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How to Design a Centrifugal Pump


By Steven Colbath; Updated April 25, 2017

A centrifugal pump works by


converting the energy of a
spinning impeller to increase
the velocity of a liquid. The
impeller is the device that
rotates in the liquid and is
usually contained inside a
volute, or casing. The impeller
is typically connected to an
electric motor which provides
the energy to be transferred to
the liquid. The pump must be designed to carry the desired ow rate, using the most ef cient
and properly sized motor.

Determine the speci c gravity of the liquid to be pumped. For water close to 65 degrees
Fahrenheit and typical domestic sanitary sewage, the liquid is assumed to have a speci c
gravity of 1.0.

Determine the vertical distance from the center of the pump volute to the outlet of the
discharge pipe. This is the lift of the pump and will be measured in feet.

Determine if there is going to be any pressure at the discharge point. This pressure, measured
in pounds per square inch (PSI), must be overcome by the pump in order to move the liquid.
The pressure could be due to pressure in the pipe the discharge pipe is connected to, or it
could be the pressure due to the discharge point being submerged in liquid. If the pipe is
submerged, the discharge pressure will be simply the maximum depth of submergence in feet.
This is called the discharge pressure head.

Note whether the discharge point is another pipe under pressure. If so, the discharge
pressure head is converted to feet of head by dividing the pressure in PSI by the speci c
gravity of the liquid, then multiplying that answer by 144, then dividing again by 62.4. This
will give an answer in feet of head. The total discharge head is the pump lift plus the discharge
pressure head.

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Determine the head on the suction side of the pump. If the pump is drawing from a pipe under
pressure, convert the pressure to feet of head. Otherwise, the suction head is the distance
from the free liquid level to the center of the pump volute.

Subtract the suction head from the discharge head to determine the total Static Head of the
pump.

Determine the dynamic head by using the design ow of the pump. The design ow will cause
pressure on the pump due to the friction of the discharge pipe. The head due to friction, or
friction loss, can be determined with the use of tables constructed for this purpose by pipe
manufacturers. The friction loss is given in feet of head -- usually per 1000 feet of pipe.

Determine the best pipe diameter by knowing the length of the discharge piping and the
number of ttings. Usually the best pipe diameter is the one with the least friction but that
still maintains a minimum velocity in the pipe. The maximum velocity in the pipe should also
be checked to ensure that it is within design parameters.

Add all the ttings and the pipe length to compute the total friction loss in feet of head -- this
will be the Friction Head. Each pipe tting is equivalent to a certain length of pipe.

Determine the type of centrifugal pump needed. As pump manufacturers build pumps for
particular purposes, the characteristic of the impeller and volute change depending on what
is being pumped and the desired ow velocity. A typical water supply pump design would
choose a high-speed pump. A pump for dewatering excavations with silt and sand would be a
mud pump constructed for the purpose. There are also pumps speci cally for moving sanitary
sewerage.

Add the Static Head to the Friction Head to determine the total Dynamic Head. Use the
Dynamic Head and the desired ow rate to size the pump. Centrifugal pumps are sized by
choosing an impeller diameter, inlet diameter and pump motor horsepower. The inlet
diameter is usually the same size or smaller than the discharge pipe.

Use the diameter of the inlet of the pump to select which pump impeller and motor curve to
use. Each manufacturer of pumps publishes pump curves which plot the ow rate versus the
pump head for each impeller that can be used on the chosen pump.

Find the point on the pump curves that is the intersection of the Dynamic Head and the
Discharge Rate. If the pump can be used, there should be a curve on the chart above and to
the right of this point labeled with an impeller size. This will be the design impeller diameter.
This point will also be inside a curve representing the ef ciency of the motor that is being
used on the pump. Look for the highest ef ciency possible. Most curves are plotted for 65
degree Fahrenheit water as the liquid. Correct the pump motor size for different liquid
densities.

Check several pump motors and impeller curves to nd the most ef cient one for your
purposes. This will be your selected pump.

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TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)


The larger the impeller diameter, the greater the pump ow.

A pump and impeller will have the same ow rate regardless of the liquid density as long as
the liquid has very little viscosity. However, the power required from the motor will
change.

Warning
If the pump is located above the liquid it is drawing from, you must check the suction head
to be sure that the liquid does not cause pump cavitation and failure. Consult the
manufacturer's documentation to determine this.

Things Needed
Calculator
Pump curves

References
A Brief Introduction to Centrifugal Pumps: Joe Evans, PhD

About the Author


Steven Colbath is a licensed professional engineer with more than 20 years
experience in land development and environmental permitting. He has
written the programming and technical documentation for several published
computer programs, including linkFlow v1.0, a hydraulic design calculator.
Colbath received his Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from the
University of Connecticut.

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