A friend of mine in Traverse City asked about options for powering a pump on his home's radiant heat system. During an extended power outage last winter, their gas-fired boiler was able to provide heat, but without a pump, the heated water couldn't reach the living area. Tall pine trees surround the home so there is little opportunity for solar power without extensive tree removal. My question is if there is a system that allows a manual override of the pump for this type of system? 

Tags: distribution, energy, heat, pump, radiant, renewable

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Is it a plugin style pump or wired directly? For the first I would look into a UPS at a minimum & for the second one (even the first one) a generator that will power essential circuits

Hi Nick,
I'm way out of my comfort zone discussing HVAC, but I have run into a couple of situations where check valves failed to close and the resulting convective flow of water resulted in over heating the affected area. Install the ability to bypass the check valve function. I'm not sure how much flow can be expected and of course the boiler would need to be in a basement below the radiant system, but it's a thought.

As for back-up power, a circulator pump shouldn't require a lot of power, but my UPS (as Sean suggested) wouldn't last very long and since I'm on my 4th UPS in 12 years, they become an annoying expense. All of that electronics should not be needed for a circulator. Since his car will always have a battery that can be recharges as needed, perhaps an appropriately sized dc to ac converter could be used. There's a little more to it, but that would be the least expensive. Just don't drive off while connected :).

Bud

The off-the-shelf UPS's may be far too small.  How big is the circulator pump 1/6th or 1/5th HP?   You would need perhaps a least a 2000  Volt/amp UPS -- and even then it might not handle the pump start loads.   The battery life might only be 20 minutes.  If they have natural gas, a small 5KW permanently installed standby generator that only powers the circulator pump and a refrigerator might be a better option.

Thanks for the ideas everybody. I've shared this with the family in TC so they can do some homework on pump size and configuration. I will be sure to let you know what gets done.

UPS likely has the VA but not the duration. UPS additionally may not provide power quality pump needs.

I like the idea of a standby genny sized to carry essential loads. If NG is used for all the big stuff (range, dryer, water heater, boiler), it won't take much of a genny. Refrigerator compressor will present most challenging startup load. Covering that will leave enough for lights, TV, computing, enough to live a civilized life during an extended outage.

Thinking a bit further out of the box...if the present pump is 240V, and the cost of a 240V standby genny is prohibitive, consider parallel piping a 120 Vac plug in pump or even a 12 VDC pump. Use ball valves to choose between 2 pumps.

A 120 Vac pump could be powered by a portable genny such as one of the Honda EU series. A 12 Vdc pump could be powered (intermittently) using a car, trolling motor, RV, or other random battery.

Another blog on homenergypros discussed the problems with the portable temporary generators... too many people running them closed to the house - with the resulting CO poisoning.  I have lots of UPS's for computers including some 1000VA versions - when you read the fine print they warn you not to run any motor on them.   They are not intended to hand the large inductive loads that you get with even small motors.

A good 1000-2000 VA UPS can easily cost $700,  battery run life may be 20 minutes.  And useful battery life if not abused might be three or four years.

I think you have to ask the definition of an extended power outage.  I figure less than 24 hours -- even in the dead of winter is manageable (if the house is reasonably energy efficient).  It is the two days to two weeks time frame that begins to be a problem.  After the first day - any of the battery solutions begin to become a problem.  

Choices for the solution may also be very dependent on how remote they are from population centers,  the placement of a garage, etc.

FWIW, I've tried running small 12Vdc bilge pumps off of car batteries during outages.  That always seemed a plausible idea - until the outage extends for more than a day - or if you are 40 feet or more between the battery and the pump.  With the longer distances the resistance in the power cords starts adding up, you start having tripping and safety problems etc.  So sometimes it is just easier to bite the proverbial bullet and install a more permanent solution.

Again, which way to go really depends on how critical - the things you want to protect are,  your alternatives (stay in hotel), how frequently the problem (twice a year, once every fifteen years?), and of course how much money you are willing to spend.

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