It is almost inevitable you will need at least one circulating pump for your off the grid homestead. Whether it is for radiant home heating, keeping fish alive in a aquaponic or aquaculture system or making a home-made air conditioning system, circulating pumps are very important.
If you go to your local hardware store and buy the same circulating pump everyone else uses you will be surprised to find out it uses more electricity than many other items in your home. Let’s look at the electrical consumption of some of the usual appliances you will want to operate:
- Refrigerator – 100-200 watts x 8 hours per day = .8 to 1.6 kWh per day
- Hair Dryer – 1500 watts x .25 hours per day = .375 kWh per day
- Front Load Washer – 150-200 watt hours per load x 2-6 loads per day = .3 kWh to 1.2 kWh per day
- Laptop Computer – 60-120 watts x 8-10 hours per day = .48 kWh to 1.2 kWh per day
- Circulating Pump – 150-200 watts x 12-24 hours per day = 1.8 kWh to 4.8 kWh per day
It is easy enough to innocently install a circulating pump for your outdoor wood boiler only to find out you do not have enough electricity to use it.
Let’s look at the specs of a common Grundfos circulating pump used by many:
MODEL: # UP 26-64 F
FLOW RATE: UP TO 34 GPM
The above pump is a high quality and very reliable circulating pump and it can move a lot of water, up to 34 gallons per minute (128 liters per minute). It is perfect for the on grid home owner as the 3 or 4 kWh per day the pump consumes, only accounts for a tiny portion of their power bill. If used for a heating system, HVAC installers don’t want customers complaining about the lack of heat in a particular room so they install a pump much larger than necessary such as the Grundfos UP 26-64 F.
It does not belong in an off grid home. It simply uses too much power.
If you are looking for a pump for a heating system such as radiant heat, hot water baseboard, or old fashioned radiators a better way to go is to use one highly efficient pump (like the units discussed in the rest of this article) per heating loop and have each pump controlled by its own thermostat. If a zone needs heat, the thermostat will send power to the pump until the zone is warm when the thermostat cuts the power to the pump. No zone valves, no waste. To learn more go to the The Best Off Grid Heating System.
Efficient Circulating Pumps
In the past the only high-efficiency circulating pumps we would recommend were the El Sid pumps made by Ivan Labs Inc.
Ivan Labs were the first company to make a reliable pump that only consumed between 3.5 and 20 watts. We still highly recommend anything made by Ivan Labs Inc. They even make temperature differential controllers specifically for their pumps. Very cool!
Today there are many options including battery direct pumps, pv (photovoltaic/solar) direct pumps and 120 volt AC circulation pumps.
We have tried many high-efficiency pumps and have been very pleased with the units listed below.
El SID DC Circulating Pumps by Ivan Labs Inc.
The El SID is revolutionary brush-less, DC circulating pump that has no bearings or seals to wear out or leak. All of these pumps are DC (direct current), made to work with a battery or solar panel and operate at either 12 or 24 volts depending on the model.
The Ivan Labs El SID Pumps models are as follows:
PV Direct (operated via solar module(s)
SID3.5PV – Operates from a 12 volt solar module, consumes 3.5 watts and pumps up to 2.0 gallons per minute.
SID5PV – Operates from a 12 volt solar module, consumes 5 watts and pumps up to 2.5 gallons per minute.
SID10PV – Operates from a 12 volt solar module, consumes 10 watts and pumps up to 3.3 gallons per minute.
SID20PV – Operates from a 12 volt solar module, consumes 20 watts and pumps up to 6.0 gallons per minute.
Battery Direct (connected to a more stable voltage)
SID10B12 – Operates from a 12 volt battery, consumes 10 watts and pumps up to 3.3 gallons per minute.
SID20B12 – Operates from a 12 volt battery, consumes 20 watts and pumps up to 6.0 gallons per minute.
SID10B24 – Operates from a 24 volt battery, consumes 10 watts and pumps up to 3.3 gallons per minute.
The above pumps are perfect for radiant heat (one pump per loop), solar hot water, homemade air conditioners, small aquaponics and fish ponds. Learn everything about Ivan Labs Inc. El SID DC circulating pumps.
Bell & Gossett ecocirc e3 Circulating Pumps
Bell and Gossett has been making pumps for years and is the first major manufacturer to design a high quality, high efficiency 120 volt AC circulation pump. These pumps were designed to be used in a loop as hot water circulating pumps for domestic hot water. Look at the photo at the right.
In this system there is a pipe loop that travels from the water heater all the way to the furthest tap and back to the water heater. Each hot water tap is simply connected with a tee to the hot water loop. The pump operates (24 hours per day) to keep the water in the pipes hot all the time. This way there is always hot water ready at each tap without delay.
It does in fact save water as you no longer have to open your hot water tap and dump gallons of water down the drain while waiting for the water to get hot.
It is my understanding that they were developed for large buildings such as a hotel as the hot water heater might be hundreds of feet from a particular tap.
Some claim to do this to save water and some do it because they do not want to wait the 10-15 seconds it might require for the water to get hot at the tap. Any sales pitch I have been given at plumbing supply stores is the fact that you no longer have to wait at the kitchen sink for hot water. Apparently it is a big enough problem for Bell & Gossett to make a special pump.
There are many problems (pumps consumes electricity 24 hours per day/hot water loop heats house in the summer etc.) for the off grid homesteader (please read comments below) created with the system mentioned above but it does not change the fact the ecocirc e3 is a super pump.
These pumps are perfect for solar hot water, radiant heating, aquaculture, ponds, aquaponics (they can overcome a few feet of head) and homemade air conditioning systems as they are very efficient and designed to last for years.
The ecocirc e3 is a 120 volt AC pump that consumes between 2 and 30 watts depending on the model. We use the e3-4 as it is designed to pump up to 5 gallons per minute using up to 10 watts. More about the ecocirc e3 and how to use it.