While the announcement may seem like a lifetime ago, it’s only been six months since the Chancellor of the Exchequer proclaimed a budget of £63m was being made available to help upgrade old, energy-inefficient swimming pools to ensure they remain functional and affordable. David Williamson, Sales & Marketing Director at Wilo UK, says upgrading pumps must be on the agenda to ensure these facilities are as energy efficient as possible.
While the Spring budget left many divided, the additional funding from the Chancellor to help old, financially ailing swimming pools was undoubtedly a welcome boost to stakeholders.
Available for just six more months, the fund is managed by Sport England. As put by Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive of the sporting body, the support is “significant” as he recognises that swimming pools “play a vital role in our communities and are enormously important in helping people to be physically active” (The Guardian).
Getting to the right solution is the key here. While part of the £63m budget is to help swimming pools with immediate financial difficulties, just under two-thirds of it (£40m) is devoted to decarbonising these buildings. Here, assessing the pumps that control building services around these facilities, and upgrading these pumps where necessary, is imperative. Installers will no doubt have a big part to play here, being at the coalface of influencing purchasing decisions and advising on pumps and their nuances.
Needless to say, it is crucial that this is spent wisely. Pool owners have a multitude of options available to achieve long-term efficiency, but pump upgrades should arguably be at the top of the list as these products can be the source of unnecessarily high energy expenditure – notably in these energy intensive facilities.
Retrofitting: Ways to Decarbonise
Swimming pool facilities are in many cases decades old. In extreme instances, some may have been developed before the 20th century, such as Cleveland Pools, located in Bath, which was built in 1815.
In consideration of the age of these buildings, most will be inefficient in relation to today’s new building standards. Concerningly, should these facilities still use old pumps, i.e., pumps with AC motors that work at fixed speeds and in silo to other building services, then they could be consistently wasting energy. Additionally, these pumps don’t offer any smart insights to help swimming pool owners help drive energy efficiency going forward.
Smart technology has been the protagonist to some of the biggest changes in the pump industry. The accessibility to smart technology was made possible with the breakthrough of electronically commutated (EC) motor technology. To demonstrate this, switching from a circulator pump with an AC motor to one with an EC motor can provide an immediate 30% reduction in energy use. The newer pumps also generally have variable speed drives on board too, meaning there is no need to install these components separately in what could be quite small spaces and plant rooms.
Delving deeper, for installers who are advising on swimming pool pump projects, it is important to identify pumps that have had a complete overhaul, as opposed to just a surface level equipping of EC motors. Many old pumps will be inefficient in terms of their hydraulic design, and although most manufacturers may already be fitting more efficient motors, they may still be using existing hydraulic components. Even though this does provide greater efficiency to the pump, the performance levels are incomparable to a pump that has undergone a redesign of its hydraulics[WD1] . In metric terms, the MEI (Machine Efficiency Index) of an old, or altered pump will be very low, most likely between 0.0-0.4 on the scale. New pumps must be above 0.4, with Wilo’s latest offerings achieving 0.7.
So, when EC motor technology, smart controls and an optimised hydraulic design come together, pumps can become much ‘smarter’ and efficient in operation. The result is that pumps can work at lower speeds while still performing their necessary function, meaning energy savings can be increased by as much as 60%.
Smart Energy Strategies
Instead of being seen simply as a vehicle of moving water around a building, pumps can also be used to define an ongoing energy usage strategy with immediate energy savings through smart automation, and installers are at the heart of this.
Performance data, alerts, warnings, and notifications can all ensure systems are well always maintained and operating to their highest efficiency, alongside the pumping requirements of the building. In swimming [WD2] pools, where so much energy is used on secondary hot water systems and heating the facilities, this is invaluable. Data such as heat flow, cooling flow, volume flow is all available from modern pumps, all to help optimise a building’s energy needs.
This data may have previously been hidden with static (or sometimes now known as ‘dumb’) products and equipment. The combination of this data with other smart systems can provide insight into usage patterns. The result is better-regulated indoor climate control that keeps power consumption to a minimum.