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VFD Control Panels: What to Consider


When it comes to industrial configurations, one of the most important pieces of the puzzle is an energy efficient installation of variable frequency drives (VFDs). Also known as adjustable-frequency drives (AFDs) or AC drives*, VFDs should be a mainstay in nearly any manufacturing operation. After all, being energy efficient is not only more time efficient, but it also ultimately saves in many different costs.

Alongside this, utility companies are beginning to charge more for high energy usage, and penalties are getting increasingly more severe during these high-stress periods. These penalties provide incentive to innovate and become more energy efficient, which creates a need for energy efficient variable frequency drives and other efficiency programs within the company.

In order to ensure a proper installation of a VFD, there are many areas that should be under consideration.  These areas include:

  • Potential Applications
  • Wiring
  • Commissioning

*Note - not to be confused with VSDs (variable speed drives) which serve a slightly different purpose.

Potential Applications

Due to the versatile nature of VFD’s, there are dozens of applications which VFD’s could be put to use. These various applications can have very basic motor control, or more complex objects such as booster pumps and warehouse conveyors.

While there is a necessity for VFDs in manufacturing plants, it seems that there is a lack of this technology in most companies today. Primarily, this is due to the fact that VFDs require long installation and commissioning, which deters many firms from employing this technology.

By employing products that have default control terminal operations, which match the basic application requirements, much time and effort can be saved in this process. Also, variable speed starters without keypads have been proven to be cost-effective and simplistic, as many drive users would prefer operators do not change parameters with the keypad which could negatively affect the system.

When given a standard plant setup which would later be presented with an VFD into the system, the user will see drops in:

  • Number of circuit protection devices
  • Time and complexity of wiring
  • The panel size (due to the number of components and wiring reduction)


When looking at the actual layout of the VFD in the system, two different layouts are the most commonly used. These are:

  • Line, load and control wiring through the bottom of the drives
  • Contractor-like wiring with the line-side wiring at the top of the drive, load-side wires at the bottom, and the control wiring on the face.

It is the general belief that systems with drives that include contractor-like wiring, such as the one in type 2, are less complex and are easier to wire in general. Using products like VFDs, and specifically, variable speed starters, additional wiring and mechanical interlocking can be eliminated, and the panel space required in installation can be reduced.


The process of setting up the parameters of the drive adds additional time for commissioning and installation, and is most easily completed by copy/paste tools which have many positive functions such as:

  • The ability to copy the parameter set from one drive to the next
  • Able to store parameters to maintain the parameter set for a different application configuration
  • Can be used to easily replace downed or failed drives

These tools can easily decrease how complex the processes of installation, commissioning, and troubleshooting may become.

As noted above, there are many things to consider in regards to the installation of VFD control panels including applications, wiring, and commissioning, among many others.

To consider all of these ideas, it can be helpful to consult with professional control panel builders in order to ensure that the installation process goes smoothly and efficiently. Reach out to us and PanelShop.com's experienced staff can deliver a custom quote for your next VFD control panel project:

 Get my Custom Quote »


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