When a residential property, commercial business or municipality suffers from low water pressure, installing a pressure boosting system can offer a cost-effective solution. Yet, knowing that 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 a user’s needs often goes beyond common specs like flow rate and discharge pressure. This white paper takes a closer look at other factors that should be considered upfront, and reviews several options with real-world examples to help you more accurately size, select and configure the right pressure boosting system for a client’s specific application.
Pressure boosting systems were developed to meet a simple need: in any space, from residential to municipal, water might need a “boost” to adequately do its job. Sometimes that need comes when the application requires a more demanding level of constant pressure: a hotel owner wants to add multi-head showers to dozens of rooms or a laundromat wants to add machines. Sometimes it’s born from growth: if a municipality is serving more customers than ever before, they may need a cost-effective solution that assures consistent water delivery across their service area. Business goals can also drive need. If you own a commercial space, you want it to be as flexible as possible to attract a variety of tenants, especially high-water use occupants like a restaurant. If you own or operate a multi-story commercial or residential building, and your water system is located on a lower floor, you want to make sure all of your occupants—even those on the top floor—get exceptional water delivery. The overall experience often factors in too: from delivering a better shower at a hotel in Denver, to watering crops in Iowa, to creating a dancing fountain in Vegas, you want to maximize the water experience and get the most consistent pressure. A pressure boosting system is the answer.
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).
At the most basic level, engineers decide on a pressure boosting system based on flow demands and budget: What’s the total system flow and how much does the system cost? Yet these variables are only one part of the equation when you consider the life of the pump: Is the system scalable? Is it flexible if needs change? How should maintenance and setup factor in? What are the short- and long-term needs of building occupants and owners? If your application requires a fountain dancing in Vegas, chances are your pressure boosting system has different needs than a dairy farmer in Wisconsin using a system to pressurize the washdown of milking machines. It’s important to evaluate how these questions impact your decision:
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. Can your system accommodate these varying needs without a costly overhaul? The right pressure boosting system can. The key is to select a system that offers scalability. You want to seamlessly be able to expand the quantity of booster pumps after the initial installation should a building expansion or water usage increase arise.
For the Franklin Electric Inline 1100 SpecPAK™ Pressure Boosting System, the ability to expand is a foundational benefit. Both the suction and discharge headers are sized to accommodate the flow rate from maximum speed of four pumps. Even if you initially install a duplex system, and later on hear from the customer that they want increased flow, you can add a third or fourth pump seamlessly. You can add pump circuits easily as well. It provides the flexibility so you can quickly add a pump and be covered both mechanically and electrically. Overall, you can expect up to 60 psi of boost pressure and 160 gpm depending on the pressure you need. Quick disconnects also give you the ability to disconnect each pump individually with minimal system disruption when it’s time to expand. Imagine the time, expense and service interruption involved in replacing an entire system that’s not scalable.
In the example above, different tenants required different needs, but 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) integrated by a 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 pressure boosting 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.
Features like these are standard with Franklin Electric pressure boosting pumps, and part of a complete package that’s designed for easy installation, operation and durability. PLC interfaces are optional and with preconfigured and pump-dedicated VFDs, complexity for operators is taken out of the equation. Equipment is wet tested and set prior to shipping so operators only need to adjust the pressure if desired. Operators can also set the tolerance for pressure fluctuations before the second or third pumps set in. These systems are also 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, municipal setting 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 timeconsuming 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? For example, a dairy farm needs a system that can stand up to extreme temperatures, dirt, water spray and constant use. the building occupants need to do their job? Have the conversation with your customer upfront to understand what’s important to them not only in what the system does but how it does it.
Case in point: Franklin Electric recently partnered with a distributor to provide a unique water pressure boosting solution for a tenant moving into 10 stories of the World Trade Center building in New York City. Real estate in New York City is not only limited, but costly. The engineering firm knew that every inch of available space would need to be outfitted with critical business tools, like office equipment, furniture and working stations, in addition to amenities designed to boost employee engagement and recruitment. Utilizing any floor space for a mechanical room was simply out of the question. In addition, many traditional pumping stations are notoriously loud, creating noise issues that are problematic in an office environment. The small footprint and quiet operation of the Inline 1100 SpecPAK made it the ideal solution for the tenant.
Scalability and flexibility are only one part of the “quality of life” discussion when it comes to pressure boosting systems. 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? Consider the big picture: what do the self-contained system came packaged ready for placement, and was easily installed in an otherwise unused open ceiling area. The water-cooled motors provided for quieter operation versus traditional air-cooled motors, and the manifold and pump circuit piping sized to accommodate a full range of flows with minimal losses from hydraulic friction. Small space, quiet operation and performance all came together for this business owner.
Asking the right questions can help you narrow down the type of pressure boosting system that will work best for a client’s needs. Once you know this, the only remaining part of specifying a pressure boosting system is waiting for manufacturers and distributors to get back to you with a quote, and that can hold up the bid process with your client.
There are online tools available to eliminate the wait. FE Select, Franklin Electric’s industry leading online tool that allows you to easily size, configure, price and quote systems, is one example. This digital tool allows engineers to generate bid specs and quotes in one day. They can choose the type of package they’re considering, load water flow and head requirements, input voltage and other electrical considerations, and generate a quote that includes a downloadable draft submittal with product layout, dimensional drawings and detailed specifications for every main component. The result is faster quoting and a more streamlined process for you and your customers.
Pressure boosting systems can deliver big benefits to a variety of end users—from homeowners to business owners. 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 engineers alleviate these issues and choose the best pressure boosting system for years to come.
Franklin Electric is a global leader in the production and marketing of systems and components for the movement of water and energy. 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 Trustworthy Companies for 2023 and America’s Climate Leaders 2023 by USA Today.