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  • Troy Huisman

Soft Starters or VFDs: Waste or Wonder?

Soft Starters or Variable Frequency Drives?

In our line of work, this question is as commonplace as “bacon or sausage?”

And much like these two coveted breakfast meats, selecting the correct one inherently depends on several factors specific to your situation.

But, unlike innocently deciding what to pair your eggs with, installing the incorrect motor control set-up will invariably lead to massive energy loss, a burning hole in your wallet, and a tremendous waste of everyone’s time.

No pressure.

We at Superior Control have seen many outrageous system configurations out there in the field.

Laughably inefficient, wasteful, and sometimes entirely unnecessary installations of technologies that appear to be nothing more than blatant attempts by our competitors to close a sale.

You see, the funny thing about the whole “soft starters versus drives” argument is that neither technology reigns supreme across all playing fields – it comes down to their specific application.

A Phillips screwdriver is an irreplaceable addition to any tool set, but you wouldn’t use it to hammer in a nail, would you?

Using car wash controllers for example, Soft Starters are out of the question due to the frequent, physical demand of the equipment being utilized, and the fast-paced service nature of the industry.

Therefore, a Variable Frequency Drive is ideal for this setting, but only under the right circumstance. A VFD will perform most efficiently when appropriately installed on a conveyor using an electric motor, and (ideally) a gear reducer. This will allow the operator to independently control the speed of their conveyor while simultaneously reducing overall energy costs. Inversely, that same VFD would be utterly wasted on a conveyor system dependent on hydraulics, since hydraulic conveyors can already adjust their speed through flow control.

Sounds simple enough, right?

And yet, all too often we come across a poorly configured Variable Frequency Drive that is under performing so drastically, it might as well just be an expensive paperweight.

With over 200 independent parameters that must be set (and that’s a low ball estimate), if your technician doesn’t correctly install and configure your VFD, you’ll be dealing with some major headaches down the road simply maintaining your drive and connected systems. Not to mention you’ll missing out on huge cost savings, which is usually the reason for installing the VFD in the first place!

We know we sound a little arrogant when we say it, but we at Superior Control know what we’re doing.

We know a wasteful Soft Starter or VFD set-up when we see one. And we see them often.

The bottom line is, there is no blanket statement that can be made for either control process, and anyone who tells you different, clearly doesn’t understand the technology at work. Or they’re trying to make an easy sale.

Whether you are in need of a system reassessment, or even a little guidance on how to best reduce your overall energy usage and costs, we at Superior Control can help.

We’re not in the business of wasting time, money, or valuable equipment.

You aren’t either.

So, let’s get to work.

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