Opinion is divided among engineers over how effective accumulators are at saving energy in fluid power systems. While accumulators have their advocates, some engineers feel that they waste more energy than they save. In this article, we’ll briefly look at the issues involved and how you can use accumulators effectively.
Energy Usage In Fluid Power Systems
Fluid power systems used in industrial applications often operate under varying load conditions. In order to save energy, accumulators are often installed to store and release energy in order to match the system’s output with the moment-to-moment load demand. In principle, an accumulator will store energy during periods of low demand and release it during periods of peak demand. This helps reduce the overall power consumption of the system, which translates into lower electricity costs and better efficiency. But do accumulators actually save energy, or are they just wasting it?
How Accumulators Work
Accumulators are vessels that contain a gas, liquid, or solid medium that is used to store energy. When pressure is applied to the medium, it stores potential energy until it is released under pressure when needed. A piston or diaphragm separates the gas from the liquid so that when pressure is applied to one side, either side will move as necessary for storage and release. This makes accumulators ideal for applications where quick load release times are required or where large amounts of stored energy need to be drawn on quickly due to variable demand.
Accumulators can be divided into two main categories – hydraulic and pneumatic. Hydraulic accumulators store pressurised hydraulic fluid inside a closed chamber, while pneumatic accumulators – also known as gas accumulators – carry out the same function using compressed air or inert gas.
Are Accumulators Effective At Saving Energy?
Generally, yes: when installed correctly, accumulators can be very effective at saving energy and matching power output to demand. Installing an accumulator in a hydraulic system can result in up to 30% savings on total energy consumption.
However, there is an important caveat to this statement, and it’s important to note that there are several factors that must be taken into consideration in order for your accumulator to work properly – namely correct sizing of the accumulator and proper installation of all components within the system.
- Sizing: Correct sizing ensures that enough stored energy is available during times of low flow or variable loads; improper sizing will result in poor performance and an inability to supply adequate stored energy when needed.
- Installation: Proper installation ensures that all components within the system are connected correctly and work together efficiently; any misalignment or leakage can severely reduce performance and cause premature failure of components within the system.
Using an accumulator that is too large or small for your application, and errors during installation, can each affect the efficiency of the accumulator, causing it to waste energy.
By storing excess energy during off-peak hours and releasing it back into circulation during peak usage times, an accumulator can help reduce your overall system costs while still providing reliable operation, with minimal downtime due to unexpected shutdowns or malfunctions. For support selecting the appropriate accumulator tank for your application, please call Hydrastar today on 01353 721704.