The time has come to address pump efficiency standards

By Mark Handzel

With an estimated 20 percent or more of the electricity in the U.S. consumed by commercial and industrial water pumps, creating a more energy-efficient product is a critical issue facing pump manufacturers. 

Although some U.S. manufacturers have taken steps toward a goal of greater efficiency and a smaller energy footprint, the lack of federal regulation has created inconsistency within the industry. Now, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is following the lead of the European Union (EU), which put regulations in place in 2009. 

The changes are being driven, in part, by an increasing global concern about energy consumption and further supported by a conservation-minded political administration, which has finalized efficiency standards for more than 30 household and commercial products in the last five years, according to a DOE report released this summer. The pump industry has been largely unregulated since the enactment of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, and now it’s time for the industry to commit to change that will improve the manufacturing efficiency of our products and reduce demand for electricity. There are currently no federal standards or test procedures for commercial and industrial pumps.

The Hydraulic Institute (HI), which represents more than 450 pump manufacturers in 38 states, has been working with the DOE on this issue since 2011. HI’s Pump Efficiency Expert Team (PEET) provided the DOE with extensive research about EU standards and other primary efficiency data relevant to the proposed changes. Stakeholders in the pump industry support the government’s move to pattern the new regulations after the EU’s Minimum Efficiency Index (MEI) standards as the most expeditious path forward for implementation.

Indeed, there are a number of benefits to the U.S. pump industry in following the EU path. First, it levels the playing field in the global marketplace. Without wholesale modernization of the industry, U.S. companies are in danger of losing their competitive advantage around the world. Plus, any pump manufacturers currently operating in Europe must already comply with their more stringent standards, so the new U.S. regulations can help streamline operations for U.S. manufacturers.

Second, the regulations will likely spur new product development and promote U.S. products overseas. Lower efficiency pumps will be retired and existing lines will be redesigned and retooled. It’s an opportunity for U.S. companies to capitalize on technological advances to produce a better product.

As responsible stewards of the environment, pump industry leaders are playing an active role in updating efficiency standards. Xylem, one of the top pump suppliers in the U.S., is represented on the DOE Appliance Standards and Rulemaking Federal Advisory Committee (ASRAC) Commercial and Industrial Pumps Working Group. Pumps Working Group members represent pump manufacturers, trade associations, customers, motor manufacturers and efficiency advocates, and were tasked to develop pump efficiency and testing recommendations for the DOE.

After several meetings between December 2013 and June 2014, the Pumps Working Group presented the DOE ASRAC Committee with 14 recommendations, which include the development of test procedures, labels and energy conservation standards that target only pumps designated for use in pumping clean water. While the pump efficiency standards guidelines include pump motors, these motors are already subject to separate energy conservation standards and are not being further regulated as part of this initiative. The DOE proposal addresses up to 70 percent of commercial and industrial pump energy use.

A DOE notice of proposed rulemaking is expected sometime in early 2015, with a final ruling anticipated by the end of next year. Pump manufacturers would likely have four years from the publication of the final rule to comply with the new standards. 

By working together and weighing the insights and needs of the industry from the perspective of manufacturers and other key players, these new standards will reduce electrical demand and improve overall efficiency of pumps in the U.S. Though it is an enormous undertaking, it is the responsibility of corporate leaders to promote and support these forthcoming changes.

Mark Handzel is vice president, product regulatory affairs, and director, HVAC commercial buildings, Bell & Gossett, a Xylem Brand. He is a member of the Appliance Standards and Rulemaking Federal Advisory Committee’s Commercial and Industrial Pumps Working Group.

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