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VLT Frequency Converters

I Introduction The human ear has a theoretical audible range from 16Hz to 20kHz. For most parts of the adult population, this range is more narrow, typically noise up to 10-14kHz will be detected. The curve below show the sensitivenes of the human. As it can be seen from the curve, the human ear is more sensitive to noise from 2 kHz to 6 kHz.

Since the low frequency noise is almost always generated in a narrow band around one and two times the switching frequency. The second most obvious way is to change the switching frequency of out of the sensitive range, by either moving it up or down. Lowering the switching frequency is not a good solution, since the current and voltage wave form would be completely distorted and the creation of a near sinusoidal voltage waveform would be impossible. This means that the ability to control the motor would be reduced drastically. I Noise Reduction Techniques Four different techniques will be compared to give as complete a comparison as possible. G High fixed switching frequency G Automatic Switching Frequency Modulation (ASFM) G Random Switching Frequency G LC output filter

In order to generate a variable frequency most PWM or VVC controlled drives have a switching frequency of 2 to 6 kHz. This switching frequency is often transmitted as audible noise by the motor. As can be seen from the above curve, this is within the range, where the human ear is the most sensitive and where even low noise levels are often detected. Since it is a high frequency noise, most people find it very anoying, simply because high frequency noises are difficult to mask and because they can be heard even at a distance from the source. I The Cause of Acoustic noise Acoustic noise when operating a motor with a PWM drive is generated by low frequency distortion. This noise causes ressonance in the motors stator and cooling ribs at the drives switching frequency. These mechanical ressonances cause the motor to act as a loud speaker. If the drive operate at low switching frequencies this noise is audible to the human ear. It would be the optimum solution to eliminate this low frequency electrical noise in the drives output voltage, but that is unfortunately not possible , without adding passive components in the output of the drive.

MC.60.B1.02 - VLT is a registered Danfoss trademark

VLT Frequency Converters

I Fixed High Switching Frequency A high fixed switching frequency (12-20 kHz) is the traditional way of reducing acoustic noise in the motor. This approach however has a lot of disadvantages. Some of these are mentioned below: 1. Increased Radio Frequency Interference 2. Increasing leakage currents, mainly due to a larger RFI filter. 3. Increased power losses, which generates additional heating in the drive. 4. Increased risk of motor insulation damages Increased Radio Frequency Interference means that you have to use a larger and more expensive RFI filter. This will increase your leakage current, as well as increase the cost of the drive.

Indexed Output Losses

140% 120% 100% 80% Distortion 60% 40% 20% 0% 2 4,5 6 9 12 14 kHz Inverter Motor

Losses Relative to Total Loss

Distortion Inverter

Increasing leakage currents give rise to installation problems with respect to protection against fire and personal hazards, as the Residual Current Devices (RCD) used for this are difficult to use according to regulations. Increased power losses generate additional heating the drive, which will either reduce the lifetime of the drive or require larger components to be installed. More importantly, however, this means that if the same drive was operating at a lower switching frequency, it would be able to operate the same motor at lower energy cost or even operate a larger motor. International investigations have shown that the motor losses are not influenced by the switching frequency. It has further been found, that a switching frequency around 4kHz wil give the lowest losses in the inverter and that even though the voltage distortion losses are higher at the low frequencies, the overall efficiency is highest in the range from 2 to 4,5 kHz. See figures in the next column.

90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 2 4,5



14 kHz

Since the ressonance noise is set off at multiples of the switching frequency is prefered to keep the switching frequency at 4,5 kHz as standard to reduce energy concumption and avoid too many ressonance frequencies.

I Automatic Switching Frequency Modulation (ASFM) ASFM is an advanced technique implemented in the VLT 6000 HVAC. Using ASFM, the switching frequency will be adjusted to the programmed maximum switching frequency, when ever the load is below 60% of full load. Pump and fan applications have a variable torque characteristic, which means, that the load reaches 60% at 80% speed. Therefore it is possible to maintain a high switching frequency at most times, without having to oversize the drive.

The fact that the switching frequency is highest at low load means that impact on the efficiency of the electrical system will be very limited compared to that of a fixed high switching frequency. In addition, the total losses are reduced, since the average low frequency distortion power loss in the motor cable is maintained at low levels, thus assisting in keeping the energy bill down. Further, the compliance with requirements for Radio Frequency Interferences is not affected as much, as it would be if using a fixed high switching frequency.

MC.60.B1.02 - VLT is a registered Danfoss trademark

VLT Frequency Converters

The only obstacle which remains is the increased leakage current which is not load dependant, but solely a result of currents generated in the intermediate circuit of the drive and dependant on the switching frequency. The highest levels of leakage current will however only be present below 60% load. Therefore ASFM is still superior to high fixed switching frequency. An argument against this technique is of course that audible noise is still generated between 50% and 100% of maximum load. However, in most pump and fan applications, the normal acoustic noise level generated by mechanical vibrations in the installation at full speed are much higher than at 50% speed. The noise generated by the switching frequency will therefore be disguised by the audible noise of the system. The formula below shows the increase in noise level in a fan system. 55 Log (speed1/speed2) => 55 Log (1500/750) = 55 x 0,33 = 16,5 dBA Danfoss believes that modulating the switching frequency relative to the load is a better compromise in HVAC applications, than permantently increasing the switching frequency. I Random Switching Frequency Random switching frequency is also known as white noise. This approach does also not require derating of the drive. A continuous alteration of the switching frequency within a band around a base switching frequency is implemented. The major disadvantage of this technique is that the motor sounds as if a bearing is failing. This sound is different from the fixed switching frequency, but not less annoying to most people. I LC output filter An LC filter can be mounted in the output of the drive. This filter generate a pure sine wave voltage. Since the low frequency distortion this way is completely eliminated, the noise induced to the motor is also completely eliminated. This also means that the motor operation in general is improved, such that in most applications there is no difference for the motor between operating direct on line or operating on the drive. In some installation a lot of commutation notches occur in the mains voltage, these notches can cause the motor to give a poor torque performance and it might even damage the motor. Installing a VLT 6000 HVAC with an LC output filter, will completely eliminate these notches from the motor. The VLT 6000 HVAC is designed to withstand these notches and the operation of a VLT 6000 HVAC is not affected by them. Unfortunately there are some disadvantages: 1. The noise is not removed from the system, just moved to the LC filter instead. 2. A small voltage drop is introduced between the drive and the motor. 3. Increased installation cost, as the LC filter is an add-on cost. I Automatic Energy Optimiser When the voltage/frequency (u/f) ratio is higher than the optimum, the motor generates more noise due to over-magnetisation of the stator. Optimising the u/f ratio will therefore help reduce the acoustic motor noise. The VLT 6000 HVAC has a built-in Automatic Energy Optimiser, which automatically adjusts the u/f ratio according to the load on the motor. The primary target of this was to reduce the power consumption used to operate the motor, but a side effect is that the acoustic noise is reduced by up to 3 dBA; dependant on the degree of the over-magnetisation of the motor.

MC.60.B1.02 - VLT is a registered Danfoss trademark

VLT Frequency Converters

I Motor Design Influences It should be noticed that the noise generated by the motor is dependant on the motors design and the accuracy of its construction. Investigations have shown that different motor designs respond differently to the same levels of over harmonic currents. Two motors are being compared here. For motor number one, the audible noise around the switching frequency was less audible than around two times the switching frequency. For motor number two on the other hand, the audible noise around two times the switching frequency was the least audible. The main difference between the two motors was that

motor number one had few, but long, cooling ribs, whereas motor number two had many short cooling ribs. Other investigations have indicated that a smaller air gap between the stator and rotor will also help reduce the motor noise level. These investigations are not as well documented as the above mentioned design issue, however. Investigations of multiple motor brands and sizes has lead to the conclusion that there is not one motor manufacturer who has the optimum design to reduce noise levels. The best motor make varies dependant on the motor size. It has therefore not been possible to isolate all relevant parameters in the motor design.

I Cost and Benefits The diagram below give an indication of how the different techniques compare.

Comparison btw Noise Reduction Techniques



4,5 kHz

ASFM White Noise


High Switching Frequency LC filter



Noise level



IGBT losses

It is clear, that LC filter or high switching frequency gives the best result on noise reduction. High switcing frequency does however cause not only an increase in production costs and there by in the price of the drive. It also increases the losses in the system, causes higher dU/dt levels and increased radio frequency interferences (RFI). Only disadvantage of using the LC filter is the increased price.

White noise would have been an excelent solution, if it did not cause the motor to sound as if it had defective bearings. ASFM is a better solution than a fixed low switching frequency and only adds a little to the system losses at the same investment.

MC.60.B1.02 - VLT is a registered Danfoss trademark