Schools and universities make up one of the strongest customer segments for energy-efficient electrical equipment. It's a market in which a distributor who's thoroughly grounded in the applications of efficient products can contribute to the good of the community and the health of the company's bottom line at the same time. KJ Electric, a distributor in Syracuse, N.Y., that specializes in motors, drives, controls and power-transmission equipment, has learned this lesson repeatedly in its work with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Rochester, N.Y.

KJ Electric has worked closely with Lou Boyon, director of energy and operations for the university, and his staff to find ways to bring the benefits of efficient motors and drives to RIT. "Our goal is two-fold--cut costs while contributing to the university's strategic mission to improve the learning environment for both RIT students and staff," says Boyon.

Toward that end, RIT recently undertook a retrofit of its heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems throughout the campus' approximately 3.6 million sq ft of facilities space to capture the benefits of variable-speed controls. In addition to the flexible output of variable-speed drives, which lowers energy consumption, the school needed to address issues of harmonics, motor noise and drive-induced power spikes.

KJ Electric's drive specialist, David Sutherland, worked with Boyon and people from Danfoss Inc.'s Electronic Drives division to find the right drive for the job, which turned out to be Danfoss' VLT 3500 variable speed AC drives, a unit with built-in protection from harmonics and voltage spikes that can be programmed to eliminate the motor whine commonly found with variable-speed drives. KJ Electric also supplied 400 premium-efficiency motors to replace motors in RIT's HVAC systems.

The motor-and-drive retrofit project contributed to a reduction in energy usage by more than 1.2 million kilowatts from 1996 to 1998, at a time when RIT is expanding its facilities. It's this sort of work that has contributed to KJ Electric's being chosen as "Distributor of the Year" in North America by Danfoss Inc.'s electronic drives division.