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A Light Bulb is Autarkic, A Pump is Not

Sometimes you just get lucky.

When I accepted my first engineering job, I only knew that I wanted to work on fluid and thermal engineering. And wow did I ever get to do that! I was fortunate to work on a wide variety of applications in fluid and thermal behavior in cryogenic rocket design. Super cool.

But I got lucky in another even more important way. I got to work on fluid and thermal systems. And I quickly came to realize that systems are just way more fun and interesting than working on mere components. Ever since then I have proudly considered myself to be a "systems guy".

I know what most of you are thinking at this point. You are thinking "when is Trey going to explain what autarkic means". Right? Read on and I will get there!

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last 10 years, you are aware that "climate change" is all the rage. If you are not a first language English speaker, "all the rage" is an idiom (or slang term) to essentially mean "highly popular" or something that everyone is talking and thinking about. However, for many people climate change is also "all the rage" in a more literal sense in that there is rage (i.e., anger) regarding what is happening to our environment.

Relax, I am not going to dive into that hot button topic here. But I am going to talk about something I think every engineer on this planet cares about – reducing our energy usage. And that is where autarky fits in. And when done properly, it directly helps address climate change concerns.

The Europeans got a head start on North America on pumps and their lack of autarky. You can read more about that in an interesting article published last month in Empowering Pumps here: Extended Product Directive – A Pump is Not a Light Bulb. If you read into that article, you will find the statement that I borrowed for my blog topic title, "A light bulb is autarkic, a pump is not".

So, what is "autarkic" (adjective form) or "autarky" (noun form)? I have to confess that until this past week I had never heard that word before. And English is my first language! Within the last week I heard the word "autarky" for the first time in a political article online. If I recall, it was in relation to the UK and Brexit. But I did not know the word and so I Googled it.

Then a few days ago I came across the above article from our European friends and read it and there was that word again. Autarkic. And I knew what it meant this time!

According to, autarky (the noun) means:

the condition of self-sufficiency, especially economic, as applied to a nation.

Putting this together, a light bulb is autarkic in that it is self-sufficient – i.e., a standalone component. From an energy reduction point of view, that makes it much easier to regulate for the governing bodies in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

A pump is not autarkic. Which means it is not standalone or self-sufficient. A pump is always connected to some kind of system to perform some greater purpose of transferring a fluid. Remember what I said earlier about systems? That is one of my passions.

If you think this is anti-climactic and wonder why I took all this time here to explain something so patently obvious, then please bear with me. Because there is more to this story. The Europeans have been pushing the concept of the Extended Product Approach (or EPA, for short) when interacting with regulations. EPA is essentially a strategic view that merely regulating pump energy usage is insufficient. Instead, regulations, if they are to have the greatest impact, must be "extended" outside the pump and encompass the entire pumping system. Read the article in Empowering Pumps I linked earlier for more on this.

The pump efficiency topic and regulatory interest in energy reduction made its way across the Atlantic and we here in North America are now doing something similar to the Europeans. If you live in the USA or Canada, there is a good chance you have no idea that some pumps in North America just became illegal last month. Yes, really. On January 27, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) began to require mandatory compliance with its Energy Conservation Standard and Test Procedure for pumps. If you want to read more about that, this article in Pumps and Systems is a good start: Get Ready: The New DOE Pump Regulations Are Here. Canadians will be interested in this link on a similar topic: Natural Resources Canada – Clean Water Pumps.

The EPA (Extended Product Approach) is a systems approach to thinking about pumps and their energy footprint. Which is essential if we want to really reduce energy use by pumps.

Below are some resources for anyone interested in pumps, systems, energy reduction and (lack of) autarky! After that I will link some of my favorite case studies from our customers which achieve energy reduction in pumping systems. These studies show the huge potential to impact our planet by taking time to do thoughtful analysis by concerned engineers.

In the last few weeks AFT created a new Vision Statement for our company. This vision statement supports the ideas in this blog.  Here it is:

AFT Vision Statement: "A sustainable world where fluids are transferred safely, reliably, and efficiently."

Pumping Systems, Energy Use, Regulation and Certification

Did you know you can get certified as an expert in pump systems energy use? See:

Here are some more good links….

AFT Fathom Case Studies on energy reduction in various industries (petroleum, petrochemicals, power generation, chemicals, district cooling, and automotive)

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Wednesday, 22 March 2023
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