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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Pump Selection and Pump Performance

There are three principal performance parameters relating to pump selection:

  • Flow (or Capacity)
  • Total Delivery Head
  • Suction Lift

Required capacity, measured in flow/time is determined by one of two factors:

  • If there is storage capacity it is related to total daily demand. Daily demand must first be estimated and then the hourly requirement calculated by dividing the daily demand by the number of hours the pump is required to work.
  • If there is direct supply pump capacity should be related to peak hourly demand. This would be appropriate in irrigation or pressure systems.
Capacity is measured in various units including gallons per hour – gallons per minute, liters per second, liters per minute and cubic meters (1000 liters) per hour. All Davis & Shirtliff products are rated in cubic meters per hour (m3/hr)


There are three principal components to total head of importance when specifying a pump: static head, dynamic head (friction loss) and pressure head.

Total Head = Static Head + Dynamic Head + Pressure Head

2.1  Static Head (H)

DIAGRAM 1 - Static Head Conditions

Static head is the vertical linear distance between the level of the water being pumped and either the delivery outlet or the reservoir water level, whichever is higher (see A & B). Of great

importance to note is that it is not necessarily the distance between the pump itself and the delivery point. This has particular reference to submersible pumps where the level the pump is set in the water does not determine static head. It is determined by the pumping water level (see C).

2.2  Dynamic Head

The only important component of dynamic head is pipe friction, this being determined by water velocity in the delivery pipe. The higher the velocity the higher the friction loss and it is important to match the pump to the pipeline. Friction loss values for GI and PVC pipes are given in table 1.

Some important points to note when matching pumps and pipelines are:
·  Friction losses are considerably lower in PVC pipes than GI ones. For long pipelines the use of PVC will therefore reduce pump size and energy consumed.
·  Piping can be considerably more expensive than the pumping installation and a pipe size smaller matched to a pump size larger can reduce the investment cost. Running costs will be higher though.
·  Total head reduces up the pipeline and lighter duty pipes can be used towards the system’s delivery point.

Total friction loss for a pipeline (HF) = F x L/100

F = Friction loss given for a particular flow in a specified pipe size (m per 100m pipe length).
L= Pipe length (m)

Pipe friction is not linear and increases logarithmically as velocity (or flow) increases. A typical friction loss curve is given below.

DIAGRAM 2 - Typical Friction Head Loss Curve

This diagram can be plotted using friction loss values given for a particular pipe specification at different flow rates.

2.3  Pressure Head

When delivering to an open outlet pressure at the delivery point is zero and so in most water supply installations this is not a factor in total head calculations. However, when pressure delivery is required eg. for fire installations or irrigation nozzles the required pressure at the nozzle must be included when calculating total head.

DIAGRAM 3 - Pressure Head Condition System Head Curves

In order to find the total head required on a pump, static head plus dynamic head plus friction head must be added. This can be done graphically as follows:

DIAGRAM 4 - System Head Curve

From the above graph pump 3 or pump 4 can be selected, depending upon required pump capacity.


Centrifugal pumps have the capability of creating a vacuum in a suction pipe which enable them to suck water from below their setting level. The maximum theoretical suction lift is 1 atmosphere (approx 10m), though the maximum practical lift is well below this.

Maximum suction lift is determined by the formula:

Hmax = A – NPSH –Hf –Hv –Hs

DIAGRAM 5 - Suction Lift Conditions

Considerations relating to the various parameters are as follows:

A – Atmospheric pressure. At sea level it is 10.3m reducing by approximate 3% per 300m. Suction lift is therefore reduced at higher altitudes.

NPSH – The suction characteristic of the pump which is shown on the pump manufacturer’s curve.

DIAGRAM 6 - Typical NPSH Curve

The higher the flow the higher the NPSH and therefore the lower the available suction lift.

Hf – Friction loss in the suction pipe. This is calculated in a similar way to friction loss under section 2.2. The value increases with increasing flow thereby reducing the available suction lift.

Hv – The water vapour pressure. This is an important factor for liquids above 30oC, though is not important at normal ambient temperatures.
Vapour pressure values are as follows;-

DIAGRAM 7 - Vapor Pressure Values

HS - A safety margin, usually 1 m being acceptable. Some general points about suction conditions are as follows:
·  It is good practice to keep suction pipes as short as is practical.
·  Suction pipes must be totally airtight. If there are any leaks the pump will be unable to create the vacuum condition for suction to occur.
·  Suction pipes must be straight and laid to rise continuously to the pump. If there are any leaks in the pipe air pockets will form and the system will become air locked.
·  Suction pipes must be generously sized, one size larger than the delivery pipe being standard practice. Also all suctions should be fitted with foot valves.
·  Where the distance from the pump mounting point to the water level is greater than the available suction lift either a submersible or a jet pump should be used.

4.1 Performance Parameters

When specifying centrifugal pumps it is important to understand the various parameters that effect pump performance and their relationship with one another.
Typically a pump curve will provide the following information.

DIAGRAM 8 - Typical Centrifugal Pump Performance Curve

Three plots are given against flow – Pressure (or Q-H curve), Efficiency (h) and Power absorbed.

Pressure: Otherwise known as the pump performance or Q – H curve and plots the pressure/flow profile of the pump.
·  At zero flow the pump will provide its maximum pressure (closed head pressure).
·  At zero head the pump will provide its maximum flow.

Efficiency (h): The efficiency curve is the plot of overall efficiency against flow. Points to note are:
·  The pump’s optimal duty point is that at which peak efficiency occurs and is usually around the mid point of the curve. The optimal performance envelop is the flow range which is greater than 90% of the pump’s maximum efficiency and applications should be within this envelope.
·  Efficiency drops considerably at high pressures and high flows and specifying a pump to operate in these sections of a curve must be avoided.

Power: The power curve is a plot of power consumed against flow. Points of note are:-
·  Maximum power consumption of a pump occurs at high flows/low pressures. Usually power consumed at high pressures is lower.
·  When coupling motors to pumps it is important to ensure that the power consumed at open delivery is less than the motor size or else motor failure may occur.

4.2 Pump Parameters

The following parameters affect pump performance:
·  Speed
·  Impeller Diameter
·  Number of Impellers

Speed: Impeller speed effects power consumed and pump performance as follows:
Speed = f (Power3)
Doubling Speed increases power consumed by a factor of 23 = 8
Speed = f(Pressure2)
Doubling Speed increases pressure by a factor of 22 = 4

Impeller Diameter: Impeller diameter effects pump performance in a similar way to speed.
Diameter = f(Power3)
A 10% increase of impeller diameter increases power consumed by (1.13 – 1) x 100 = 33%

Diameter = f(Pressure2)
A 10% increase of impeller diameter increases pressure by (1.12 – 1) x 100 = 21%

Number of Impellers
·  Adding impellers in series increases pressure though has no effect on flow. This is the effect of a multistage pump.
·  Adding impellers in parallel increases flow though has no effect on pressure. This is the effect of two pumps connected in parallel.

DIAGRAM 9 - Impeller Configurations

4.3 Pump Shaft Horse Power
Pump Shaft Horse Power can be calculated from the formula:

HP = Q x H/275 x h

Where Q = flow in m3/hr
H = Head in m
h = Pump Efficiency