Getting started - Four tips for starting the pump buying process

Shopping for a pump can be intimidating. There are hundreds of pump types, multiple pump suppliers and a wide range of prices. Knowing a few key pieces of information before you begin will save you time and ensure that you spend your money on the right pump for the job.

“If the user is giving bad information to a pump supplier – it’s basically garbage in, garbage out,” said Mike Volk, author of Pump Characteristics and Applications and owner of pump consulting firm Volk & Associates. Volk offered these tips to getting the pump buying process started.

- Figure out the flow rate. You’ll need to describe to pump suppliers – manufacturers or distributors – the work the pump will be doing and the type of environment it will working in.Flow rate is a good place to start. This is a metric measuring how much fluid is moving through your system and how fast. It’s typically measured in gallons per minute (gpm) or liters per minute (lpm).

- Figure out the total head necessary. Total head is the amount of pressure the pump needs to do its job – whether that’s lifting liquid over an elevation increase, moving it against the friction of the pipe, supplying pressure at the end of the system or any combination of those.

“It’s ultimately computing into horsepower,” Volk said. “You don’t want over buy for what you need – you could end up paying too much and using a lot more electricity.”

- Describe the fluid to be pumped.  Is it water or oil or something in between? More viscous liquids require more powerful and sometimes different kinds of pumps. What is the chemical make up? Acidic or corrosive liquids can damage certain pump materials.

What is the temperature of the liquid? Does it contain solids? Are those solids fragile – like the ingredients in an ice cream or soup? Are they abrasive? If so, they could wear down a pump made from the wrong material. Do the solids need to be chopped up? Some pumps include a chopper mechanism.

- Think about how the pump will be powered. More precisely, you want to know where the power will come from, whether the pump will be indoors or outdoors, and what type of material the piping is made from.

“This is the minimum information you need to get started,” Volk said. Having the answers to these questions handy will help a pump supplier guide you to the best pump for your application.

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