What is a Condensate Pump?

B. Turner

A condensate pump is a device used to move and direct the flow of wastewater produced by boilers, furnaces, and air conditioning systems. This condensed steam or water vapor exits these systems through a steam trap and collects in a nearby pan or tub. As the levels get high, the condensate pump redirects the fluid from the pan to an outdoor vent or waste area. In some applications, a condensate pump may direct this fluid back into the system for reuse.

Air conditioners make use of condensate pumps.
Air conditioners make use of condensate pumps.

Condensate consists of steam and vapor by-products, including both moisture and minerals. It's produced during the heat exchange process, which is performed by both heat pumps and air conditioners. Furnaces and boilers produce condensate as the steam used in these systems cools and returns to a liquid state. All of these systems produce some form of condensate, and all but the most basic include some type of condensate pump.

A condensate pump redirects fluid from a boiler to an outdoor vent or waste area.
A condensate pump redirects fluid from a boiler to an outdoor vent or waste area.

When choosing a condensate pump, buyers must first select a pump size that matches the size of the heating or cooling system. The pump should also be matched to the location, and should be capable of safely expelling condensate based on slope and area conditions. Some types of condensate may require special pumps that are capable of dealing with the minerals and other by-products found in the condensate. This may include acidic materials, particularly when the pump is used with a manufacturing or industrial furnace or boiler.

On a typical household heating and cooling system, the condensate pump collects and expels the condensate to the outdoors. It may exit into the municipal sewer system, or sump pit. Because condensate contains some minerals and combustion by-products, it may require special handling in some applications. The hot temperature of the condensate may also impact disposal.

In factories and industrial settings, the condensate pump may be used as part of an energy recovery system. The pump directs wastewater back to the boiler for purification and reuse. Some systems may simply capture the heat energy from the condensate, then reuse this energy for heating or manufacturing processes. The water can then be expelled from the building through normal channels.

Using a condensate pump as part of an energy recovery system offers a number of advantages to building management. It reduces heating costs and water expenses, and can help improve occupant comfort when used for heating. Energy recovery also protects the environment by reducing the demand for fossil fuels, and lowering air and water pollution rates.

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