How to Improve the Energy Efficiency of Your Wastewater Treatment Plant

The U.S. has close to 14,750 wastewater treatment plans, and they process the wastewater of residential and business wastewater that comes in from sewer lines, but approximately 20% of homes and businesses in the U.S. have septic systems that treat some wastewater within the system and the leach field. Every few years or even sooner, trucks pump out the septic tanks and haul the septage to a wastewater treatment facility.

The EPA estimates that wastewater treatment facilities process around 34 billion gallons of wastewater every day. This is an expensive endeavor when it comes to the cost of repairs, upgrades, and most importantly energy consumption. An estimated $2 billion a year is spent on electricity alone, with as much as 40% of a wastewater treatment plant’s operation budget covering that facility’s electricity bills.

Across the nation, wastewater treatment facilities are setting goals to reduce their energy consumption while ensuring water meets the rigid standards required before the wastewater goes to oceans, ponds, rivers, streams, or water treatment plants for reuse. What are the best methods of reducing energy consumption?

Conduct an Energy Audit

An energy audit is the best step to take to identify areas where you can improve your plant’s efficiency. The EPA Office of Wastewater Management has a self-assessment tool to help you get started. The goals of an assessment are to reduce your energy consumption, reduce your operating costs, reduce water loss, reduce your facility’s carbon footprint, and improve the water infrastructure.

ENERGY STAR also offers energy-saving tips and guidance through the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. If your plant has room for improvement, you’ll get information on what efficiency improvements are going to help and learn more about how to prioritize the improvements. If your plant is efficient enough, you can save as much as 30% in a short time. Many facilities see improvements in just a few months.

Area electricity companies also frequently offer energy audits. You can ask your power company if they have any free energy audits available right now or coming up in the future.

Upgrade Older, Less Efficient Equipment

As you go through an energy audit, you learn what equipment is wasting the most energy. You can work with an expert in water treatment equipment to determine what equipment can help you save money and improve your water treatment process. What equipment should you consider?

A good rule of thumb is to look at the age of all of your equipment. Older pumps and motors are going to use more energy. Once you’ve come up with a chart of this information, consider which machines are down for repairs the most. You need to prioritize those. Here are the items that you should consider first.

  1. Heat Pumps

Heat pumps recover the heat generated during the wastewater treatment cycle and use that heat to preheat water sent to boilers where it requires less energy to heat enough for a heating system or hot water usage. Heat pumps can also help cool your building in hot weather.

  1. Variable Speed Drives

Variable speed drives are available on a lot of wastewater treatment equipment. If you have equipment that is just on or off with no change of speed throughout the day, it’s time to change that.

Your district’s wastewater flow rates increase when people come home from work, have dinner, and do the dishes. They’ve been out of the house all day, so it’s been relatively quiet. But, now that they’re using water for meals and cleaning up, doing the laundry, and taking baths or showers before bed, water usage increases, and that means water is coming into your plant faster.

Variable speed drives adjust for these increases. If water isn’t flowing in very quickly from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., drives could turn off until they’re needed for higher flow rates in the morning rush to get ready for work or school. They turn off again in the late mornings and afternoons when people are not home. That saves energy and wear and tear on your pumps and other motors.

You’ll also find variable speed drives on a screw pump. These pump liquid from one area to another without easily clogging. Open screw pumps can be up to 75% more efficient while operating and also require less maintenance, which also helps slash your bills. Type C enclosed screw pumps are up to 10% more efficient than open screw pumps.

  1. Submersible Mixers

A submersible mixer stirs up the wastewater in an anaerobic tank while reducing energy consumption. A stainless-steel propeller delivers high flow rates without needing extra electricity to run the motor.

  1. LED Lighting

If your plant has older fluorescent lighting, that type of lighting uses far more energy than efficient LED lighting. Switch to LED, which can be up to 90% more efficient, and see savings on your next bill. The switch to LED won’t cost a lot of money, and some power companies offer rebates and other incentives to help you make the switch.

In addition to LED lighting, consider adding motion sensors that detect when someone has left a room. This way, if a worker forgets to turn off the lights, it won’t matter. The lights will turn off automatically when there’s no movement in the room.

Tap Into Renewable Energy

If your plant isn’t using solar and wind power to help generate electricity, it’s time to consider making a change. There are many programs out there to help you embrace solar, wind, and even geothermal energy for less money.

For outdoor security lights, install solar lights. They have a separate panel that powers the lights by day and runs them all night. They’re helpful as you can install them anywhere and don’t need outlets or a power source nearby.

As your renewable energy system works, you’ll find your savings end up recouping the amount you spent on the system. From there, you gain pure savings that you can reinvest in additional upgrades or use to lower rates for the members in your district. 

Talk to an Expert in Water Treatment 

You’ll find there are many ways to improve your wastewater treatment plant’s energy efficiency, but it takes research and careful planning to make the best choices for your municipality. Work with experts in water treatment. 

Lakeside Equipment has close to 100 years in the water treatment industry. Our dedicated team of sales professionals, engineers, and technicians are here to meet your needs and complete all aspects of your plant’s upgrades from planning to on-site installation. We can even get the parts you need and ship them immediately.

When your wastewater treatment equipment is efficient and repaired quickly, it keeps your bills low while making sure the environment and community are protected from improperly treated wastewater. Learn more about the upgrades you should make to boost your plant’s efficiency.