Advertorial - Why EC fans may not be as sustainable as they seem

Carl Turbitt of ABB
Carl Turbitt of ABB

EC fans are promoted as a more energy efficient solution for cooling in facilities such as data centres, but the reality might be more complicated, as Carl Turbitt explains.

Energy costs can account for a large proportion of a building’s upkeep, and in specialist facilities like data centres, this figure can be as high as 40 percent. Much of this is due to cooling requirements and the large number of fans needed to keep temperatures low.

In general, there are two main types of fan technology on the market: motor and drive configurations, and EC fan assemblies. Both are capable of precise speed control and optimisation of plant, which  can therefore save you money on your energy bills.

EC fans may appear cheaper up front, but when you consider the cost over the lifetime of the asset, the motor-drive package will generally come out on top. Having two separate devices rather than one aids with heat dissipation, resulting in less wear on components, and a longer lifetime. Moreover, when it comes to replacing an EC fan, you will often be locked into a particular configuration and a particular manufacturer, which in turn could put you at the mercy of long lead times since EC fans are often made to measure. Conversely, if a drive or motor fails, it can typically be replaced off the shelf with a similar product from any major manufacturer.


It may seem counterintuitive, but having two devices rather than one can also increase simplicity, as multiple fan motors can be run from the same drive. An EC fan on the other hand requires each fan to have its own drive, which can get complicated in data centre fan arrays with large numbers of units. It also requires additional overload protection. EC fans have a limited power rating, therefore a fan array will typically require several of them to reach the required airflow levels. This could mean more potential points of failure, whereas a drive and motor can go up to 250 kW without breaking a sweat, providing more power with less complexity.

To learn more about VSDs and how they stack up against EC fans, download our white paper:

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