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Extract from Pump Handbook by Igor J.

Parallel Operation
Parallel operation of two or more pumps is a common method of meeting variable-flow-rate
requirements. By starting only those pumps needed to meet the demand, operation near
maximum efficiency can usually be obtained. The head-flow characteristics of the pumps need
not be identical, but pumps with unstable characteristics may give trouble unless operation only
on the steep portion of the characteristic can be assured. Care should be taken to see that no
one pump, when combined with pumps of different characteristics, is forced to operate at flows
less than the minimum required to prevent recirculation. See the discussion that follows on
operation at other than normal flow rate. Multiple pumps in a station provide spares for
emergency service and for the downtime needed for maintenance and repair.

The possibility of driving two pumps from a single motor should always be considered, as it
usually is possible to drive the smaller pumps at about 40% higher speed than a single pump of
twice the capacity. The saving in cost of the higher-speed motor may largely offset the increased
cost of two pumps and give additional flexibility of operation.
One of the first steps in planning for multiple-pump operation is to draw the system head curve,
as shown in Figure 40. The system head consists of the static head Hs and the sum Hf of the
pipe-friction head and the head lost in the valves and fittings (see Sections 8.1 and 8.2). The
head curves of the various pumps are plotted on the same diagram, and their intersections with
the system-head curve show possible operating points. Combined pump head curves are drawn
by adding the flow rates of the various combinations of pumps for as many values of the head as
necessary. The intersection of any combined HQ curve with the system-head curve is an
operating point. Figure 40 shows two pump head curves and the combined curve. Points 1, 2,
and 3 are possible operating conditions.
Additional operating points may be obtained by changing the speed of the pumps or by
increasing the system-head loss by throttling. Any number of pumps in parallel may be included

on a single diagram, although separate diagrams for different combinations of pumps may be
The overall efficiency h of pumps in parallel is given by

If one of the pumps is taken off the line at part load, the remaining pump could easily operate at
capacities in excess of its design because its head-capacity curve would intersect the systemhead curve at a head lower than the design head (Figure 15).
In such a case, it is necessary to determine the pump capacity at the intersection point; the
power corresponding to this capacity will be the maximum expected. It is not always necessary
to select a driver that will not be overloaded at any point on the boiler-feed pump operating
curve. Although electric motors generally have an overload capacity of 15%, it is usually the
practice to reserve this overload capacity as a safety margin and to select a motor that will not
be overloaded at the design capacity.
Exceptions occur in the case of very large motors. For instance, if the pump brake horsepower is
3100, it is logical to apply a 3000-hp motor, which will be overloaded by about 3% rather than a
considerably more expensive 3500-hp motor.

Extract from Fundamental Principles for Project Work EDUR

The Parallel Operation of Centrifugal Pumps
During the parallel operation two or more pumps deliver into a common pressure line. If for
instance two identical pumps are supplying a common network and if initially only pump 1 is in
operation, a characteristic plant curve R and an operation point B1, which is equal to
transmission flow Q1 (Fig. 4), shall result. When pump 2 is switched on a common Qcharacteristic is obtained by doubling the transmission flow of each pump for the respective
pump head pressure. The characteristic curve R of the plant remains unchanged. The operation
point now is B2 with the transmission flow Q2, whereby Q2 is obviously substantially smaller than
2Q1. The larger the head losses are in the plant, the steeper the plant characteristic curve rises.
The increase in transmission flow will accordingly be less.

For any given discharge head, flows for parallel pumps are additive.

The system flow rate will be determined by the intersection of the system-head curve and the
performance curve of the parallel pumps.

Pumps of different hydraulic characteristics may be operated in parallel to the extent that they share
common discharge head characteristics.

Pumps of different hydraulic characteristics may encounter severe problems when operated in parallel

All pumps have different hydraulic characteristics.

To produce flow, a pump must generate a greater discharge pressure at start-up than the pressure already
present in the system.

Why Bother With Parallel Pumps?

Using parallel pumps can be beneficial because installation often costs less to buy, install, and maintain
compared to a single large pump

Takes less space in the equipment room (especially if one utilizes in-line pumps that may be stacked)

Uses less energy

Provides better than 50 percent flow redundancy during single pump operation

However, small systems or systems that rarely change flow may not be good candidates for parallel pumps. Of
course, if the system requires 100 percent redundancy, the designer must provide a single pump system with
another 100 percent standby pump.
System Curves and Pump Curves
To really appreciate parallel pumping and all its benefits, you have to consider system curves and pump curves.
Pump curves as we know, are designed by the manufacturer and are based on the horsepower, the diameter of
the impeller and the shape of its volute (the wet end of the pump that contains the impeller). No matter what the
conditions of a system, the pump has to operate somewhere on this curve.
System curves, on the other hand, represent the flow-head relationships that exist for particular installations. For
any given system, once a design condition is calculated, you can establish other flow and head conditions.
One major benefit of parallel pumping is the high degree of standby capacity provided by single pump
operation. When one pump is out of operation, the other pump continues to pump water through the system. But
the flow rate isnt cut in half just because only one pump is operating. Remember, the pump has to operate at
the intersection of its pump curve with the already determined system curve.
In summary, operating pumps in parallel is viable providing that it is done with a full understanding of the
individual characteristics of the pumps involved and the ability to monitor or ensure minimum flow thresholds
are met for each pump.