Change is in the air

23 February 2015

Energy efficiency requirements for compressors are likely to get tighter through the Ecodesign Directive for compressors (Lot 31), commonly referred to as the ErP (Energy-related Products) Directive. Though the details still need to be ironed out, it’s likely that in the near future a significant percentage of the compressors on the market today will no longer be legally sellable – meaning huge changes for the industry. Andy Jones, managing director at Mattei, tells us more


On October 21 2009, the EU adopted the Directive 2009/125/EC: establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-related products (ErP). Energy-related products use energy, or have an indirect impact on energy consumption, and account for a large proportion of energy use across the EU. They also have significant potential to be improved to reduce their environmental impact and achieve energy savings, which in turn leads to economic benefits for consumers and businesses. 

The Ecodesign Directive applies to energy-related products sold in the domestic, commercial and industrial sectors in the European Economic Area. There are dozens of product groups, known as ‘Lots’, under scrutiny, and so far the focus has been on the largest consumers of natural resources and energy, which have the most potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The main focus is on energy performance in use, whether that is the energy the product uses, or the impact the product has on energy use once it’s installed. 

Ecodesign is a framework directive, so it doesn’t set the minimum environmental requirements. These are adopted through specific implementing measures for each group of products in the scope of the directive, or through voluntary agreements.

Implementing measures are introduced after a process of initial study and discussion with key stakeholders and national regulators. They set specific, mandatory requirements, which are then introduced for each product group, usually in the form of EU regulations. 

Manufacturers must meet the requirements of the regulation (conforming to the energy and environmental standards) in order to legally place their product on the market. Where there are conflicting laws in place, they are superseded by the EU regulation, so that the rules come into effect across the EU at the same time.

The Ecodesign preparatory study on compressors – Lot 31 (covering standard air compressors/general industry compressors up to 375kW) – began in December 2012. The report looked at how much electrical power is used by compressors within the scope of the study across Europe, and suggested varying scenarios to reduce energy consumption. 

There are still many details to be ironed out, and the associated regulations are some way off being published. However, if the route currently being recommended is taken it’s likely that in the near future a significant proportion of the compressors on the market today – as many as 40% – will no longer be legally sellable – meaning huge changes for the industry.

So some quite intensive R&D is going to be required. Many manufacturers will need to approach the task through the use of more efficient electric motors and drives. However, Mattei’s use of vane technology gives us an advantage, as we will actually be able to significantly improve the efficiency of the compression process too.

Mattei’s R&D department in Italy has carried out very successful trials on further enhancing the efficiency of some of our compressors. We have some exciting patents in place, which will allow us to improve the energy efficiency of a compressed air system to previously unheard of levels within the very near future.

However, it must be remembered that improving the energy efficiency of the actual compressor is only one part of the picture; replacing an ageing compressor with a more efficient model will almost certainly deliver energy and carbon savings, but the system needs to be appropriately designed, leak-free and properly maintained for them to be fully realised.

Mattei is committed to improving the energy efficiency of compressed air systems, and welcomes the requirement for more energy efficient compressors. We believe this will help to lower energy costs and carbon emissions, making the investment in a new compressor even more viable for end users.