In a tropical country like India where energy-hungry common appliances are used continuously round the year, super-efficient ceiling fans can have an enormous effect on energy savings for consumers. So presented here is a fan that consumes less than half the power of an ordinary fan and thus proves to be an investment that saves huge amount of energy and money in its lifetime. It has been designed and manufactured by Versa Drives Pvt Ltd and is currently being sold under the brand name ‘Superfan.’

Superfan with remote
Superfan with remote

Superfan also comes with a remote control powered by infrared technology, which not only provides ease of use but also enhances efficiency by eliminating regulator and its associated power losses.

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When asked what prompted them to design an energy-efficient ceiling fan, Sundar Murugandhan, managing director, Versa Drives, says, “Most people are not aware that ceiling fans in India consume 12,000MW of electricity. With an efficient ceiling fan like Superfan, consumers can save thousands of megawatts of power for India by reducing this demand to 6000MW.”

The conventional ceiling-type fans available in the market use a single-phase induction motor with a capacitor to work from standard 230V supply—these are inexpensive but at the same time very inefficient as well. The main challenge was to run a fan with a motor that will consume less energy whilst remaining cost-effective. The efficient permanent magnet brushless DC (BLDC) motor was one of the options but it was expensive and posed many cost challenges. This motor had the additional requirement of sensors to indicate rotor positions to the electronic drive. Also, an electronic drive comes with the disadvantage of introducing harmonics to the power source which, if not controlled, would reduce the effectiveness of a power-efficient system, especially if used in large numbers as in the case of ceiling fans.

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Talking about the major cost challenges, Sundar says, “This new design involved a permanent magnet and an electronic drive which pushed the product costs up. The ceiling fan market in India is so competitive that it has driven the costs down. So building Superfan at reasonably higher costs was a huge challenge. It also had to have the same wiring and installation procedures so that replacement market can be targeted, and electricians need not be specially trained for our product. We had to invest in a lot of tools and find good suppliers to reduce the capital costs.”

Efficient design
Superfan has an efficient BLDC motor with ceramic magnets and a rotor back-iron formed by mild steel arc segments. An electronic controller consisting of a switched-mode power supply, an inverter and a micro-controller-based control system with firmware to control the motor is embedded within the BLDC motor for better control and protection. This electronic controller detects the rotor position and ensures a reliable start to ceiling fan, eliminating the requirement of sensors and resulting in a cost-effective design. The controller detects the speed commanded by the user by processing the magnitude and timing of the changes in internal DC bus voltage that occurs when the wall-mount power switch is switched on/off. These changes are interpreted by the microcontroller appropriately and the fan is run at the corresponding speed. The motor also embeds an infrared receiver that enables remote control of the ceiling fan. The fan is supplied power in the same way as a standard ceiling fan and hence there is not need to modify the existing wiring method.

It took three years for Sundar and his team to come up with the Superfan and three different patents are filed for these efficient-design technologies used in the commercially-available product.

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It is also interesting to note that Superfan can be used with other appliances to add to their efficiency. Sunder says, “The savings from Superfan are 50 per cent at top speed, but as most of the fans run at medium speed, it converts into more savings. Superfan has excellent-quality bearings, which enhance its life and can be used with air—conditioners to save a lot of money.” If you normally set your AC at 21°C, with the fan running you may set it at 23°C and yet feel the same kind of cooling effect. For every one degree of higher setting of the AC, roughly three per cent power is saved.

Superfan, by design, works in a wide voltage range and comes in three variants, in different colours and curves, with and without support of an infrared remote controller. These variants are basically designed for different applications in different room types. The quiet SuperA1 model is designed for hospitals, classrooms, workspaces, AC rooms, bedrooms whilst SuperX1/X7 models are suitable for high-speed, high-air delivery in individual rooms and workspaces. Also, there are SuperV1/V7 models for wide air delivery in banquet halls, conference rooms, etc.

Superfan is the first of its kind in the market today. Speaking about future plans, Sundar says, “Versa Drives is keen on developing more efficient ceiling and other types of fans and other appliances with energy efficiency and intelligence.”

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The author is a technical journalist at EFY, Gurgaon