The combination of heating and cooling and water in a furnace or other HVAC product produces a certain amount of condensation. As such, these systems often need a device to eliminate the built-up water produced by the mechanism's workings. Such is the role of the condensate pump, which is used to eliminate condensation produced by latent water vapor in an air conditioned building, steam from a radiator or heat exchanger, or, in the case of the highest-efficiency furnaces, the exhaust steam. These pumps normally run intermittently, draining condensate into a tank. There are variable settings for a pump that need to be considered, including power type and source, flow, shut off mechanisms and size.
Types Of Condensate Pumps
Commercial and industrial models are made using a broad array of materials, including iron, plastic, stainless steel, aluminum and brass. The two main types are sump pumps and boiler feed pumps. Sump pumps are used via HVAC equipment collection pans or tanks, preventing the buildup of water in the machinery by pumping out the amassed water. In a boiler feed system, the pump is a recycler of sorts, closing off a boiler system by condensing the emitted steam back into the water, thereby returning it to the boiler when it is once again heated into steam.
When seeking a pump, you must first be aware of the tank size the pump will be used in, as well as the number of pumps in the assembly. The pump will run on either AC or DC power, and can be operated using anything from gasoline to, in some outdoor models, solar power. A pump's power is measured by maximum discharge flow, which can be expressed in gallons per minute, hour or day, depending on the model and expected usage for the product.
Repairing Or Replacing A Condensate Pump
Pumps usually aren't repaired but rather replaced. While a pump motor can be repaired, it's usually more cost-effective to simply replace the pump. That said, reports of motors burning out are rare. The problems most reported with pumps are not as much with the pumps themselves but issues related to the setup.
While there aren't condensate pump inspectors knocking door to door, there are, in fact, regulations guiding pump installation. The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials develops the Uniform Mechanical Code, which dictates the following pertaining to condensate pump setup: "Condensate from air washers, air cooling coils, fuel-burning condensing appliances, the overflow from evaporative coolers and similar water supplied equipment or similar air conditioning equipment shall be collected and discharged to an approved plumbing fixture or disposal area. If discharged into the drainage system, equipment shall drain by means of an indirect waste pipe (a pipe upstream of a trap, meaning no drainage can be released downstream of the collection trap). The waste pipe shall have a slope of not less than one-eighth inch per foot or 1 percent slope, and shall be of approved corrosion-resistant material not smaller than the outlet size as required in either Section 310.3 or 310.4 (below) for air-cooling coils or condensing fuel-burning appliances, respectively. Condensate or waste water shall not drain over a public way." The outlet, or pipe size, noted above ranges from three-quarters of an inch for up to 20 tons of refrigeration capacity to 2 inches for upward of 125 tons of capacity.
Who Makes Condensate Pumps
There are dozens of manufacturers of condensate pumps, from companies that make single models to businesses with a broad line of products. By far the largest pump product line comes from Watson McDaniel, which manufactures more than 150 different pump models across all power sources and discharge capacities. Other prominent manufacturers include Wanner Engineering, Spirax Sarco, Hartell, KNF and Armstrong International.