Home and Garden

Smart pumps are a smart investment

Courtesy of Efficiency Vermont

Sandy LaFlamme

By Sandy LaFlamme, Efficiency Vermont

I’ve been working with a K-12 school for almost a year now. My main contact there is an electrician who also happens to be a parent, and he’s always looking for ways to reduce their energy costs. A while back, I brought up the idea of high-performance circulator pumps—often called smart pumps—which are relatively new to the market and very promising in terms of energy efficiency.

He was cautious about moving forward with such a new technology, but then the school’s existing pumps were damaged during a transformer fire; presenting the perfect opportunity for an upgrade. The electrician worked with key decision makers, Efficiency Vermont offered some financial assistance, and the school decided to go ahead and upgrade to the energy-efficient pumps.

What is a high-performance circulator pump?

Circulator pumps are used in tandem with hot water boilers, to help move heated water throughout a building. Anyone who has baseboard heat or a boiler system of any kind has at least one pump in use, and often more, depending on building size.

Traditional pumps operate at one single speed, providing a constant rate of circulation. High performance circulator pumps run only as much as needed, ramping up or down as required.

Smart pumps require far less maintenance than traditional pumps—this can be a huge cost savings. It also means you’re less likely to have to cancel school or ask people to suffer through the cold while the pumps get fixed. High performance circulator pumps have also been shown to save a significant amount of energy—in some cases as much as 90 percent!

So far the school is saving between 40 and 60 percent on circulator pump electricity costs, and the technician will continue to evaluate pump performance and optimize their controls. Every building is different, as are the activities it houses, and in order to perform at their best these pumps need to be adjusted a few times post-installation.

Up until now Efficiency Vermont has been cautiously optimistic about the capabilities of smart pumps, but after a rigorous pilot study last year and additional case studies like this one, we can say with confidence that these pumps are pretty fantastic!

We have learned that it is important to get them properly installed, and to have your installer come back once or twice to evaluate their performance and tweak the controls accordingly.

Customized savings estimates will help clients know how much energy and money they could be saving and when to expect a return on your investment.

Sandy LaFlamme helps business owners across Vermont improve the energy efficiency and effectiveness of their building systems and helps them take full advantage of all Efficiency Vermont has to offer through incentives and strategic planning. For more info, www.efficiencyvermont.com/business.

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