECM) revolutionized the motor market when they hit the shelf in 1987. Thanks to Genteq, industries like commercial HVAC/R found an alternative to the standard induction motor. ECMs with permanent magnet technology gave applications greater control over the output and performance of their motors. With that control came greater energy and cost savings.

ECMs have been around for 35-plus years and can be power many applications. But what actually is an ECM and why do we still care about them in the market?

What is an Electronically Commutated Motor?

Electronically Commutated Motors are permanent magnet motors. But that doesn’t mean all permanent magnet motors are ECMs…

You can tell the difference between the two types of motors when you look at control. ECMs have an integrated control converting AC line voltage to a DC bus voltage. The control then inverts that DC bus voltage back into a simulated AC signal. The motor control is typically pre-programmed to meet specific outputs and performance criteria. For instance, it may be set to regulate and modify operations. This would ensure either consistent torque or consistent speed in an application.

For example, if you program the microprocessor around speed and airflow, the motor speed will fluctuate and adapt to meet the load demands. This situational adaption leads to energy-saving opportunities.

Why Do We Still Care?

When they hit the market back in the 1980s, ECMs were a breakthrough for commercial furnaces. Since then, this “newer” technology has leveraged affinity laws to break into a range of air moving and pump applications. So what’s the big deal with these motors?

ECMs are an upgrade over legacy permanent split capacitor motors. For most people, decreased costs from increased energy savings is a big deal. Variable speed ECMs typically see an average increase of 25-30 percent in energy savings*. That's against a comparable standard induction model.

Not to mention, using an integrated ECM package eliminates complexity of a separate VFD. This can help make it easier to implement the motor into applications.

Energy savings and efficiencies are a significant value proposition for ECM motors. But they are not the only spotlight feature to mention. Enhanced magnetic flux translates to a more power-dense motor. This means ECMs have a smaller footprint and take up less space.

Impact of ECMs on the Market

Today, you'll find ECMs in commercial ventilation and pump applications. These spaces have more exposure to variable speed and variable torque conditions.

One obstacle for ECM technology is penetrating other markets. More applications are expected to adopt the technology as efficiency regulations continue to standardize and become more strict. Another factor that should lead to wider use of ECMs is the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). ECMs already fulfill requirements around developing energy efficiency standards. In many ways, ECM technology raises the bar for what we expect of motor output.

What is the Future of ECM Technology?

In recent years, IoT has evolved to earn a place in more commercial and industrial applications. ECMs play a role in making IoT effective. There’s an evolving push for IoT-ready products. These products are expected to communicate, analyze trends, predict maintenance, and identify cost-saving opportunities in applications. ECMs can broadcast valuable information. This leads to huge potential around monitoring conditions impacting motor efficiency.

Another factor bringing ECMs to the forefront is the global focus on clean energy. The fan and pump markets see the bonuses from the smaller footprint and greater efficiencies. ECMs have this same potential in other untapped markets.

Talk to one of our expert sales professionals about how our solutions can efficiently power your business.

*energy savings are based upon motors running variable speed with increased portions of their operations at lower rated speeds



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Commercial Systems|Industrial Systems