Editor's Note: The following is a guest post from Peter Gaydon, director of technical affairs at the Hydraulic Institute.
As demand grows to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of municipalities, a surprising amount of energy (and cost) can be saved by reconsidering the designs of pump systems.
The pumps responsible for heating and cooling buildings, treating and distributing water, and generating power are often overlooked in conversations around smart or sustainable cities. But when pumps can account for 40% of industrial energy usage, it's imperative for the decision-makers in commercial building, public and private utilities and power generation to look beyond what’s on the surface and make adjustments to the unseen technology that powers our lives.
Smart pumps enable decision makers to collect and share data to better manage the flow of energy needed to meet system demand. This gain in efficiency, driven by the internet of things (IoT), aligns with the methodology of smart cities to more effectively manage assets and resources — ultimately leading to the achievement of municipal sustainability goals.
What makes a pump smart?
Smart pumps are equipped with a powerful combination of Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs), sensors and IoT capabilities to better manage the flow of energy based on demand. These sensors can automatically adjust operations via the VFD, or collect and share data of building or utility management systems — through the power of IoT — to analyze demand and performance over time.
This trifecta of VFDs, sensors and IoT enables much greater system efficiency. The result is reduced energy usage and reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) for the pump system.
In building hydronic heating and cooling, for example, system operation of traditional pumps relies on valves opening and closing to vary the flow rates while the pump remains at maximum speed. Smart pumps can reduce speeds to meet the system demand, resulting in 50% or more energy savings for the pumping systems.
While the tech behind smart pumps is important to gaining energy efficiency, smart system engineering is also critical. There are some key considerations to maximize the energy efficiency of pump systems, as well as tools and resources available to commercial builders, utility managers, sustainability consultants and regulators to specify and implement the appropriate solutions.
Commercial building owners
Owners should shift their focus from asking "Is the HVAC or water system working?" to "How well is the system working?" When assessing the pump systems of any building, there’s usually an opportunity to replace current equipment with more efficient equipment, versus a new version of the same item.
In order for building owners to assess and implement new pump systems, including smart pumps for more sophisticated and efficient energy management, it’s critical to evaluate what the system is currently controlling and the needs of that system in order to “right size” the pump system for the demand. Asking simple questions like when energy consumption is at its highest during the day can put building owners on a path to significant energy and cost savings.
As many commercial and municipal building owners are not well-versed in the engineering needs of the system, it’s also important for building engineers and architects, as well as pump manufacturers, to share information about new options with owners.
Utilities interested in reducing stress on the electrical grid and providing efficiency incentive programs can also look at new pump solutions to meet their goals. Smart pumps with sensors that measure energy usage, for example, can help adjust energy flow according to demand and allow managers to see how demand changes over time.
Instead of enforcing rolling blackouts or brownouts during high demand periods, smart pumps can be utilized in combination with smart city infrastructure to measure and adjust the system flow on an ongoing basis. Additionally, various energy rating programs can help support sustainability goals by enabling users to calculate potential energy savings of new pump systems.
Similar to building owners, municipal leaders should inquire about what pump systems are being utilized and whether there are more efficient options. Leaders can connect with pump industry organizations to assess the efficiency of their system and opportunities to enhance energy efficiency while continuing to meet system demand.
Overall, label pumps and integrated system management can help any of these groups better utilize financial and energy resources and collectively reach sustainability goals.