Alma College has replaced 45 circulating pumps in its boiler heating system, saving approximately $90,000 in energy costs per year.The turnaround was led by Alma College Energy Engineer Brandon Smith. Brandon didn’t have a background in energy when he started his position at the college, which turned out to be an enormous advantage. As he examined the college’s energy system, he broke all the rules, bringing in a fresh approach to facilities management. He started by utilizing the Macomb Energy Resource Integration Team (M.E.R.I.T.) to identify potential system savings. M.E.R.I.T. took a whole system approach to analyzing how the college could reduce energy costs — and the findings were significant.

ECM: Cutting-edge technology for lowering total costs
“We’re looking at things from a system perspective instead of a component perspective,” says Jeff Turner of Systecore, one of The Macomb Group’s M.E.R.I.T. energy analysis partners. “Pump people want to sell bigger pumps, boiler people want to sell bigger boilers. We stand back and look at system conditions. We emphasize your energy footprint — the cost per square foot for energy use.”

And just how significant are Alma College’s system changes? “Alma College is now down to 93 cents a square foot. It’s impressive,” says Jeff.

The Macomb Group determined that energy costs could be greatly reduced if the college replaced the circulating pumps in its boiler system with an ECM-controlled Wilo Stratus pump. Most pumps in boiler systems run at one set speed; ECM technology enables the pump to run at variable speeds determined by the pressure inside the system, which changes based on the outside temperature. This solution allows the college to use only the energy it needs rather than continually operating at full blast.

“When you let a boiler system run wide open with a higher flow than it needs, you’re wasting a lot of energy,” explains Mike Boyd, principal at The Macomb Group. “To ensure the system functions properly, you want to slow the flow so all the heat from the boiler can get into the water, then the heat in the water can get to where you’re using it. If it’s flowing too fast, the heat goes right past where you want to use it. It goes up the stack to Mother Nature and the atmosphere.”

The Wilo pump uses an advanced electrical technology that was developed in Europe nearly 20 years ago but was only recently introduced in the United States. The pump draws standard A/C power, and then converts the current to D/C power. D/C is far more efficient than A/C power, but it isn’t available as a standard because it doesn’t travel far without losing its voltage.

“Converting from A/C power to D/C power internally makes the pump 50% more efficient than it would be if it were running directly on A/C power,” Boyd says.

Savings that just keep adding up
Less energy output equates to less financial output.

For Brandon, the choice to begin the pump conversions at Alma College was a no-brainer. His implementation is an example of the kind of changes that can happen when organizations are willing to look outside the typical recommendations for energy savings.

“In most installations, organizations look for more efficient equipment, but equipment doesn’t work in isolation,” Jeff says. “To get real energy and cost savings today, you need to go further and address the function of the entire system. Organizations like Alma College are going to the next level, and Macomb can help them get there.”

The Macomb Group works with customers and contractors to optimize the systems you rely on. Learn how our M.E.R.I.T. consultants can provide the energy-saving solutions you are looking for. Contact us by email at or by phone at 888-756-4110.