The Annabelle Inn knows that saving energy means saving money.

Business owners looking to improve their energy efficiency often ask one question: which project saves the most money? For Annabelle Inn, the answer was adding variable frequency drives (VFDs) to the hotel’s hot water circulation pumps, a simple move that’s projected to save the hotel almost $2,500 annually.

Most commercial buildings have motor-driven fans and pumps that behave much the same as they have for years: the motor turns on and stays on, running at a constant speed regardless of the work being performed. Technological advances brought the VFD, a device that controls the motor speed, allowing it to ramp up and down to deliver the amount of power needed in the moment.

Running a motor without a VFD is essentially like a car with the gas pedal glued to the floor using only the breaks to control your speed. Using the gas pedal to match your engine’s speed with the speed of the car makes a lot more sense, both in terms of fuel efficiency and for proper care of your car. So it’s only logical to make sure your building’s systems are operating the same way: using VFD controls to match the speed of the motors to meet the demands of the building. This will reduce electricity bills and also to reduces maintenance issues by properly “throttling” your motors instead having hard stops and starts.

Adding this little box to your equipment is a plug and play way to save energy. Source: Wikimedia Commons

What’s more, they are simple to install, ensure same quality performance and work automatically. Brad Davis, CORE’s energy programs manager, says “most older systems were installed without VFD controls, adding them now is an easy way to start saving energy.” VFDs have a lot of common applications; they can be attached to hot water pumps (as in the case of Annabelle Inn), refrigeration units, exhaust fans and rooftop HVAC units, among others.

A big chunk of a business’ utility bill comes from these motor-powered machines, which means they also represent a big opportunity for lowering that bill. Between energy savings and cash-back rebates from CORE and utilities, VFDs pay for themselves. Without any rebate funds, Annabelle Inn’s VFD project was estimated to have a payback of under five years. Thanks to the City of Aspen’s Small Lodge Preservation Program, which aims to revitalize and support the longevity of certain hotels, the project was completely paid for.* That meant the Annabelle Inn started saving energy and money right away.

Are VFDs the right fit for your building? Our energy advisors can help you out. We offer one-on-one guidance and free site-visits to evaluate opportunities for VFDs and other energy-saving projects. Davis emphasizes that a site-visit isn’t a big time commitment for you but has a big payoff: “we can spend an hour or two at your business and you get a priority list of the best energy-saving projects.” VFDs are just one example of energy efficiency projects that are simple and help your bottom line.

For a limited time the City of Aspen is offering a bonus rebate of $2,500 for businesses on City of Aspen Electric grid that install VFDs. That’s on top of the $5,000 that’s always available from the City and CORE to support your energy improvements. The rest of the Roaring Fork Valley — don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with cash-back rebates too. Call Brad Davis to get started: 970.925.9775 ext. 506.   

* CORE contributes $50,000 in grant funds annually to the energy-efficiency piece of this program, the Small Lodge Energy Efficiency Program (SLEEP).