As the world warms up, the demand for cooler air in the home and workplace is to increase. To meet modern demands air conditioning units have changed over the years and as a result, condensate pumps have evolved too.
More than 100 years ago in 1902, Willis Carrier, a 25-year-old engineer from New York, USA, invented the first air conditioning unit. Initially designed to cool the printing plant where he worked, the concept proved revolutionary and over the next 30 years modern air conditioning was born.
First appearing in America, air conditioning is now prevalent in nearly every country round the globe. A report by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory projects that by 2030, there will be 700 million air conditioning units installed worldwide and 1.6 billion by 2050. With the demand for air conditioning higher than it has ever been, manufacturers are designing units that fit with the ever-changing market requirements and demands.
Modern developments With varying applications and environments to consider, the design and specification of air conditioning systems vary from wall, window or ceiling mounted to ducted or floor standing… the list goes on. As well as the installation method, the physical requirements of the units have changed as the market has developed. Performance, style, design, energy efficiency and usability are all key factors for consumers when they are looking to install units in both commercial and domestic settings.
Modern air conditioning now boasts features such as modified fans to attain optimal energy performance, motion sensors to enhance comfort levels, pure air filters to ensure clean air and whisper quiet units; these are all aspects developed from market demands.
Once the first air conditioning unit was created, developments thereafter focused on physicality and performance, rather than the accompanying peripherals. This meant that critical elements such as the removal of the condensate generated by the unit was overlooked and methods such as gravity drain systems were employed, so creating ugly and sometimes dangerous pipe runs on the installation. This traditional method had many potential disadvantages, such as water damage issues, space limitations and inflexibility of installation.
A welcome addition As the market for air conditioning units grew, so did the need for pumps that could keep up with the various types of air conditioning units that produced excess condensate. This development would ensure that consumers were kept happy by removing the need for ugly pipe runs, which otherwise blemished a professional installation.
In the mid-90s, the concept of the mini pump was developed as a way of evacuating the condensate water away from the units without the need for complicated pipe runs. These pumps can effectively remove condensate water whatever the application, whether sited in a flat on the 30th floor of a building, or sited in the basement of an office block. Pumps such as the mini orange from Aspen Pumps were amongst the first mini condensate pumps which could be hidden above the ceiling void, meaning that the aesthetics of the unit wasn’t spoilt by leaking units and water damage created by pipe runs.
In the next 10 years, the market began to appreciate and understand the value for condensate pumps and by 2001, the first ever elbow pump was created. The mini lime broke barriers with its quiet running and easy install. This was the first pump that could be included inside the trunking that accompanied a unit, something not seen before in the HVAC/R industry.
Fast forward to the mid-2000s and both wall-mounted and floor standing units were getting smaller as consumers wanted a more aesthetically pleasing look in habitable rooms. Because of this, the requirement for the condensate removal pump changed again. Condensate pumps needed to fit either above, in or below the unit so pumps such as the mini aqua in 2006 (which fits inside the unit) or the mini blanc in 2008 (which fits under the unit) were developed.
In 2018, the requirements for air conditioning units changed once more. The aim was to meet both comfort concerns, such as noise, and environmental concerns, such as the F-gas regulations.
Silence Smaller, quieter, intelligent and more efficient than they have ever been, the pump industry has had to keep up with the latest in consumer demands. Quiet operation of HVACR equipment is a key specification consideration, since clients increasingly recognise the importance of health and wellbeing and the link between working environment and productivity.
In fact, happy workers are 12% more productive according to the Stoddart Review, which shows that the health and wellbeing of staff has a significant impact on productivity. Key parameters for a healthy and productive workforce include noise levels, indoor air quality, temperature and light.
The next generation of pumps needed to link the innovations of the last 20 years into one product that could not only be whisper quiet, but include intelligent technology that could sit with the ever-changing face of air conditioning units. Next generation products which combine these attributes are changing the market, increasing the understanding of pump technology and the benefits they bring.
Developed specifically for noise-sensitive applications, such as meeting rooms and offices, mini pumps achieve these low sound levels through a raft of design advances including a soft start function, so occupiers will be unaware of the pump gently starting and stopping, offering truly quiet running. These advances further mitigate sound levels ensuring whisper quiet operation.
Intelligence Another evolution for condensate pumps has been a huge increase in intelligence. On demand operation is already available in range of HVACR products, such as on-demand ventilation. Therefore on-demand condensate pumps represented the logical next step in the pump’s evolution.
These pumps are designed with intelligent, sophisticated controls and clever sensors that collect data and adjust switching levels and motor speed, depending on the flow rate ensuring it is only working and removing condensate as needed.
However, on-demand operation is not the only intelligent feature in the latest condensate pumps. Engineers will be pleased to hear that these pumps also offer an option for site-specific commissioning which is available through innovative touch control options.
The next generation intelligent pumps, such as the Silent+ Mini Lime, offer a site-specific commissioning feature allowing engineers a choice of mode for the safety switch, either normally open or normally closed.
In addition, the pump’s touch control offers LED feedback providing a visual operation guide. This allows engineers to check at the touch of a button whether a pump is running and whether the high-level safety switch is operating, as well as offering easy trouble shooting, all adding up to time savings on site.
Installation First and foremost, when selecting a condensate pump, engineers select a pump that meets the need of an application. However, to ensure happy clients it is also essential to ensure a pump is easy to install and maintain. This will help ensure a condensate pump can perform to its optimum performance. In terms of installation, size matters and condensate pumps have evolved to become smaller to keep up with the development of smaller AC units.
Maintenance is also made easy with the latest pumps thanks to a quick release reservoir that means simpler removal for faster servicing. The latest pumps also feature 4-stage filtration, which reduces blockages in the pump meaning fewer call-backs. Air conditioning technology has come a long way from its roots in New York over 100 years ago and with air conditioning requirements and demands only set to grow over the next 30 years, it will be interesting to see what the market can come up with next.
About the author Stuart Newbury is product manager at Aspen Pumps.