Hans Kuster has been an “industryhold” name to plumbing and heating professionals for decades. While he’s been at the helm of AquaMotion Inc., Warwick, R.I. since founding the business in 2002, Hans also ran Sparco Inc., which he also founded, for 17 years and before that, he spent another 22 years at Taco Inc.
Following the sale of Sparco to Honeywell at age 63 and staying on for a year to help in the transition, Kuster took time to travel and took up painting.
“I became very good at painting,” Kuster told us for a 2021 PHC News profile (tinyurl.com/ww7dzmf4). “But it wasn’t as rewarding as making and selling plumbing and heating products.”
In short order, Kuster started AquaMotion and never looked back.
“My efforts were always in doing more for the customer and solving their problems and establishing a personal relationship of trust,” Kuster said in our profile. “The qualities required for success are product knowledge, discipline, imagination, focus, curiosity and a drive to succeed. Plus, keeping your promises.”
Since the start, Kuster has operated from the following objectives for AquaMotion: “Design a pump with the lowest manufacturing cost by design; lowest power consumption for energy efficiency; highest overall efficiency and quality; interchangeability with competitors; simplicity in use and service; patentable features; competitive pricing; and the best customer service.”
AquaMotion may be best known for its water recirculation products that provide instant hot water, reducing water waste and saving homeowners plenty on water and electricity and utility fees.
In 2018, AquaMotion won top honors at the AHR Expo for most innovative plumbing product for its Aqua-Flash, an under-sink hot water recirculation system. The Aqua-Flash bypass valve provides an improved bypass design, which provides instant hot water comfort at point of use. The bimetal coil is calibrated to deliver 93-degree water temperature. The valve doesn’t need fine mesh screens to prevent calcium buildup.
With the AHR Expo returning once again to Chicago later this month, we wanted to check in with Kuster for an update on AquaMotion and what the company has planned to show at the Expo.
PHC News: It has been a few years since we last talked. What is happening at AquaMotion these days?
Kuster: Well, we have been listening to our customers and are very busy developing new, innovative products to save water in every home. Saving water for human consumption is one of the most important tasks for my team and the plumbing industry.
Consider if we asked this question: What is the biggest threat to the world’s 8 billion people? The global water shortage for everyone on this planet is acute, and it affects our daily lives no matter where we live. The shortage impacts agriculture, industry, commerce, city expansion, hydroelectricity production and more.
In the U.S., it’s common to read about how states are fighting each other over water rights. In 2021, for example, Lake Mead was at only 27% of capacity.
In Switzerland where I grew up, 1,400 glaciers have shrunk during my lifetime by 50%. Now, they are shrinking by 10-12% per year. No glaciers in 50 years, no hydroelectric power, no tourists to visit the immense beautiful glaciers.
If all the 140 million households in the U.S. would use our hot water recirculation systems, however, it would save 1 trillion 680 billion gallons of treated water from being wasted down the drain every year.
PHC News: What kind of new products are you developing?
Kuster: At AHR 2024, we will launch the patented new even more user-friendly hot water recirculation kit that can be installed in 15 minutes.
It is the successor to our flagship AMH3K-7. The 7D incorporates the first end suction pump, which is more efficient. It eliminates fittings and unions. The hoses connect directly to the pump housing. It is available with timer and without timer or a separate timer, which is easier to program. It comes with a 6 ½ ft. line cord and a unique mounting base.
It can also be used with our new WatchDog app. This is a very special efficient app that can handle both use on demand and also schedule many run time events per day for any pump, domestic water or heating.
We are also incorporating an aquastat that is replaceable by the homeowner, a user-friendly feature that saves money. We design our products to be green and recyclable.
For the senior people who don’t want to live with apps, we offer simple wireless “ON CALL” buttons and receivers. They can also be used with motion sensors and toggle wall switches.
In our efforts to cover every aspect of the hot water recirculation potential, we created a unique product, our AMH2K-RX, an outdoor pump for dedicated return lines, and in September of 2023 we received a U.S. utility patent for this first UL-approved outdoor circulator.
In the Southern tier of the country, tankless heaters are installed on the outside wall of the home. This eliminates the expensive air intake and air exhaust system and saves money. This pump has built-in freeze protection. If the temperature drops below 40 degrees, it turns on the pump to protect it from freezing. It works for single pipe and on demand systems. We also set the ON/OFF temperatures higher to compensate for the hot outdoor temperatures, which can adversely affect the proper operation of the pump.
In addition, our patented ODR stainless bypass valves are designed for use with tankless heaters.
They offer sufficient flow rates to turn on the tankless heater in conjunction with a bypass from the pump to the cold inlet at the heater.
The latest patent pending new product is called the ODR2, a bronze bypass valve that integrates the compression fittings into the valve. This product eliminates potential leak paths, is smaller in size, easy to install, has great flow characteristics and is used with hot water tanks.
PHC News: It is incredible how many new products you are creating.
Kuster: It is our passion to create new more efficient products that help the homeowner save energy, water and prevent waste or make breakthroughs in heating pumps. In a small way, we help to reduce the global water shortage. It is in my DNA. I have been trying to improve upon the state of the art for 60 years. I have a wonderful team of experienced, committed engineers that help me create these new products.
PHC News: Why are you successful competing with world leaders in this HWR market?
Kuster: It is probably the strength of our 18 patented designs, product range, customer service, engineering support and focus on this market to excel and offer more and better products than anyone else. Our product line is strong and we can brand name different products for different OEM customers. We also have some 20 excellent rep organizations that sell our products nationally to the best plumbing and heating wholesalers.
PHC News: What do you think of the trend to go to all ECM magnetic circulators in the future?
Kuster: That is great for ½-HP and up pumps. It will save a lot of energy. The government has noticed that it would not make a lot of sense to push for ECM pumps for small circulators with up to a one amp draw.
Look at the facts: our recirculation pumps use only 0.26 amps to 0.79 amps. When you run a recirculation pump, you want it to go full power to move the water fast to the faucet. They only run 1-2 minutes four times an hour. The total annual electricity cost at $0.12 KW amounts to $3 per year in operating cost, $8 for the large 3-speed pumps for a five-hour daily run time.
PHC News: How much would you save with the ECM motor?
Kuster: About $1 to $4 a year. The cost of the ECM pump is about $50 or more expensive. That would make it a 50-year payback. Further, an ECM pump has about 50 or more parts and is not as reliable as a PSC motor pump and has a shorter life.
We always go with the trend. Should there be this change in the future, we will be ready to use our ECM motors also for this application.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my compassion to this industry with you.