Under the Pump

Friday, 08 March, 2013

Under the Pump

The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (DCCEE), which administers the national Equipment Energy Efficiency (E3) program, has prepared AS 5102, to assess the minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) of swimming pool pumps. Following the release of the initial standard there was some outcry over its suitability, especially in relation to single speed solar pumps. The working group has since reassessed the standard to better suit a wider range of products within the sector.

Following its initial release, a review of AS5012 was conducted by a working group, with over 20 participants. Many proposals to revise AS5012 were received, particularly in relation to solar pumps, which while extremely energy efficient, would have received a very poor star rating.

Tom Boadle, General Manager of Sunbather Pty Ltd, and his team were among the first to raise concerns over the standard. "The AS 5102 committee responsible for drafting the legislation initially proposed that single speed solar pumps were to be included within the scope of the MEPs program. Sunbather believed that this would not only have put the solar industry at a severe disadvantage but it would have introduced a raft of service problems into an industry that has been a star performer in the renewable energy sector. Sunbather gathered written statements and opinions from about 80% of the active participants in the Australian solar pool heating industry and presented the findings to the AS5102 advisory committee and the Dept of Climate Change & Energy Efficiency", Mr Boadle said.

"Given the weight of industry opinion, the advisory committee has accepted that the welfare of pool owners is best served if single speed solar pumps are made exempt from the MEPs star-rating program. This is great news for everyone involved in the solar pool heating industry and it guarantees the continued use of independent and separate flow and return plumbing for solar circuits. It is this simple concept that has underpinned the decades of long success of Australia's solar pool heating industry."

Simon Boadle, Director at Sunbather added, "Even though the proposed inclusion of single speed solar pumps was never going to contribute greatly to the overall energy savings resulting from the adoption of a star rating system for filter pumps it was going to have a great negative impact on the solar pool heating industry which is an already well proven and established sector of the renewable energy industry. If a pool owner buys an 8 star rated filter pump then there was always going to be an expectation that the pump would deliver savings no matter what task it was given. Once a customer had paid for the more expensive star rated pump only to discover that the advertised savings only applied to low flow/low head applications and did not apply when pumping water to roof mounted solar panels, they would have every right to complain to their suppliers. In some situations a case for product misrepresentation could easily be argued."

"Sunbather was very proactive in alerting Australian and New Zealand solar industry companies to the unintended consequences of the proposed legislation and had it not been for the number and weight of responses from the solar industry the outcome may have been very different. I believe this outcome shows how responsive the Australian standards Association is to industry input, however the lesson to be learned is that unless you put your case clearly and effectively legislation can be passed in good faith only to result in a perverse outcome for Australian industry."

"At the core of the initially misunderstanding between the AS committee and the solar industry was the committees adoption of Californian Energy Commissions' blueprint for pump star rating legislation. What they didn't realise is that Australian pool builders recognised very early that the best way to install a solar pool heating system was to keep it totally separate from the pools filtration circuit. Maybe that is why the Australian solar pool heating industry has been more successful than their US counterparts."

In summary the key points from AS 5102 advisory committee on solar pumps are:

  1. There is little or no energy saving advantage in using variable speed pumps for solar applications.
  2. Pumps used on separate solar circuits are to be exempt from the MEPs program.
  3. Solar Pumps will not carry star ratings at this stage.
  4. It will be in the interest of pump manufacturers to develop products that are designed specifically for separate solar systems and be labelled accordingly.
  5. Keeping solar systems independent of filtration circuits will benefit the welfare of pool owners.

In addition to making the single speed solar pumps exempt from the standard, the scope and curve were also altered. The Standard now covers all single phase pump-units that are capable of a flow rate equal to or greater than 120 L/min. The Standard applies to single-speed, dualspeed, multi-speed and variable speed pump-units with an input power of less than or equal to 2500W.

Bryan Goh, Group Marketing Director of Waterco is one of the members of the working group and after assessing the curve, pushed to have the flow rate lowered. "Lowering a pumps flow rate not only significantly decreases the pump's energy requirements, but also reduces water flow resistance in a pool's equipment and plumbing. Even though an owner may need to operate the pump longer, it is far more efficient pumping low water flow compared to high water flow."

A slow flow rate also has the added benefit of improving a pool's filtration efficiency, enhancing the clarity of swimming pool water. Plus, automatic chemical dosers and salt chlorinators are also more effective when the pool water is circulated longer.

"I don't think we talk about the benefits of slow flow enough", Mr Goh said.

Pool + Spa Magazine will keep you informed of further developments of the standard.

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