DOE Proposes First-Ever Standards for Commercial and Industrial Pumps; Supported by Industry & Advocates

Cooling tower with pumps.png

The Department of Energy (DOE) today formally proposed the first-ever standards for commercial and industrial pumps, which are projected to produce up to $1.1 billion in net energy bill savings from pumps sold in the next 30 years and are supported by both industry and efficiency advocates.

The proposed standards, which were published in today's Federal Register, will cover clean water pumps ranging from 1 to 200 horsepower in size, that are generally used in commercial, industrial, agricultural, and municipal applications. Examples include pumps used in agricultural irrigation, building heating and cooling systems, and water treatment plants.

Pumps on an industrial cooling tower. Licensed under Creative Commons by Cenk Endustri.

Commercial and industrial pumps and pump systems are responsible for about 0.6 percent of U.S. annual energy use - while this number may sound small, it is significant for a single product category and therefore, improvements in pump efficiency offer potentially large energy savings. The proposed standard is a good step forward in capturing the energy savings opportunity from this important product and is the result of a DOE-led negotiated rulemaking that was comprised of representatives from the pump and motor industries, utilities, and efficiency advocates, including NRDC.

The Savings

Overall, the proposed standards will save about 30 billion kilowatt-hours from pumps sold over the next 30 years, equivalent to the annual electricity use of 2.8 million U.S. households, and result in 16 million metric tons of carbon pollution emissions reductions. For most pump types, life cycle cost savings range from $92 to $173 per pump, with simple paybacks under three years.

These standards are also an important step toward meeting President Obama's goal of achieving 3 billion metric tons of carbon pollution emissions reductions by 2030. Over 2 billion metric tons are already on the books from standards finalized since 2009. The pump standards would add another 2.5 million metric tons of reductions through 2030, equivalent to the annual emissions from the electricity used by 360,000 homes in one year.

Pumps would be required to meet the new standards four years after the final rule is published, which is expected by the end of 2015.


A centifugal pump. Licensed under Creative Commons by Kaze0010.

Required Pump Efficiency

For most pump types, the proposed standards would raise the efficiency floor to remove the worst 25 percent of pumps on the market. The efficiency levels were determined using a similar approach to the EU which involves taking an inventory of the efficiency levels of all the pumps on the market and using this information to create a floor that can be moved up and down to achieve the desired level of efficiency, balancing energy savings, consumer benefits, and manufacturer impacts. The levels agreed on in the negotiations represent a balance of all these factors.

In order to meet the standards, manufacturers can either improve their pump models through hydraulic redesign, polishing, or other design improvements -- or choose to drop inefficient pumps from their product line (a manufacturer might make this decision if they have another more efficient model in their line that can meet the same pressure and flow requirements).

The metric for pump standards is called the "Pump Efficiency Index or PEI." The PEI compares the power consumption of the pump to a reference pump that just meets the standard: a pump that just meets the standard would have a PEI of 1, a pump that is 10% better than the standard would have a PEI of 0.9. The standards would apply to pumps however they are sold: either as a bare pump (just the hydraulic component) or the pump plus motors and controls if present. For pumps sold with motors and controls, the PEI gives credit to motor and control systems (such as variable speed drives, or VSDs) that can reduce the power consumed by the pump when the pump is not operating at full speed. This will help reduce energy even further: currently many pumps systems are controlled using throttling valves on pipes, rather than controlling the speed and flow of the pump. This is analogous to controlling the speed of your car with the brake alone, while keeping your foot fully on the gas. Variable speed drives have the potential to offer significant energy savings in many applications by reducing the pump's speed and therefore electricity use!

As part of the negotiated agreement, committee members recommended that DOE also initiate rulemakings for circulator pumps (pumps used to circulate water in buildings) and pool pumps, which were not covered in this rulemaking and represent additional opportunities for energy savings. DOE should move forward on these rulemaking to capture these additional energy savings opportunities.

It's great to see DOE move forward on another efficiency standard that will add to the long history of the DOE standards program delivering benefits to consumers and the environment!