Smart pumps pave the way for energy efficiency and sustainability goals

The growing trend of building electrification means it’s time to look at how smart pumps can deliver energy savings.

By Michael B. Michaud



Although the full impact of pumps in our society sometimes falls under the radar, what has not gone unnoticed is energy efficiency and sustainability. When it comes to energy efficiency and whole-building sustainability, pumps come to the fore and play a critical role in helping facilities achieve these goals.

“As demand increases to improve municipal efficiency and sustainability, a surprising amount of energy and cost can be saved by redesigning pumping systems, says Peter Gaydon, Technical Affairs Manager at the Hydraulic Institute. “Pumps responsible for heating and cooling buildings, treating and distributing water, and generating electricity are often overlooked in conversations about smart or sustainable cities. But when pumps can account for 40% of industrial energy consumption, it’s imperative that decision makers in commercial buildings, public and private utilities, and power generation look beyond what’s on the surface. and make adjustments to the invisible technology that powers our lives. .”

Specifically, today’s smart pumps use a combination of variable frequency drives (VFDs), sensors, and Internet of Things capabilities to manage energy flow based on demand. These sensors will automatically adjust operations through the VFD or collect and share data from building or utility management systems to analyze demand performance over time. This results in high system efficiency by reducing energy consumption and lowering the total cost of ownership of the pump system, Gaydon says.

Conversely, the system operation of traditional pumps relies on valves opening and closing to vary flow rates, while the pump remains at maximum speed. Smart pumps can reduce speed to meet system demand, resulting in energy savings of 50% or more for pumping systems, he added.

In New York, air source heat pumps (ASHPs) have been around for decades, but the skyrocketing cost of oil and gas, along with the impending requirements of New York City Local Law 97 (LL97) , have made the technology more intriguing to some owners and developers. LL97 regulations require most buildings of 25,000 square feet or more to reduce their carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. This, in turn, should help the city itself reduce its overall emissions to similar levels.

ASHP technology remains expensive to install in new buildings, and even more so in retrofits, but the energy requirements of facilities can make ASHP a desirable choice for homeowners. Regardless of the type of heat pump, circulation pumps play an important role as they work like a heart to circulate water throughout the building and increase system pressure.

An example of using the ASHP in an existing building is the Hudson Research Center of Silverstein Properties and Taconic Partners, a 320,000 square foot mixed-use life sciences laboratory and office complex in the center of Manhattan, where the largest unit of this type is installed on the roof of the building.

The building owners expect the ASHP to produce advanced heat recovery and reduce the building’s overall energy consumption, helping it meet LL97 fossil fuel reduction requirements and supporting developer commitments. in terms of sustainability. That’s according to Anthony Montalto, a mechanical engineer and partner at Jaros, Baum & Bolles, a Manhattan-based engineering firm that designs ASHPs and is the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineer at the Hudson Research Center.

Commercial office buildings in New York are traditionally heated by gas boilers, Montalto says. However, the city is moving in new building design towards building electrification, he says. Instead of gas to heat buildings, electricity is now used to heat buildings through the use of air source heat pumps. Once electricity is supplied to an ASHP, this pump uses the building’s refrigeration cycle to produce hot water to heat the buildings.

By 2030, most new buildings could consume net zero energy. But in the game of saving energy, there is no silver bullet. No moonshot is needed either. Efficiency-driven technology tools such as sensors, controls, pumps, and advanced energy modeling are proliferating and poised for widespread adoption.

Pump improvements

Traditional pumps are responsible for comfort, efficiency and durability. But pump improvements are now key to fueling a thriving market for smaller pumps for commercial buildings.

“In the Northwest, high-rise buildings are our primary market, followed by universities, hospitals and campus-style offices,” said Devin Carle, president of Hurley Engineering.

He notes that more facility managers and building owners started paying more attention to pumps when the US Department of Energy started talking about energy efficiency regulations. “It was like someone flipped a switch,” he says.

In the Pacific Northwest, regional utilities, as part of the Northwestern Energy Efficiency Alliance, have begun providing information and incentives for purchasing efficient pumps. “Although the pumps themselves are not a major cost in buildings, they can have a significant impact on the operation of the cooling system and user comfort,” he says. “It’s something that building owners care about.”

For building owners to evaluate and implement new pumping systems, including smart pumps for more sophisticated and efficient energy management, “it is essential to assess what the system currently controls and this system needs in order to “properly size” the pumping system for the demand,” says Gaydon of the Hydraulic Institute. Asking simple questions, like when is energy use the highest during the day, can put building owners on the path to big energy and cost savings, he added.

As many commercial and municipal building owners are unfamiliar with the technical needs of the system, it is also important for building engineers and architects, as well as pump manufacturers, to share information about new options with owners. .

California’s building sector contributes about a quarter of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, and regulators see heat pump water heating systems as promising tools to reduce that. Heat pump systems draw on the electric grid to heat water, and as the state’s electric mix becomes cleaner, they can offer a cleaner, more efficient alternative to gas-fired water heating. natural.

We have reached a tipping point when it comes to push-ups. Many facility managers recognize that pumps may well be the next big thing in building sustainability, energy efficiency and utility cost reduction.

Michael B. Michaud is the CEO of the Hydraulic Institutethe largest association of pump manufacturers in North America.

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