Air Force Base Runs More Efficiently with ECM Motors

Langley AFB and Energy Reduction

Langley Air Force Base (AFB) located in Hampton, VA, is one of the oldest continuously working air bases in the U.S, employing more than 8,800 military and 2,800 civilian personnel. The most important mission of the base is to maintain fast global deployment and air superiority for the U.S. or allied armed forces. Langley AFB recently implemented a multi-year project addressing energy efficiency to satisfy a federal energy mandate requiring the reduction of energy intensity by 30 percent by 2015. The first step toward achieving this goal was retrofitting Permanently Split Capacitor (PSC) motors with Electronically Commutated Motors (ECM) in Variable Air Volume (VAV) boxes. By utilizing the capability to program the ECM motor to user specifications, it can be set to run at specific RPMs during different times throughout the day. When the ECM is programmed in this capacity, it saves up to 86 percent on watts used compared to the PSC motor, providing a dramatic decrease in power consumption and energy costs. 

The second component in the project was to retrofit the PSC motors in approximately 415 water source heat pump units with ECM motors. This project resulted in an overall energy savings of approximately 45 percent.

Payback Keeps Project Under Budget

It is essential that the costs of energy efficiency improvements made by the air force base be offset by the energy savings they produce to ensure finance improvement projects remain within the Department of Defense’s budget. In this instance, the retrofitting of the 415 water source heat pump motors is expected to generate considerable energy savings, including offsetting the installation expenses by more than $45,000, and is projected to achieve a seven-year payback.

According to Donald White, Base Energy/Utility Manager, the upgrade to high-efficiency ECM motors reduces wattage and energy consumption, ensures moisture control, and provides better and healthier airflow. The investment was an easy decision for White, given the payback and the need to meet EPAC 2005 and the Presidential Executive Order.

Retrofit projects completed or ongoing at Langley AFB include:  

  • Retrofit 120 VAV boxes with ECM motors in a commercial office building
  • Retrofit 415 Water Source Heat Pump air handlers motors with ECM motors in six commercial office building
  • Retrofit 100 Water Source Heat Pump air handler motors with ECM motors in a high rise temporary quarters building