Domestic Voltage Optimisation- Does It Work?

by Steve on November 8, 2010

As electricians we need to understand and trust the new Voltage Optimisation devices as we will be the ‘experts’ installing them.

In a recent article on the My Local Electrician website, Gary Pratten was asked athe question- ‘Voltage Optimisation- Is it worth it domestically?’.  Gary put the question to Matt Cody of VPhase,  and his reply tells of the results of recent trials and a comment by Oliver Heath, an Eco Design Consultant.  The big question is- ‘does voltage optimisation work?’.

Here is Matt’s reply:

The VPhase device will typically save around 10% on electricity bills and in terms of carbon reduction, this equates to around 4 tonnes of CO2 over the 25+ year life of the product. However, consumers can now go to vphase.co.uk and use the ‘savings calculator’ for a more bespoke estimation of the potential savings that can be made in each property, as this will vary depending on the type of appliances in the house.

We have completed a series of independently analysed trials of our VPhase device in a number of properties across the UK. One of the most recent was with north-west-based housing association Great Places Housing Group. The results from this showed energy savings of between 8.5% and 9% and estimated yearly CO2 savings of up to 180kg per property.

When slightly larger properties are added into the mix, the savings are even greater. Another recent trial, independently verified by EA Technology, has demonstrated savings in electricity consumption of between 6% and 12%. These reductions could save the respective homeowners between £75 and £135 a year on their electricity bills.

The device has also just completed field trials in 50 Scottish and Southern Electric (SSE) customer homes, under the UK Government’s Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) scheme, to determine the lifetime carbon dioxide savings of the device.

In terms of feedback from end users, we are currently building up our reviews section on the website: http://www.vphase.co.uk/Reviews. This most recently includes feedback from eco celebrity Oliver Heath, so hopefully these comments are helpful.

Just last month, VPhase was also awarded ‘Innovative Residential/Domestic Product of the Year’ at the Electrical Industry Awards, which were judged by a panel of leading industry experts from the electrical sector including IET, ECA, BEAMA and NICEIC.

We’re happy to answer any direct technical enquiries you may have, either through mylocalelectrican, or through our own Fitters’ Forum.

If you’re interested in seeing some more in depth technical responses to queries on the device, you may be interested in the following comments on the Forum for the Future’s Gatecrash the UK Energy Sector Project http://gatecrashenergy.ideascale.com/a/dtd/Nationwide-voltage-optimisati…

Hope this helps
Matt Cody, VPhase

You can read the article and all of the comments at  ‘Voltage Optimisation- Is it worth it domestically?‘.

For even more info be sure to check out the Gate CrashEnergy link in Matt’s reply.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Durham September 5, 2013 at 07:13

I don’t know about Domestic Voltage Optimisation but this information was very informative for me.

Jeremy Dodge February 27, 2013 at 17:34

Voltage Optimisation is fundamentally a well established technology and it does work as there are numerous tests and case studies to support this.
The key VO manufacturers have formed a working group under ESTA the Energy Services and Technology Association and we are in talks with DECC and the BRE regarding including VO within the Green Deal Scheme as it is recognised that VO will produce energy savings (10 Downing Street and most of Whitehall already have VO installed).
To date VO has been excluded from the Green Deal is that the scheme deals with the fabric of the building and not appliances and thus this penalises VO as other than lighting most other electrical cicuits in a house serve appliances – so the bulk of the available load that can benefit from VO in a house is excluded under the Green Deal scheme. However DECC are in discussions with us about this and progress is being made.
When considering VO even us manufacturers who have a vested interest would point out that it will not suit all buildings or all loads – some electrical devices work very well with VO and show very good savings, some don’t show any savings and so the installer does need to look at these factors and also at what the existing mains voltage level is, as this can vary considerably, so it is not a one size fits all solution. However if you consider the main applinaces that make up your typical domestic load, such as lighting, fridges, freezers, dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer they all generally benefit by a decent percentage and thus overall savings around 8-12% are generally achieved.
There are some who will say it won’t work, but when you think that through just think about Continental Europe – their mains supply is generally 10 to 20 volts below the UK, they use all the same appliances as we do because the White good manufacturers don’t make a fridge that just sells in France – the only difference is the plug on the end.
In the UK we are running appliances and lighting at a higher voltage than they are best designed to run at – yes they will take 250 volts – in order to be CE marked they have to – but they don’t need 250 volts and thus the extra energy is waste – lights burn brighter and hotter than they need to, all we are basically doing with VO is bringing the supply down to a more suitable and efficient level to suit the appliances, which will typically last much longer as well – especially on lighting.
Also check the features of units – yes there are different ways of reducing voltage, and so each solution may be slightly different, but then look at the safety features – bypasses, cut out, intelligent units which monitor supply and demand and switch on and off accordingly to protect your supply and appliances, so the voltage isn’t dropped to low and then causes a problem.
Marshall-Tufflex manufacture and sell the Voltis range which is suitable for both domestic and commercial applications, we have protable demo units and are happy to give anyone interested a practical demonstartaion of the technology and how it works

tony November 22, 2011 at 20:44

How much do these cost to buy?

Jonathon August 11, 2011 at 13:59

One of the reasons that VO4HOME domestic voltage optimisation is so effective is that the average voltage supplied from the National Grid is 242V (although it can be as high as 253V). So, in most cases, you are being supplied more voltage than you need – and you’re paying for it, whether you want it or not. For more information click on my name.

Dan January 26, 2011 at 18:25

Having tested a few things at 210V (rms) AC on my private home UPS 50Hz AC rig, certain appliances ran exactly as normal with improved (lower) power consumption. Anything containing a 50Hz transformer to provide unregulated DC power to old consumer electronics did that. For example, my old bedside alarm clock prefers lower line voltages and uses less power to do its usual job, and it gets less warm, so that can only be a good thing.

Some newer appliances containing high frequency and switch mode transformers draw a little bit more current if the line voltage drops; these draw constant power IV. These are recognisable by the absense of a heavy thing at the back near to the mains cable.
The control systems in them can provide the necessary DC current at regulated voltages such as 12V, 5V and 3.3V in a modern (OCZ, 400W, 2009) computer ATX power supply. That appliance (a new desktop computer power supply from OCZ) works with low loss irrespective of the normal variation in household line voltage (from about 210 V to 253V rms at the rare extremes). So some new appliances are already set up to work efficiently and do not need external devices to be added.

Another new appliance ( a flatscreen monitor, Hansol, 2008 ) contributed an unexpectedly big meter reading. Dismantling the power supply, it was observed that the designers had saved a few pennies at the expense of my pounds of electricity bills, used a crude circuit with a mis-sized input capacitor by comparison to the needs of the monitor during its normal steady operating condition. Bypassing that badly designed power supply unit, and running additional 12V wiring from the more efficient ATX supply and out of the box of my desktop computer took out more than half of the apparent load of the monitor at the electricity meter. I now have a desktop computer plus monitor running at 90W total.

All of the resistive thermal heat devices (toaster, incandescent light bulb, etc) draw less power by converting less electricity per second to heat. That shows up as a measurable reduction in the power (kW) at the electricity meter, but does not change the efficiency of the appliance and in some cases makes it less efficient at converting kWh of energy in to kWh of useful heat. For example, a dim toaster can use 10% less power by taking longer to cook toast. I’m not sure that you would want that. At 210V my old 60W lightbult was noticably yellower and dimmer than usual, which admitedly does extend lifetimes (though not as much as changing to LED lighting).

If in doubt ask a qualified electrician or an electrical engineer for a second opinion.

If you happen to have money available for electrical equipment, or are planning to do work on your home, it is most worthwhile looking into the types of solar power and solar thermal equipment now available. All of these collect real new power for you to use or sell, and that can be worth a great deal over the 25+ year lifespan of products from all of the reputable equipment suppliers.

Pat November 20, 2010 at 17:23

Certainly industrial and high commercial users will see good savings. Domestic application will be much smaller however if is accepted to have long return on investment and future energy prices greatly rise then it may have it’s place.

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