How many capital investments pay for themselves in seconds? Not many, but that's what Coldwater Seafood Corporation of Cambridge, Maryland, experienced on a stormy November night in 1994. Coldwater had earlier that year purchased 11 USES® Mfg Inc. power-conditioning units. These units were advertised as offering advantages like cutting energy costs, improving power factor, and, somewhere down the list of benefits, superior surge and spike protection. As a test, the units were installed on a limited basis, confined to the north end of their refrigeration plant. On the night of November 26, the plant experienced a "low voltage event," what was determined later to have been a voltage sag.
The electrical damage as a result of the subsequent power surge was devastating. Two of the three transformers supplying electricity to the south end of the building's refrigerators were knocked out, leading to refrigeration unit motor burnout.
The north end of the building, however, was a different story. Even though all transformers were wired-in parallel, and even though the north end was drawing 10 to 20 times the power of the south end, the USES® Mfg Inc. units lived up to their billing. They were able to stabilize the voltage, and save transformers and refrigerator motors from damage. More importantly, they prevented the loss of between six- and eight-million dollars' worth of frozen fish, valued at roughly 200 times the cost of the USES® Mfg Inc. equipment. According to Coldwater officials, "The investment in the USES® units has certainly been repaid, particularly since they have also dropped the KW demand in the north end (of the plant) by 40 to 50 KW.” What was originally projected based on hard-dollar energy savings as having a one to three year payback turned out to be a bit faster than expected. But it came as no shock to USES® Mfg Inc.
In an update to the Coldwater Seafood story, a letter was received recently from the company, noting, "We feel the USES® Units have been a very wise investment and have proved their beneficial effects on our electrical system. We have at present 41 USES® Units in service." Since their potentially disastrous low-voltage event, they have added 30 USES® units to their system. Smart business.