Reducing Energy Consumption in Fluid Power Systems

To maximize the efficiency of a fluid power system, the restrictive flow controls must be eliminated, maintains Dan Helgerson, CFPS, CFPAI, CFPJPP, CFPSD, CFPMT,  Founder of Perisseuma Energy. Based in Wolfeboro, NH, the company develops products and applications for transforming fluid power. “While a great deal of effort is being made to produce more efficient compressors, pumps, and motors, not enough attention has been given to providing more efficient fluid power systems.”

He notes that in all fluid power systems, the source of the fluid must be at a higher pressure than is required by the load.

“Where there is a single power source driving a single actuator, as in a single pump operating a single motor, the pressure differential may be only that caused by the frictional loss through the plumbing. However, when there are single pump operating multiple devices with each requiring different pressures and at different times, the pressure at the source must be set for the highest pressure requirement in the system. In this case, the pressure differential may be very high.”

When the higher source pressure is directed to an actuator that requires less pressure, the result is acceleration – the loss of velocity control explains Helgerson. To gain velocity control, a restrictive flow control is typically placed in the circuit.

“When you do that, it is like driving your car with one foot on the accelerator and controlling your speed with the brakes. You have more energy available than you need and you must dissipate that energy in some way. If you do not, you are going to lose velocity control.”

Think differently

In his Reducing Energy Consumption in Fluid Power Systems education session at the International Fluid Power Exposition (IFPE) 2023, Helgerson will make the case why velocity control in fluid power systems – whether hydraulic or pneumatic – needs to be thought about differently.

“We have been taught incorrectly so we think incorrectly about fluid power systems,” he maintains. “Until we learn to think differently and realign what we already know, we are not going to understand how to reduce the waste in our fluid power systems. The fact is, it is a very straightforward mathematical problem.”

Attendees to the education session “can expect to come away with a wealth of knowledge and a deeper understanding of fluid power systems,” says Helgerson.

Lack of energy specs

Helgerson says his frustration is that many fluid power systems are incredibly inefficient because they are designed with no energy specifications.

“In all my years of working with fluid power systems, I have never been given an energy spec. No one has ever asked me to build an efficient system. I have been asked to build a quiet system or build a small system with a small footprint and that type of thing. To my knowledge, no one has ever come to us as an industry, and said: Design a fluid power system and here is the energy spec: it needs to be 85 percent efficient.”

Helgerson cited studies done by Oak Ridge National Laboratory that estimated “fluid power use at about 3.1 quadrillion BTUs every year, transferring energy through fluids at a cost of about $100 billion a year. On average, this is only 21 percent efficient. That means of the $100 billion a year being spent, some $80 billion is being thrown away. We need to think differently.”


Co-located within CONEXPO-CON/AGG, IFPE provides an unmatched opportunity to harness the power of in-person connection. Engineers can meet with potential partners to discuss processes for streamlining the integration of sensors with hydraulic systems, all with the latest innovations in fluid power at their fingertips.

Learn more about the show and the endless possibilities that come with collaboration on the front lines of fluid power. Take advantage of discounted rates available and register for IFPE 2023 today

About the speaker

Dan Helgerson headshotDan Helgerson has been interested in energy and fluid power since he was a young child. He has been involved in fluid power – both with hydraulics and pneumatics – for more than 40 years. He has worked with mobile, marine, and industrial applications. At present, he is developing products and applications for transforming fluid power.

He has served on the International Fluid Power Society’s Board of Directors and chaired the subcommittee on Environmental Stewardship. He is the technical editor of the Fluid Power Journal – the official magazine of the International Fluid Power Society.

Helgerson has worked with harvesting ocean wave, wind, and heat energy. Currently, he is developing products and applications for transforming fluid power. This includes the Fixed Displacement Power Controller (FDPC), the Variable Displacement Power Controller (VDPC), and the Pulse Frequency Modulation (PFM) control of fluid power motors.


IFPE’s comprehensive education program is the leading source for executives, engineers, manufacturing plant and operation leads, technicians, mechanics, and other fluid power professionals covering the latest technical topics and trends. Click here for more information.


Mark your calendar for IFPE, March 14-18, 2023, at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and take advantage of discounted rates available and register for IFPE 2023 today


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