DOE Sets First-Ever Standards for Commercial and Industrial Pumps

Happy New Year, indeed! The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued final energy efficiency standards for commercial and industrial clean-water pumps today, marking the start of a new era in energy savings for this equipment. The new rule will save more than $1 billion and avoid 17 million metric tons of carbon pollution over the next 30 years, and is one of a number of rules finalized by DOE over the last week as it caps off an eventful 2015 for appliance and equipment standards.

(Look for a wrap-up blog early next week summarizing everything that happened related to efficiency standards as DOE moved forward with proposals and final rules to fulfill its mandate while you were enjoying a holiday break.)

For the pumps energy efficiency rule, DOE worked closely with a working group comprised of efficiency advocates, utilities, and industry representatives to develop this first-of-its-kind standard, which is expected to produce more than $1 billion in energy bill savings from pumps sold over the next 30 years.

Why are commercial and industrial pumps important?

Pumps and pumping systems are widespread in commercial and industrial applications. While this standard covers only clean-water pumps ranging from 1 to 200 horsepower, such as those found in heating and cooling systems or drinking water treatment plants, they consume 0.6 percent of all energy used annually in the United States. To put that into perspective, it's roughly equivalent to the annual energy use of the entire state of Wyoming! Despite this large energy use, DOE had not set standards for pump efficiency until now.

Who will benefit?

DOE's analysis found that there was ample room for cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades to this product, which means that businesses and their customers will reap the benefits. Over the next 30 years, more efficient pumps will save about 33 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity -- enough to power more than 2.8 million U.S. households, while reducing carbon pollution by 17 million metric tons.

The work done to update efficiency requirements will greatly benefit end-users in the short run, too: the efficient pumps covered by this standard will pay for themselves in less than three years on average, which means that commercial and industrial customers will save on their energy bills for years to come.

How do the new pump standards work?

The standards for the various sized pumps were set at levels jointly agreed to by industry, advocates, and other stakeholders and will remove the worst-performing 25 percent from the market. DOE surveyed the market and determined the "cutoff" efficiency level for each type of pump, taking into account energy savings, consumer benefits, and manufacturer impacts. Pumps that do not meet the appropriate efficiency level must either be redesigned or removed from the market.

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 the decision to drop an inefficient pump if they have another more efficient model in their line that can meet the same pressure and flow requirements.

The standards use the Pump Energy Index (PEI) metric to provide a consistent way to easily understand pump efficiency. Pumps that just meet the standard are assigned a PEI of 1. A pump that is 10 percent better than the standard would have a PEI of 0.9, a pump that is 25 percent better than the standard would have a PEI of 0.75, and so on. This metric is applicable to pumps in whatever form they are sold, whether they are bare pumps or pumps that are sold with controls that reduce the power consumed by the pump when it is not operating at full speed.

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 consumption 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!

Pumps will be required to meet the new standards by the end of 2019, which gives manufacturers ample time to comply.

As part of the final agreement, the working group recommended additional rulemakings for circulator pumps, like pumps that move hot water through a building, and pool pumps. The pool pump efficiency standard negotiation process is currently underway.

Energy efficiency standards are a critical component of President Obama's climate action plan, which includes a goal of reducing carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons by 2030 through efficiency rules for appliances and federal buildings. It's great that DOE has issued another effective, impactful efficiency standard that will "pump" savings throughout the economy for years to come.

[Photo courtesy of DOE]

About the Authors

Lauren Urbanek

Senior Energy Policy Advocate, Energy & Transportation program

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