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Four Steps to Optimizing Your Pumping System

Time: 2023-05-15

Optimizing your pumping system can be the way to go when it's time to replace a pump or to cut costs drastically.

There are four steps you can take to optimize your pumping system.


First, reduce the system head.Reducing system head and the energy required to achieve it is the first step.

System head:

(1) The sum of the differential pressure and the height required for the pump to lift the fluid (static head),

(2) The resistance (friction head) generated when the fluid passes through the pipeline, 

(3) The sum of the resistance produced by any partially closed valve (control head).

Of the three, controlled head provides the best energy savings target. Most systems use valves because their pumps are oversized and require throttling to maintain proper flow. For most systems with excessive control head and ongoing maintenance issues, purchasing a smaller pump that better meets flow requirements or switching to a variable speed pump allows the user to reduce the system control head and save on power and maintenance costs.


Second, lower flow rates or run times.

Some pumps run all the time, whether or not the process requires all the flow. When the system shunts, operators pay for the power they don't use efficiently. There are two ways to solve this problem. One is to switch to a variable speed pump that can increase or decrease flow as needed. The second method is to use a mix of pumps, some larger and some smaller, and stage them on and off to meet demand. Both methods reduce bypass flow and thus save energy.


Third,modify or replace equipment and controls.

If the energy savings of lower head and lower flow rate/operating time appear attractive, the owner should consider replacing equipment and control systems. If the system uses a large number of valves for throttling, replace them with smaller pumps that do not require throttling and are less expensive to run. For systems with multiple pumps and fluctuating demand, an overhaul may include smaller or variable pumps and control logic to automatically turn the pumps on and off as needed.


Fourth, improve installation, maintenance and operating practices.

Many maintenance problems start with installation. Cracked foundations or improperly aligned pumps can cause vibration and wear. Improperly configured suction piping can cause premature wear due to cavitation or hydraulic loading. Be sure to discuss installation support when purchasing a pump. For critical applications, it makes sense to pay a third-party expert for pump commissioning to ensure that a new pump will perform as designed throughout its lifetime.


There are many ways to handle routine maintenance. Small, inexpensive pumps that fail to meet critical needs may pay the price by failing to operate. Routine preventive maintenance makes sense for most pumps. Predictive maintenance—collecting data and using it to determine when operators need to intervene—is a powerful tool for keeping pumps within specification. This doesn't need to be complicated or expensive, simply by measuring factors such as pump pressure, energy consumption and vibration on a monthly or quarterly basis, operators can catch efficiency changes and plan remedial actions before problems that could lead to failure arise.


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