variable frequency drives

Variable Frequency Drives Create Steady HVAC Energy Savings for Hotels

By Gary Fagilde

When reports show as much as 75% of commercial rooftop heating, ventilation and air condition (HVAC) units in the U.S. aren’t running efficiently, there’s a very good chance – about three in four, actually – that yours is one of them.1 One driving force behind this inefficiency is overworking.

Get the job done – and then slow down
Making fans and pumps work harder than necessary can be a substantial waste of energy and can cause significant wear and tear on the system itself. That can cost you in increased monthly utility bills over the life of the system. It can cost you again for maintenance, and even more when you have to replace your not-that-old HVAC unit once it’s worn itself out. Here, an old saying applies: “Work smarter, not harder.”

By leveraging variable frequency drives (VFDs), you can make it so your HVAC system runs only as much as it needs to, downshifting when desired temperatures are reached. Essentially, you’re tying fan activity to indoor climate readings, so when things are already cool, fans ease up, prolonging system life and using less energy, as well as aiding in compliance with the latest updates to California’s Title 24 Building Standards Code.2

While saving energy is important, that’s not the only reason to implement VFDs. In addition to staving off maintenance needs associated with typical drives, VFDs can improve HVAC system performance.

To understand how, let’s look at an everyday example. When you’re at home during the summer, using a fan to keep cool, do you leave the fan on one setting all summer? Or do you adjust it, so it’s working harder on hot days, less on milder days? Or, perhaps more realistically, do you adjust it not by day but just by when the temperature changes, so you can be comfortable?

The latter, right? Because, frankly, the alternative doesn’t make much sense. VFDs take the same approach. They turn up the fans when it’s hot and turn them down when it’s not, so guests are always comfortable, no matter what it’s like outside.

Making the switch to VFDs
Making a change can be daunting, especially when it comes to a system as integral to guest comfort as HVAC, and even more so if the system seems to be operating just fine. However, the long-term benefits of making the switch are impressive, and, fortunately, many of the upfront costs can be mitigated through rebates.3

Additionally, finding the right contractor for the job has never been easier, thanks in part to the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) “Finding a Contractor” tool,4 which can help you sort qualified HVAC professionals by region.

Installing VFDs is not only likely to lower utility and maintenance costs, but it’s also affordable – and relatively easy to boot.

Additional Resources
In order to ensure your business is making the most of opportunities to save on energy and maintenance costs, as well as in other areas, it’s important to keep up to date on industry best practices. For more information on identifying and executing HVAC savings opportunities, you can reference the PG&E eBook, "How to Get the Best Results from a Lighting or HVAC Project.".


  1. Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  2. Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  3. Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  4. Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Get your #HVAC to “work smarter, not harder” with variable frequency drives
  • SMB Blog Author
    Gary Fagilde
    Performance Consultant at PG&E, has been dedicated to enhancing the energy efficiency of its clients for more than 35 years. A pivotal leader in the utility landscape, he continues to help businesses initiate effective performance strategies. Gary always takes the extra step to understand each client’s unique challenges, delivering exceptional quality service for SMBs in retail, health and food service.

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