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Energy Savings

Low-Flow Shutdown Sequence for Pressure-Boosting Systems

By | Energy Savings, Pressure

According to ASHRAE 90.1, Domestic Water Booster Systems must shut down during periods of no flow demand. Operating pump systems when there is little or no demand wastes energy and increases wear and tear on the pump and piping system. While this sounds simple, it is one of the most challenging control sequences for a Booster System.

Domestic Water Booster Systems are used to supply water to commercial buildings to be used in restrooms, kitchens, and to make up water to Hydronic Systems like Cooling Towers. The demand for water will change throughout the day and the pump system must be able to respond to these changes. In commercial office buildings, for example, there can be long periods of little or no water demand overnight when the building is empty or even in the middle of the afternoon when the building is occupied.

Domestic Water Booster Systems are used to supply water to commercial buildings to be used in restrooms, kitchens, and to make up water to Hydronic Systems like Cooling Towers. The demand for water will change throughout the day and the pump system must be able to respond to these changes. In commercial office buildings, for example, there can be long periods of little or no water demand overnight when the building is empty or even in the middle of the afternoon when the building is occupied.

For a pump system to perform a low-flow shutdown, it must first be able to measure the flow demands in the system. Flow Switches and Flow Meters are mechanical means of measuring flow, which can work, but both require proper installation in the system piping for proper readings. Space and piping constraints can limit the installation of switches or flow meters.

System Controllers like the Grundfos CU352 on the BoosterpaQ can calculate system flow using feedback from the pump Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) and pressure readings from the system headers, eliminating the need for additional flow sensors. Once the CU352 detects low flow, it will start the Low Flow Shutdown Sequence by ramping the pressure up above the set point for a preset period. This ensures the entire piping and bladder tank are pressurized before the pump package shuts down.

Hydro-pneumatic or bladder tanks are used in the piping system either at the pump discharge or off the main riser on the upper floors of a building. With a proper air charge (typically 5 to 7 PSI below system pressure at the tank), the bladder tank will maintain the system water pressure while the pumps are off during low flow. Water from the bladder tank can handle a small water demand such as a toilet flushing or a sink being used. Once the water from the bladder tank is used and the system pressure drops, the pump system will turn on briefly to re-pressurize the system and the bladder tank, then shut down again. This process will repeat until normal flow demands resume in the building and the CU352 Controller will operate the pumps normally.

A bad or improperly charged bladder tank and poor controls cause pumps to short cycle during low-flow demands. Pumps will turn off, only to have the system pressure drop immediately, causing the pumps to turn back on. Short cycling pumps in this manner will increase wear and tear on the pumps, motors and piping components, leading to early mechanical failures.

A pump system with a good low-flow shutdown sequence and properly sized bladder tank will provide constant water pressure with reduced energy savings and system wear. As part of a Building Assessment, Cougar USA reviews existing pump systems for low-flow shutdown controls and properly installed bladder tanks.

Older Domestic Booster System Modifications Versus Replacement

By | Energy Savings, Pressure

In Houston, there was a construction boom in the 1970s and ’80s, with hundreds of high-rise buildings adding to the skyline. Many of these buildings are still using the original mechanical systems for HVAC and pumping applications. Potential mechanical failure and energy savings are forcing building operators to choose between modifying existing equipment or replacing them all together.

Commercial buildings have seen a lot of changes in the last 50 years. The push for energy efficiency and a reduced carbon footprint affect everything in the building, from the exterior designs to the mechanical systems in the basement. Low-flow water fixtures, water recovery systems, and improving HVAC systems reduce water flow load profile today compared to years past.

Pressure Boosting System Design has also seen drastic changes in the same time period. Fifty years ago, large constant-speed, single-stage, centrifugal-pump systems were the design standard. These workhorses run 24/7, 365 days a year, regardless of the system demand in the building. This results in wasted energy and unnecessary wear on the pumps and piping. With smaller flow demands today, older pumps still in service are grossly oversized, making them much less energy-efficient.

Grundfos introduced the inline Vertical Multi-Stage Pump in 1971. It has multiple impellers, each one boosting the pressure higher, making them ideal for domestic pressure-boosting applications. However, these applications were not widely adopted in the U.S. until years later. Because they can create higher pressures, Multi-Stage Pumps typically require pressure control either through a Pressure Reducing Valve (PRV) or Variable Frequency Drive (VFD).

A PRV is a mechanical device used to reduce the pump pressure to the pressure required for the building. This is the equivalent of driving a car by flooring the gas pedal and using the brake to control the vehicle’s speed. No one would even think to drive their car this way, but until Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) and improved controls, the PRV was the best method of pressure control for booster systems.

The application of VFDs and Control Systems to booster pumps have transformed them from dumb workhorses to finely tuned Controls Packages. A VFD and Controller combined with Vertical Multi-Stage Pumps will only operate pumps at the speed required to maintain a constant pressure in the building. Operating a pump at a reduced speed for partial load demands creates massive energy savings. Due to affinity laws, power is proportional to the cube of pump speed. This means a 20% reduction in speed is not a 20% reduction in power consumption; it is a 48% reduction in power! 

So can you add VFDs to an old pump system and achieve similar energy savings and performance? Can you teach that old dog new tricks? In this case, the answer is almost always NO! The addition of new controls can’t overcome the underlying issues of the older single-stage pumps — they are oversized and not ideal for pressure boosting. The pumps were not designed to operate at reduced speeds, so adding VFDs to older systems usually yields very little energy savings as the pumps still operate at close to or at full speed most of the time.

Replacing older pump systems with new, properly sized systems with VFDs and controls will always generate more energy savings and a faster payback. For more information or for a free building assessment, contact us here.

Design Considerations for Pressure-Boosting Systems in Commercial Buildings

By | Design, Energy Savings, Pressure

More than 60 years ago, the late Dr. Roy B. Hunter developed a system for calculating water loads in commercial buildings. The estimated water demand of fixtures (water closets, sinks, etc.) is given a value called Fixture Units which have an equivalent demand load in Gallons Per Minute (GPM). The Fixture Units and Demand Load relationship is known as Hunter’s Curve and is still the basis for plumbing system design today.

Hunter’s Curve can be effectively used to calculate total system demand, but it has a glaring flaw. There is no consideration for diversity in the system demand. Using Hunter’s Curve for the basis of design of a Pressure Boosting System results in a pump system sized for all fixtures being used simultaneously, a scenario that will likely never happen. The pumps are grossly oversized for partial-demand conditions which make up 90% or more of total operation, causing poor system control and unnecessary wear on the pumps and piping system. In addition to Hunter’s Curve, Cougar USA uses field experience and data collection for system design.

To generate an accurate demand load profile, we gather as much information as possible about the building. The type of building has a huge impact on the load profile; even with similar fixture units, hospitals, hotels, schools and office buildings will all have different load demands throughout the day and week. Special applications, the height of the building, locations of equipment, and potential future expansion are all factors in creating the right Building Load Profile. Once the system requirements are determined, we must make the right equipment selection.

Pressure Boosting Systems are typically comprised of two or more pumps, suction and discharge headers, control panel, and bladder tank. The pump style, size and quantity and are all dependent on the Building Load Profile. For most commercial building applications, the small footprint and multi-stage design make the Grundfos CR Vertical Multi-Stage pump the best selection. The pump size and quantity will be determined by partial load performance and the redundancy desired. Typically, a higher quantity of smaller pumps is more efficient at partial load conditions without adding much to the initial system price when compared to a duplex (two-pump) system of larger pumps.

A properly sized and charged bladder tank is crucial to the overall performance of the Pressure Boosting System. Based on the load profile and building height, we can determine the size and location of the bladder tank. In low- to mid-rise buildings, the tanks will typically be installed at the pump system discharge. In high-rise buildings, the tanks will be installed in the upper floors, off the main riser.

The last consideration is the level of controls required for the building. Critical applications like hospitals, research facilities and high-rise buildings will require control features like those on the Grundfos CU352 used on the Hydro MPC Booster System. A graphical user interface shows feedback of the system and any alarms, as well as advance control features like Proportional Pressure Control, Reduced Operation for Emergency Power, Soft Pressure Buildup and Communications for Building Management Systems.

To effectively design for today’s buildings, we must look beyond Hunter’s Curve. Cougar USA has made hundreds of Booster System selections for commercial buildings, and not once have we been wrong.

Building Assessments for Energy Efficiency and System Performance Improvements

By | Energy Savings, Pressure


In 2017, about 39% of total U.S. Energy Consumption was consumed by the residential and commercial sectors. In a commercial building, HVAC equipment (i.e., chillers, boilers, cooling towers, etc.) and lighting are the biggest targets for energy savings, but the capital costs for improving these may be prohibitive. There are many opportunities for energy savings and building performance improvements with other systems in commercial buildings.

Pumps are used in a variety of applications in commercial buildings, and 90% of them work inefficiently. There are three main reasons for pump inefficiency: pump type, size and controls. The proper combination of pump type, size and control will ensure the best system performance and lowest energy costs. Unfortunately, most pumps installed today are either improperly applied or sized and use outdated controls.

Domestic Water Pressure Boosting Pump Systems are required any time the city water pressure is too low to deliver water to a commercial building. Mid- to high-rise buildings almost always have pressure-boosting systems, and many single-story restaurants and medical facilities require high water pressure for special applications. In our experience, these systems usually suffer in all areas of inefficiency. Most are designed using fixture unit counts and maximum flow demands without looking at diversity factors and partial-usage loads. These calculations cause pumps to be oversized and incapable of performing well under partial-load conditions, which accounts for 90% or more of the total operation.

Even with the right pump type and size selections, high system performance is impossible without good controls. Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) and integrated controllers will optimize the pump operation to meet changing building demands, only running the pumps as needed to maintain constant pressure to the building. Even with the perfect combination of pump size, type and controls, the most efficient pump is one that is not running at all.

Another key component to the Pressure Boosting System is a Hydro-Pneumatic Tank or Bladder Tank. Bladder tanks are installed in the system piping either at the pump system discharge or off the main riser on upper floors of a building. A bladder tank with a proper air charge is vital to the pump system’s Low-Flow Shutdown Sequence, a feature that will turn the pumps off during periods of little or no water demand. Allowing the pump system to shut down and still maintain water pressure to the building will greatly reduce energy costs and reduce wear and tear on the water system components (pumps, piping, pressure-reducing valves, etc.).

The energy savings potential with Pressure Boosting Systems in commercial buildings is 60% to 90% in most cases. An assessment of a building’s Pressure Boosting System will review the existing pump system information, but also account for the building type, size, special applications and potential for demand changes. Once these factors are reviewed, a new pump system can be selected, and the energy consumption calculated in comparison to the existing system. All the information is documented in a Building Assessment Report, provided at no charge by Cougar USA.

If you are interested in a Building Assessment, please contact us here.