The relationship between energy management systems and their users seems to be an ongoing game of leapfrog. As soon as an innovation makes systems more efficient or user-friendly, the building market evolves and demands something even more. Yet another round of component developments is on the way, and one component - the direct-coupled electronic damper actuator - appears to promise four things every owner longs to hear: higher reliability, longer life, greater cost savings, and increased profits.

According to Wendy Perna, product manager for Siemens Building Technologies (Buffalo Grove, IL), case studies are suggesting that new versions such as the direct-coupled model can do all of the above while reducing labor costs on a given job by 5% to 10%. Promises aside, here are some general criteria for selecting between damper actuators and creating a successful design.

Determine if it has a self-centering shaft coupling, which may save up to 20 minutes per unit in installation time. Motor life should increase and improve with relief from side loading and without the need for inserts.

Another way to shorten installation is to use an actuator with manual override. This will allow mounting and commissioning prior to the beginning of electrical service to the building. Another helpful timesaver is specifying built-in switches for applications requiring end-switch functions, saving as much as another 15 minutes per unit.

Finding electronics that require less power (say, down to 9 VA) saves energy costs, but it also lowers installation costs by allowing one transformer to power more actuators.

As in the fashion world, accessories can be extremely important. Itemizing and specifying items such as easily visible and adjustable- position indicators or precabled devices will save time and money.

Finally, the more built-in, affordable options that accompany the device, the less need for installation kits in the field, and the greater actuator versatility delivered to the application.