Pumps are crucial to reducing HVAC energy usage, says expert

Ronak Monga, segment development manager, Commercial Building Services, Grundfos, says that HVAC systems are one of the biggest single user of energy in commercial and residential sectors

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Ronak Monga, segment development manager, Commercial Building Services, Grundfos.
Ronak Monga, segment development manager, Commercial Building Services, Grundfos.

In a typical commercial or residential buildings, HVAC systems account for around 50-60% of total energy usage, so when we are looking to save energy, this is the obvious place to start. This is what Ronak Monga, segment development manager, Commercial Building Services, Grundfos, says.

Monga says that the focus to date has largely been on chillers, as the most expensive and energy consuming component of the HVAC system. However, this is beginning to change as users recognise it is the pumps and controls at the heart of the system that dictate its efficiency. He explains: “Pumps consume around 10% of the world’s total electricity. If we were to replace the 50% of pumps currently estimated to be running inefficiently with modern high-efficiency models, we could cut energy wastage in half – saving enough electricity annually to meet the needs of 1 billion people.

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“For a typical commercial building, energy consumed by pumps accounts for around 10%-15% of the total monthly electricity bill, so there are major savings to be made by adopting more energy-efficient pump technologies.”

Outlook for HVAC pumps market
According to Monga, business is strong across the Middle East. There is investment in energy saving and a strong focus on sustainability and this means that the outlook for the HVAC market is very positive.
   He says: “Our focus on the HVAC market has seen associated pump sales growing year-on-year, with double-digit growth in each of the last three years. Our high efficiency HVAC pumps are popular with customers seeking LEED and ESTIDAMA certifications, and we are also benefitting from the rapid growth in commercial building driven by EXPO 2020 and other development initiatives – as well as the growth in district cooling.
   “Finally, our investment in promoting HVAC pump retrofitting in existing building stock has been very successful and is delivering ongoing sales growth. All in all, the future looks very bright for the HVAC pump market.”
   However, despite the positive outlook, Monga elaborates on the immediate challenges faced by the Middle East in terms of HVAC pumps. He says: “We are wasting enormous amounts of energy due to poor pump control. Most HVAC pumps currently installed run at maximum speed, even when demand is low. Integrating pump controls with the chiller and BMS control system will allow the system to react automatically when demand changes, maintaining optimum efficiency, even during part-load conditions.
   “We need to increase our focus on the health and efficiency of our existing pumps. With the annual running costs for a pump in a typical commercial building around AED1.5m-AED2.5m, replacing existing pumps with fully integrated high-efficiency systems with digital controls and advanced communication technology is very cost-effective, with savings quickly repaying investment.”
   He says that in the new-build sector, moves to higher efficiency are being hindered by the construction industry’s focus on cost and time-based KPI’s, which leads to a compromise on energy and water efficiency. This has inevitably led to reductions in the quality and efficiency of pumping equipment used. He adds: “Most important of all, however, is the industry’s focus on CAPEX, and the consequent reluctance to adopt apparently more expensive technologies. Moving away from CAPEX to OPEX or Life Cycle Costing (LCC) would highlight the savings in lifetime cost. It would also halt the current CAPEX-driven move to cheaper, less efficient products in the market and end poor commissioning practices on site, due to squeezed timelines.
   “Today, 99% of purchase decisions are driven by upfront costs, whereas the initial purchase and installation costs of any pump system only accounts for around 5% of LCC. Lifetime energy costs account for 85%, and pump maintenance another 10%, so it is easy to see the potential savings from improved pump efficiency.”

How are HVAC pumps changing?
In line with its sustainability agenda and alignment with UNs Sustainability Development Goal 13 of fighting climate change, Grundfos has been leading development of new control systems for HVAC pumps.
   In buildings today, HVAC pumps are typically matched with controllers that are non-specialised or manufactured by companies without specialist expertise. Consequently, they are not designed or tested with the pump and take no account of pump and efficiency curves, so are not capable of extracting maximum efficiency. This is particularly true of chillers, which are generally supplied with manufacturer’s own controls which are programmed or sequenced only to protect the chiller unit.
   Grundfos’ focus on innovation has resulted in breakthroughs in pump control. The new Grundfos CU352 Multi-Pump Controller, for instance, utilises a groundbreaking microprocessor technology to make real-time changes to pump set-up and ensure the system always operates at optimum efficiency. In addition, Grundfos can upload the pump curve and associated efficiency data into the controller’s microprocessor, enabling it to run several different simulations simultaneously to find the optimal operation scenario, and operate the pump accordingly, potentially cutting life cycle costs by up to 40%.
Apart from pumps, Grundfos is also the leading innovator and manufacturer of efficient pump motors, says Monga. The Grundfos MGE, a motor with built-in frequency controller and advanced control modes is certified to IE5, the world’s highest efficiency rating, and can cut energy use by 20% compared to a standard IE3 rated premium efficiency motor.
   Another important breakthrough in the HVAC field is the Grundfos LS, a split-case pump with redesigned impeller hydraulics that boost efficiency by up to 6% and reduce Net Positive Suction Head (NPSHr). The highly polished stainless-steel impellers also improve wear/corrosion resistance, which is important for closed and open loop HVAC systems in the Middle East, where water can contain high levels of suspended sand particles.

Differentiating against competitors
Grundfos’ brand is associated with efficiency, quality and innovation, the company states. Customers know that, whatever their pumping requirement, Grundfos will work with them to provide a sustainable, reliable, robust, high quality and efficient solution.

In addition, the firm’s commitment to supporting UN Sustainable Development Goals SDG6 and SDG13, means the company is working closely with governments, aid agencies and other local organisations to deliver sustainable water supplies to remote and deprived parts of the world.

When it comes to product development, however, it is Grundfos’ focus on intelligent, connected solutions, and heavy investment in digitalisation and Grundfos Internet Cloud (GiC) connectivity, that is setting it apart. 

Monga concludes: “We are not just a product supplier. We work in partnership with our customers from project concept right through to commissioning and handover – even providing support in system design where appropriate. We give them peace of mind in knowing we’ll be alongside them throughout any project!”

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