Packaged Pump Systems and Variable Flow Pressure Boosting


Written by:
Brian James, P.E. Grundfos Pumps

Packaged pump systems are gaining popularity due to their space saving design, simplified installation, single source responsibility and advanced control options with communication ability.

Packaged means that all the components needed for the pump system are wired, piped and mounted on a base. This compact configuration offers easy installation.

Variable Flow Requirements

Domestic water supply systems have variable flow demands and can save energy with variable frequency drive (VFD) controlled pumps. There is an opportunity with existing pump installations to discover the true state of the system by performing a pump audit. A pump audit determines the consumption flow profile and energy usage that the installation experiences during normal operation. Acquiring a flow profile for an existing system provides the precise data required to design the optimum system for the application. A system designed with pump audit data will lead to a highly efficient system design with lower cost of ownership.

New installations typically use plumbing fixture counts and the Hunter's Curve for sizing the pump system as recommended or required by inspectors or local codes. This method can lead to oversized pumps or pump systems, and does not address the variable flow requirement for the domestic water supply.

Typical domestic water consumption flow profile for a small commercial building

Figure 1. Typical domestic water consumption flow profile for a small commercial building

The flow profile in Figure 1 indicates that the demand increases in the morning and in the afternoon to the maximum flow, and gradually drops off and stops in the night hours. Peak flow is required for three hours of the day. The flow is mostly less than 50 percent of peak flow. In this example, a pump system with two 50 percent pumps would match the flow profile compared to a single 100 percent pump, and would ensure that the system operates near peak efficiency. One 100 percent pump would run near peak efficiency for less than half of the time. This example shows relatively small flow requirements, but the same holds true for larger flows where even more energy can be saved.

VFD-Controlled Pumps

The Affinity Laws state how a pump's performance changes with changing pump speed (RPM).

 Equations

Small reductions in pump speed can create large reductions in brake horsepower (BHP). The brake BHP changes by factor of the cube of the speed change ratio.

Figures 2 to 4 show an example of a constant pressure application with two different flow rates that compares a VFD-controlled pump to a fixed speed pump with a pressure regulating valve. In this application, 116 ft constant pressure is required at 180 gpm and 90 gpm.

 

Figure 2

Figure 2

Figure 3 demonstrates that the pump requires 3.77 hp at 85 percent speed using VFD control to achieve 90

Figure 3

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 4

Figure 4 illustrates a curve for a constant speed pump and a pressure regulating valve (PRV) to maintain the required pressure (116 ft). This system builds 167 ft of pressure at 90 gpm and uses 5.7 bhp. The PRV reduces the extra pressure. However, the PRV wastes energy and requires periodic maintenance. This can be eliminated with VFD-controlled pumps.

If the reduced operating condition was required for 50 percent of the time and operated 24/7, using a VFD system saves $750 in energy cost compared to a PRV system. The calculation is based on a $0.10 kWh energy cost and 85 percent VFD and motor efficiency. A system with relatively low speed reduction (15 percent) saves significant energy.

VFD-controlled systems allow for precise control of the discharge pressure and have other advantages including:

  • Flexibility to electronically "trim" pump(s) when oversized
  • Soft starting of motors (no motor cycling issues)
  • Smooth and controlled performance ramp up and down (less mechanical problems/maintenance)
  • System turns off itself at low or no flow (additional energy savings)

Choosing the Right Pump(s)

Pump selection for variable flow applications is different than choosing a pump for a single duty point. A single duty point application requires the selection of a pump at the best efficiency point (BEP). Pumps have the highest life expectancy when they are run near BEP. Variable flow applications require multiple duty points.

Selecting pumps for variable flow service requires the following considerations:

  • NPSH available
  • Possibility of over or undersized system
  • Pump type-single or multiple impeller

Rule of thumb for selecting pumps for variable flow service is to select a pump at the right of the BEP. Selecting a pump to the right of BEP will allow the pump(s) to stay in the best efficiency range at the lower flow demands.

The downside for selecting a pump to the right of BEP is increased NPSH requirement. In some cases, due to NPSHA, a pump selection at the right of BEP may not be suitable.

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See also:

Upstream Pumping Solutions

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