The centrifugal pump has long been the workhorse of HVAC systems, supporting the operation of chillers, boilers, cooling towers, domestic water systems, and hydronic distribution systems. And while practically every other component in an HVAC system has been greatly modified to meet ever changing requirements for efficiency and reliability, centrifugal pumps have not changed very much.
That does not mean today’s centrifugal pumps are the same as those of 20 years ago. Manufacturers have made significant improvements in impeller designs, construction materials, bearing and seal designs, and couplings. But these changes have been more evolutionary than revolutionary.
As a result, many managers simply overlook the pump as an opportunity to improve the performance and reliability of HVAC systems. Building designers replicate designs used in the past in new building designs or renovation plans. System operating practices simply follow past tried and true practices. And when pumps fail, technicians replace them with new ones with the same characteristics.
The situation is changing today. Many advances that have affected other areas of building HVAC operation are being applied to pumps and their operation. As a result, engineering and maintenance managers can achieve levels of operating efficiency that were unheard of as recently as 10 years ago. And while improved operating efficiency is a primary benefits of today’s pump installations, it is not the only one. System performance has improved. Reliability has increased. Maintenance requirements have been reduced.