When it comes to maintaining a building’s water systems, facility managers are often the first to hear about issues related to water pressure – from showers and faucets that aren’t performing as expected in tenant-occupied spaces to commercial units like restaurants, hotels, schools and healthcare facilities that rely on water to keep their businesses running.
When a property suffers from low water pressure, installing a pressure boosting system can offer a cost-effective solution. A pressure boosting system is defined as a device or machine that helps increase the pressure of a fluid at the established flow rate of the current water delivery system. Pressure boosters for water typically increase pressure from a positive (gauge) pressure to a higher level. Pressure boosting pumps can have simple on/off control, pressure-based control – like a differential pressure switch – or an advanced electronic controller like a smart starter variable frequency drive (VFD) or programmable logic controller (PLC).
Knowing you need a pressure boosting system is only one part of the equation. Selecting the right system for your application is just as critical – and determining what will deliver the “right” balance of benefits for your property’s needs. At the most basic level, pressure boosting systems are selected based on flow demands and budget. Yet these variables are only one part of the equation. Facility managers also need to think about scalability, flexibility and long- and short-term maintenance. If you’re looking into the merits of a pressure-boosting system, ask yourself these questions:
Consider this example: A building owner leases space to a clothing boutique. After several years, the boutique owner moves out and a restaurant moves in. Two years later, a laundromat wants to occupy the space. A scalable pressure-boosting system can accommodate these varying needs without a costly overhaul. These systems will allow a facility team to seamlessly expand the quantity of booster pumps after the initial installation.
In the previous example, different tenants required different needs. What if one tenant’s needs fluctuate throughout the days and week? If a laundromat has 50 machines, but only operates an average of 10 on a weekday and all 50 on the weekends, how does the pressure boosting system respond? Do you run your initial spec against the max need of 500 gpm or the average need of 50 gpm? The right pressure boosting system can help you do both.
An electronic controller – such as a variable frequency drive (VFD) with an integrated programmable logic controller (PLC) – can maximize usage of a system’s pumps at different times. As water demand increases, the system instantly accelerates the motor to the proper speed ensuring the water pressure stays constant from fixture to fixture.
When it comes to booster pumps, variable speed is the best solution and allows you to operate across an entire performance area, hitting the exact duty point you want to meet. The performance of the system isn’t limited to one single curve that constrains you. Instead, a pump-dedicated VFD allows for a range of possibilities. They can help with energy savings as well.
“Plug and play” capabilities are sometimes an overlooked part of selecting a pressure boosting system. However, most people do not want to choose a system that requires an advanced engineering degree to install. With the right system, installers should be able to determine how much water is required to be boosted to the desired constant pressure output, and the system comes packaged ready to boost. They only need to make traditional connections on the pipe circuits.
Pressure boosting pumps that come as part of a complete package are often designed for easy installation, operation and durability. In these packages, PLC interfaces are optional. With preconfigured and pump-dedicated VFDs, complexity is taken out of the equation. Also look for equipment that is wet-tested and set prior to shipping so the only adjustment needed, if any, would be to the desired pressure. Look for systems that are easy to return to factory settings using a phone app or through the provided memory card within the HMI, if desired.
Service also factors into reliability. The less you have to service a system, the more the system is working for end users. This is especially important in applications where constant water delivery is critical such as a system that’s installed in a hospital or other essential business. If a system does require maintenance, how difficult is it to reach and access? When annual or semi-annual electrical inspections are needed, a system with quick disconnects can assure that maintenance is possible without time- consuming service interruptions.
One final consideration that overlays both reliability and maintenance is durability. You want to assure that your pressure boosting system can withstand the environment where it’s being used. Are the controller, pump and motor fully encapsulated if need be?
Any time you add equipment to a building, you need to consider the space it occupies. Whether the system is going on a production floor or in a tiny maintenance room, floor space is critical, and a 200 square foot pressure boosting system is a lot different than one that takes up a few square feet next to a wall or affixed to a ceiling. This is particularly true in locations with expensive real estate.
Anytime that equipment runs, you need to consider how it runs and what that means for usage: does it run hot or loud? Systems that operate in the background – without tenants even knowing they are there – is important. Look for systems that have a small footprint and promise quiet operation. Self-contained systems often win in these areas and offer easy install without a lot of extra time for setup.
Pressure boosting systems can deliver big benefits to a variety of facilities and their tenants. But not all pressure boosting systems are created equal. Some offer low cost upfront with long-term costs that make the system impractical – too loud, too big, too complicated and too hard to fix or operate. Asking the right questions upfront can help alleviate these issues and help you choose the best pressure boosting system for years to come.
As featured in Facility Management’s article: Future-Proofing Your Facility’s Water Systems
Franklin Electric is a global leader in the production and marketing of systems and components for the movement of water and fuel. Recognized as a technical leader in its products and services, Franklin Electric serves customers around the world in residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial, municipal, and fueling applications. Franklin Electric is proud to be named in Newsweek’s lists of America’s Most Responsible Companies and Most Trusted Companies for 2022.