By Bill Hooper
What’s new when it comes to boilers, pumps, and hydronic accessories? It is important to take a fresh look at the developing technology of key components, and how it follows what we have been learning over the last few decades.
Examples of this centre around how we deal with supply water temperatures, controls, and pump selections in commercial applications. Our tools are getting better and, as we learn more, we can get better at integrating all aspects of a hydronic system.
One certainty moving forward is that effective mechanical rooms take on a different meaning than simply getting your equipment optimized and effectively working together from a performance and controls standpoint. The more meaningful elements of being effective are about integrating the things we didn’t necessarily pay attention to in the past.
Integration of the components based on a keen understanding of the system and the outcomes are where we get effective, cost-effective, and deliver trouble-free installations. If we take the time to see how the industry is flowing with a recognition to maximize component efficiencies, we will be better at matching and selecting what goes together.
- Effective mechanical rooms take up less real estate.
- Choose to see solutions instead of problems.
- Ask yourself – “what is the best way to approach a particular system?”
- Consider pipe and fitting sizes to reduce installed cost.
- Remember that the mechanical room we like to build might not be the best suited for the application.
- Find out what the industry is doing to optimize key components.
- Investing time in learning means fewer call-backs.
Mechanical rooms are the hub and heart of a hydronic heating system. This is where we ensure the system will operate as intended over decades and match up with the heat emitters. Each part can be considered individually.
Today’s boiler systems
Today’s primary heating appliances are geared towards running low-temperature systems efficiently. This is based on the effectiveness of only delivering the right supply water temperatures to offset the load required by the system. Matching our load, supply water temperatures, and pump flow makes for a great combination, and now we are even seeing the brain of the boiler controlling the pump.
In Fig. 1, we see a boiler that provides a control signal to an ECM smart pump based on its sensor inputs for the system that account for temperature swings and the minimum temperature for its internal heat exchanger.
We will likely see more of this, as system information gets consolidated and sent from a “hub” to control components effectively. In a system like this, there is an opportunity to expand to have this pump provide appropriate flow if a DHW load was introduced to the system. There are great strategic partners in the boiler supply realm, and we will get good advice on selections and optimization for calculated loads. Even something simple like mounting a boiler off the wall on brackets can make for a better installation as wiring, piping, and other necessities fight for available wall space.
Moving water in our effective hydronic system is truly optimized when we match the flow from the pumps to the actual load required. That means that the system needs to be speaking the same language, and aligned strategies are important to deliver system performance. Since pumps can have on-board controls (like delta T) for specific zones, they operate independently at times, but still a factor into component considerations and supply water temperatures.
Smart pumps have the controls we need to be effective, and they incorporate ECM motors that require much smaller power requirements for the same load as an AC induction motor-driven pump. The premium to move from a standard three-speed circulator to a smart version is worth the extra cost.