The pump industry is preparing to endure a significant change as the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) prepares to implement new efficiency standards. Additionally, intelligent controllers and variable-speed drives continue to become more mainstream, and the Internet of Things (IoT) is defining a new way to do things.

The NEWS recently sat down with Mark Handzel, vice president, product regulatory affairs, and director, HVAC commercial buildings, Xylem, to discuss the state of the pump industry and what prospective employees should know before they enter the industry.

The NEWS: Thanks for taking the time to share your insights, Mark. I’m sure you’re quite busy, given the state of the pump industry.

Handzel: Yes, we’ve certainly been busy. As you may know, by January 2020, all pumps sold in the U.S. must comply with the DOE’s new pump efficiency standards, which took effect last year.

The NEWS: Absolutely. What should young professionals know about the goal of these new regulations, new ratings metrics and compliance testing, and the overall impact on pump manufacturers and customers?

Handzel: The goal of the DOE’s Energy Conservation Standard for Clean Water Pumps is to reduce the overall demand for energy in the U.S. Under the new efficiency rules, the least efficient pumps — 25 percent of those on the market today — must be redesigned to improve efficiency and reduce energy losses if the manufacturer wants to sell them beyond 2020. The regulations target five classes of rotodynamic pumps designated for use in pumping clean water in commercial, industrial, agricultural, and municipal applications.

The NEWS: How will the DOE rate energy performance?

Handzel: To rate the energy performance of pumps, the DOE has established the Pump Energy Index (PEI). Under the new standards, all pumps must have a PEI of less than or equal to 1.00. The PEI is a ratio of the representative performance of the pump being rated over the representative performance of a pump that would minimally comply with any prospective DOE energy conservation standard for the pump type.

The NEWS: Are there any new testing requirements with this new standard?

Handzel: Yes, the new DOE standards require testing methods for constant- and variable-load pumps and their controls. A metric of PEICL applies to pumps sold without variable-speed controls. PEIVL applies to pumps sold with variable-speed controls. PEICL and PEIVL describe the weighted average performance of the rated pump at specific load points, normalized with respect to the performance of a minimally compliant pump without controls.

The NEWS: What else should contractors, manufacturers, and end users know about the DOE standards?

Handzel: It will be important for those specifying pumps to understand testing methods and efficiency ratings to be sure they are making like comparisons between pumps. Something as simple as comparing average equipment lifetime can yield immense savings by noting life cycles for the same type of pump from different manufacturers that might vary by 30 percent or more.

While the new standards will reduce pump operating costs for building owners and reduce carbon emissions related to power generation, they also have a significant impact on pump manufacturers and their customers due to the cost of pump hydraulic redesign, testing, and new materials.

The NEWS: What should young professionals know about advanced solutions like variable-speed drives (VSDs) and intelligent pump controllers and the benefits they provide in terms of reliability and efficiency?

Handzel: Proper selection of pumps, motors, and controls is essential to ensure pumping systems operate efficiently and reliably. Advanced solutions, such as VSDs and intelligent pump controllers (IPCs), are well equipped to reduce overall operating costs and extend product life. VSDs are electric controllers that vary the speed of the current to the pump thereby also changing the operating speed, enabling pumps to respond smoothly and efficiently to fluctuations in system demand. These robust, reliable, and cost-effective solutions help users avoid pump wear and tear of repeated on-off cycling.

The NEWS: What other perks do VSDs provide?

Handzel: VSDs provide additional benefits otherwise unattainable in a fixed-speed application for operations with large flow variations and low static head. Static head, in its simplest form, is the difference in height of the supply and destination of the liquid being moved or the pressure into which the pump is discharging. Many times, VSDs are applied as an addition to existing systems to increase overall efficiencies. When a VSD is installed properly, it extends product life, reduces energy consumption, and decreases mechanical and electrical system stress, which, in turn, conserves energy and water.

The NEWS: Can you talk about the role of pump controllers in municipal and industrial water systems?

Handzel: Pump controllers are the economical answer for municipal and industrial water systems with low water pressure. IPCs provide a distinct role in automating the regulation tasks of today’s advanced systems and are designed to provide variable frequency control of speed, pressure, flow, and level over a wide range of submersible and aboveground applications. These highly efficient systems boost water for customers who need to increase their water pressure when water demand is high or fluctuating. The higher the flow, the more the friction reduces water pressure. This flow increase can be caused by the quantity and/or demand of water being pumped on the water main. As water use increases, the controller changes the pump speed to keep line pressure constant.

The NEWS: Can you talk a little bit more about the Internet of Things (IoT) and its role in the industry?

Handzel: The global reduction in energy consumption and carbon emissions is being aided by the use of smart technology and connectivity through the IoT — a host of devices and applications that can monitor the status of physical objects and collect and exchange meaningful data.

There are more possibilities within current IoT applications to build upon efficiencies to enhance the building user experience or, when applied more broadly, distribute energy more efficiently within a future smart city. Creating value for customers from IoT technology will drive further advances in building management systems (BMS). Monitoring individual functions will give way to a fully integrated BMS, increasing communication at the device level to analyze information and quickly make decisions with minimal or no manual involvement. In this scenario, not only do all components in a pumping system work together to optimize system performance, the pump system is coordinated with other systems to improve efficiencies. Using BMS data and combining it with environmental data on temperature and weather conditions, for instance, could inform what adjustments are necessary for HVAC and lighting systems on a given day, making it more comfortable for building occupants and resulting in lower energy bills.

The NEWS: What predictive role does monitoring play in the IoT landscape?

Handzel: IoT monitoring offers the ability to predict and diagnose equipment and system problems, so building managers can schedule planned outages for maintenance rather than being surprised by equipment failure. This can extend equipment life and lower life cycle costs. BMS data also can be used to further enhance sustainability efforts by tracking and then analyzing information to result in more efficient management of systems and meet goals to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.

The NEWS: What opportunities should young professionals pursue outside of regular office hours?

Handzel: The water technology industry is constantly changing. As increasingly complex technologies are integrated into HVAC and plumbing system design, prospective employees must be well educated on basic processes as well as technological advancements that affect systems and design. Though many of the fundamentals of system design remain constant, new products and technologies mean new ways of doing things, more accurate specification tools, and new opportunities for learning. Well-informed young professionals can better serve their customers by making decisions that save energy, reduce maintenance, and extend product life. Fortunately, today there is no shortage of continuing education opportunities to help young professionals stay current with the latest developments and new technologies. Flexible programming is offered in a variety of formats from traditional classroom training to online instruction to accommodate work schedules and personal obligations. Xylem’s Bell & Gossett brand offers both in-person and online training through its Little Red Schoolhouse and online. Professional groups are another powerful tool to build work relationships, gain industry knowledge, and further career goals. Whether it’s joining an industry professional organization or attending a conference, networking offers ample opportunities to meet a mentor or to expand your knowledge within the field.   

Publication date: 5/22/2017

Want more HVAC industry news and information? Join The NEWS on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn today!