Current thinking

PV installer
Why is it so hard for our industry to accept the benefits and savings from voltage optimisation in domestic buildings? Chris Norman, chairman of the Energy Services and Technology Association (ESTA) makes his voice  heard

In response to an article published in the October issue of REI, entitled “Taking the Test”, I believe the conclusion drawn in this article was invalid.

The average voltage in the UK is around 245V, the cumulative effect of PV arrays becoming commonplace is to drive this voltage higher still. Excess voltage increases energy consumption and reduces the lifespan of domestic appliances. Products respond differently to voltage variation so the energy savings will vary depending on appliance mix; domestic voltage optimisation has been tested in both the lab and in field trials, the results have clearly shown that the expected savings will range from 4 to 12 per cent.

So why is there so much scepticism around voltage optimisation? Some of the reasons are:

  • There is a lack of knowledge of how products respond to voltage variation. Devices do not always respond as you would expect.
  • Ad hoc testing is yielding confusing results. Energy consumption testing is not easy and must be done in a controlled, professional and statistically valid manner.
  • Some voltage optimisation product manufacturers have historically made exaggerated savings claims. These have served to undermine the credibility of the technology.
  • Voltage optimisation has been inappropriately associated with often fraudulent plug in products which offer no energy saving benefits.

It is time for the electrical industry to move beyond all this and come to terms with the fact that domestic voltage optimisation is a serious proven technology that offers real benefits. Take the test by all means, but do it properly.