While fitting high-efficiency circulating pumps is now mandatory, Gary Wheatley, Wilo UK’s Training and Technical Manager, believes that there is a huge opportunity around the replacement of existing inefficient models.
Regardless of people’s stance on ‘Brexit’, it remains necessary to get on with abiding by European Directives for now, and for the next two years at least until the separation from the EU becomes a reality. With many of the day-to-day products in use in the heating and plumbing sector being manufactured by European companies, it seems highly likely that the legislation already in place will remain in place well beyond the actual act of leaving the EU.
Despite the Government’s seeming reluctance to embrace renewable technologies with the enthusiasm that might seem to make sense, along with the willingness to plough on with fracking and nuclear energy options, the need to reduce carbon emissions is of the highest importance.
In the world of pumps and pumping systems, pumps will still be vital to everyone’s lives whether they realise or not. Vast amounts of water, grey water and sewage need moving every minute of the day and, on a microscale, every heating and cooling system requires a pump to help circulate the water to bring comfortable temperatures to every room.
Every home has at least one. Once its role and potential energy use is understood, it’s obvious why this was a prime area for attention when looking for ways of reducing energy use and carbon emissions.
Small circulating pumps are a key component of all wet heating systems in the UK. They perform as either stand-alone pumps or as integrated pumps in combi and system boilers, and they keep the water circulating in underfloor heating systems and air conditioning units too. They are responsible for a much higher percentage of overall household electricity usage than many realise, which is why old uncontrolled pumps were targeted by European legislation as a key way of reducing energy usage in the home.
With the reduction of energy use approaching 90% when compared to old uncontrolled pumps, it’s clear they offered a real way of making significant strides towards meeting the ambitious environmental targets set by the UK Government and European legislators.
The ErP legislation saw new demands on new pumps being installed and also in equipment that had an integrated pump as part of the technology. Before January 2013, small circulating pump selection was often made on price.
There were a few high-efficiency pumps on the shelves before the end of 2012, but at a far higher price than the standard efficiency ones. However obvious it was that they offered an immediate contribution to lower electricity bills, the higher purchase price was seen as an obstacle that many would not be prepared to overcome.
From January 2013, high-efficiency pumps were demanded by EU legislation and, as 2013 unfolded and availability of anything other than high efficiency options declined, installers began to buy and install them and specifiers began to specify the high efficiency options. Now, three years on, high-efficiency pumps have been accepted and are being installed in their thousands.
Despite this embracing of the new legislation and availability of the new ErP compliant circulating pumps, the fact remains that, while they are fewer, there are still millions of old, uncontrolled small circulators operating in heating systems across the UK. This means that there is still huge potential to further reduce energy use and energy bills. But, in many cases, it will require the old pump to fail before it gets replaced.
Lifecycle costs offer a compelling argument for replacing a small circulating pump. The concept of lifecycle costs was not new in January 2013 when ErP came into force, but it was something that had largely been associated with commercial projects rather than domestic ones.
In this scenario, though, the additional costs associated with the vastly-improved electronics and the arrival of electronically-commutated motors (ECMs) for small circulating pumps were justified by the lower lifecycle costs of the new high efficiency, more expensive pumps and the huge savings possible over a ten or fifteen-year operational lifetime.
In general terms, the arrival of the ErP Directive has clearly begun to make significant inroads in the energy consumption figures, and, as a result, the emissions figures. There’s a long way still to go to hit the targets being demanded, but the age of the energy efficient pump is very much here.