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How Miniature Motors Help HVAC Systems Keep You Cool and Warm All Year Round

Who likes to be cold in the winter or hot during the summer? Not many people would nod their heads in affirmation to that question! This is where HVAC (or Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems come into play. Responsible for ensuring that residential and commercial buildings are properly heated and cooled no matter the season, HVAC systems are comprised of multiple components – including miniature electric motors. While many different HVAC applications utilize these motors, we’re going to highlight how mini motors help power two specific applications: HVAC automatic dampers and HVAC gas valve actuators.

Mini Motors for Dampers in HVAC Systems

What is an automatic damper in an HVAC system, you might ask? An automatic damper is simply a mechanism that constantly regulates the airflow inside a duct; the damper is operated by an electric motor and is controlled by a building’s thermostat or automation system. It's crucial to analyze the below key factors when designing an HVAC system’s external mount electric damper actuator to produce the ideal motor-damper pair:

  • Can the motor sustain a wide range of temperatures?
  • Can the motor parts be customized to endure HVAC cycles?
  • How much force and torque must be produced by the motor and linear actuator to hold the damper in place while maintaining the appropriate level of control precision?
  • Can the motor provide the integrated damper’s required position feedback?

Based on the above qualifications, an excellent motor technology option for use in electrically operated dampers is a stepper motor. These technologies are more cost-effective than brushless DC motors and do not require the latter's greater variable speed capability for most damper applications. For HVAC systems to control airflow effectively, the correct stepper motor is essential. You will therefore need to select from a wide range of stepper motors with various settings. The price-to-performance ratio of stepper motors in the HVAC actuator industry is favourable, and Portescap offers customized stepper motors to ensure that all design and quality needs are met.

Mini Motors in HVAC Gas Valve Actuators

An HVAC system works by precisely controlling and measuring the flow of gas and liquids using sensor and modulating components. A variety of techniques can be used to implement the modulation element, but commonly flow control valves and/or isolation (shut-off) valves are used. In the flow control valve, the valve stem is moved up or down inside the valve body; in the case of electronic actuated versions, a miniature motor and drive system controls the actuator that moves the stem. Here are a few key considerations to keep in mind when choosing a motor solution for a gas valve actuator:

  • Necessary maximum and operating torque and force
  • Speed prerequisites (for valve applications, force and torque are typically needed at low speeds)
  • Maximum available current and voltage
  • Regulating systems (closed-loop control is typically not necessary)
  • Is rotatory or linear motion required for actuation?
  • Anticipated system lifespan before replacement
  • Necessary rotational or linear resolution
  • Total cost of the system

Depending on the needs of the application and the answers to the above factors, three different types of motors can be utilized:

  • Brush DC motors can produce linear or rotary motion by adding an external lead screw (to convert rotary to linear motion). Any positional requirements in either scenario would necessitate an encoder's ability to operate in closed loop.
  • Stepper motors can produce linear or rotary motion by adding an external lead screw. Direct open loop control with the driver is possible in both situations. An encoder is also necessary if a closed loop control is needed.
  • Direct linear motion output with open loop control with the driver is provided by linear stepper motors, which incorporate a lead screw into a single, sturdy package.

Searching for a miniature motor for your HVAC application? Portescap’s engineers are ready to help! Learn more about how we can support you in addressing your unique application needs during the crucial design and validation phases, as well as anywhere in-between, by contacting us here.

Hi! I'm the Global Content Manager at Portescap, where I work closely with our Engineering, R&D, Product Management, and Business Development teams on crafting content related to the world of miniature motors. I have almost a decade of experience in digital marketing, specifically in the B2B industrial manufacturing space - here's to many more years of learning and talking about mini motors!
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