May 6th, 2022

Uncovering common misconceptions around pump system design, setup and maintenance.

The following article, written by Peter Gaydon, is from the PM Magazine (digital edition) from May 2022.  The article may be accessed through  Feature 4 Pump Myths ( Enjoy!

Think you know pump systems? Think again. From misidentifying the major culprits of ownership costs to taking the wrong approach in implementing variable speed drives, misconceptions around pumps create missed opportunities for greater efficiency and cost savings.

With pumps typically accounting for 40% of the energy used in industrial fluid systems, facilities cannot afford misunderstandings around the technology and its requirements. Whether for food and beverage production, wastewater disposal or anything in between, designing your fluid system with an awareness of the following fallacies can make a critical difference in operational success.

Myth: Installation costs are the highest costs associated with pump systems

Truth: It is often assumed that initial purchase and installation costs are the largest aspect of a pump system’s complete lifecycle cost. In reality, energy and maintenance are responsible for the lion’s share of system expenses. A typical pump system, for example, often boasts a lengthy lifespan of more than 20 years. Throughout this period of ownership, it is likely that 65% or more of costs will go to energy and maintenance, while the original purchase and installation will make up less than 20% of costs. Choosing to skimp on the purchase and installation can result in an even greater disparity in these percentages. Considering this ratio, it is important to understand total lifecycle cost and how purchasing the most efficient pump that is properly selected for the system will cut costs over time versus getting hung up on the initial price tag.

Myth: Pumps are often the source of operational inefficiency

Truth: As with many technologies, efficiencies — and a lack thereof — stem not only from equipment design but also from operating methods. Inherently, pumps offer relatively high efficiencies, however, their operational efficiency is tied to system design and operation. The operational requirements that draw energy, such as flow rate and pressure, are requirements of the system. The pump is the vehicle that delivers that system, so the system’s operational efficiency is directly tied to the pump selection and control.

What does this mean? System design should precede pump selection and include careful considerations around how the setup uses energy, identifying ideal pump size and flow rates. Understanding what level of pressure — or head — the specific system requires, and how it will vary over time, will guide optimal pump selection and control. Once these system requirements have been considered and proper pump selection has occurred, the Hydraulic Institute’s Energy Rating (ER) Program provides a resource to select the most efficient pumps, comparing energy consumption rates for pumps and systems in the marketplace and advising on potential power savings from system upgrades and changes. Using such resources, along with a system-focused approach, will yield the greatest improvements in energy and maintenance efficiencies.

“If and when pumps are ‘oversized,” meaning a safety factor is built in, it is to account for uncertainty in flow and pressure requirements, and sometimes future demands.”   PETER GAYDON

Myth: The technology used for pump systems is dated and unsophisticated

Truth: Today’s pumps are not your grandfather’s pumps. Technology has advanced to make pumps, and their interaction with the system, increasingly agile and intelligent. The introduction of smart pumps creates an adaptive system that knows the pump’s performance parameters, analyzes activity and can adjust pump operations in response to demand. Utilizing these learnings and adjusting the control can minimize downtime and increase efficiency (i.e. automatically changing control pressure setting based on a building’s actual heating or cooling demand).

Myth: Pumps are typically unnecessarily oversized

Truth: If and when pumps are “oversized,” meaning a safety factor is built-in, it is to account for uncertainty in flow and pressure requirements, and sometimes future demands. It is important to consider this uncertainty because having a pump that is undersized for the demand will result in poor utility.  In these cases, close management at commissioning can ensure that unnecessary power consumption is not occurring.

To limit the effect of an oversized pump, implement proper commissioning when the pump is installed and determine if the system can be balanced to limit flow rates, if a smaller impeller will reduce power consumption or if a control setting can be adjusted and still meet the system requirements. In systems that have variable conditions, it is likely adventitious to purchase a pump that includes a variable frequency drive, which can also help with oversizing by reducing the maximum operating speed to meet the system’s actual requirements.

Associated Steam, Air and Hot Water is the Mid-Atlantic’s premier Manufacturer’s Representative for all your Heat Exchange and Fluid Specialties requirements including Airside, Filtration, Flow Measurement, Hot Water, Valve and Steam products.  Associated provides total solutions in steam and condensate, heat transfer, hot water and humidification in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, northern Virginia and northern West Virginia. Associated Steam is a proud to offer products under the Pennsylvania COSTARS-8 contract.

At Associated Steam, Air & Hot Water we understand that the success of any project depends upon an understanding of the facility needs, optimum selection and design of the system, and reliable performance of the system equipment. Established in 1954, our team offers over 200 years’ industry experience, with staff ranging from Engineers to Contractors. We interrelate with consulting engineers, contractors, end users and maintenance staff to ensure your satisfaction.  Associated’s body and depth of experience makes us the ideal partner for all of your Steam, Air and Hot Water needs.

In addition to providing product solutions we offer the following value-added services to our customers and clients:

APPLICATION ENGINEERING: We assist with the selection of products to meet facility applications, reviewing needs versus design

THERMAL ASSESSMENTS: All of our Thermal Assessments include a collection of baseline data to allow a comprehensive understanding of facility systems and performance

STEAM TRAP AUDITS: Test and provide a complete log of a facility’s steam trap population to allow for proper steam management, sustainability, and energy conservation. Provide comprehensive reports on trap conditions, applications, and economic impact.

TROUBLESHOOTING: Use our knowledge, combined experience and industry resources to perform a logical, systematic search for the source of the issues in your Steam, Air or Hot Water system

TRAINING: We offer steam system training with our mobile “Steam Van.”  Programs can be held at your facility or our location. Our training programs are detailed for your specific facility needs.