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HOW TO READ A PUMP CURVE CHART

A common question that customers ask Pump Products application engineers is

“What am I looking at?” in reference to the pump curve charts, you can often find in
technical manuals and brochures.
The pump curve is simply a visual representation of the conditions in which the pump
can operate. At the most basic level the relationship between flow (plotted on the x-
axis) and head (y-axis) is displayed. Thus, if you know the total dynamic head
capability of the pump, you can easily determine how many gallons per minute the
pump can move.
for your application, keep that pump running in optimal condition, and ensure a long
operating life. If you need to replace a pump, the information can also help estimate
flow rates for an existing system.
Put simply, understanding the information on a pump curve chart can save you time,
money and a lot of maintenance effort in the long run.
In this blog post, we will walk you through reading a basic flow-head curve and give

BASIC PUMP CURVE

Above is a basic chart giving the curves for the Goulds WE series of submersible
effluent pumps. Each specific model in the series, designated by the SKU number
on the left, has its own curve. The box in the upper right hand identifies the series or
model. Other information such as the diameter of waste solids the pumps can handle
and the rotations per minute of the motor shaft are included.
Highlighted in yellow on the x-axis is the capacity or water flow rate, expressed in
gallons per minute. The highlighted y-axis gives the TDH in feet. Determine the value
of these two variables for your system requirements and find the point on the chart
where they intersect. Whichever pump curve passes through that point signals the
right model for your needs. Points on or to the left of the curve will be sufficient. Any
points to the right of the curve will not work.
(If you need a refresher on these concepts watch these videos: How to Calculate
GPM for Potable Water and Wastewater / How to Calculate TDH).
Of course, there are points where curves will intersect. Look at the point circled in
red above where the WE15H and the WE15HH meet. In that case, you can use other
variables (HP, voltage) to make your choice.

In the chart above, three different series of Goulds MC centrifugal pumps (1MS,
2MS, 3MS), are highlighted. The top highlighted curve is the maximum curve for the
series, while the bottom curve is the minimum. All models in the series fall within
these ranges. This type of chart is useful if you are examining a pump family that
features multiple series. The range chart gives a visualization of the difference
between series.
PUMP CURVE EFFICIENCY

The above chart shows curves for a Goulds 3656 end-suction pump. The u-shaped
curves (one highlighted in red) intersect with the flow-head curves (the various flow-
head curves signify the 3656’s performance at different impeller trims; we will get to
those). These u-shaped curves represent the pump’s efficiency, which is defined
as the ratio of water energy output from the pump to the shaft energy input from the
motor. The number at the top of the efficiency curve (40% boxed in gold above) is
the percent efficiency.
Pumps have high-efficiency areas (the u curve labelled with 67 at the points) and in
the middle of that area is the best efficiency point (BEP, marked in blue). The BEP
represents the point where the pump will operate with the least possible interference
from outside forces, such as vibrations. Operating at or near the BEP will also save
energy. You should look for flow-head settings that intersect with the BEP. As a
general rule of thumb, a deviation of 10% on either side of the point is acceptable.
BRAKE HORSEPOWER CURVE

The dotted lines highlighted above are brake horsepower lines for the Goulds 3656.
The lines simply represent the horsepower required at the shaft. If the flow-head
curve of your selected pump falls under that line, your pump requires the HP value
displayed on the line.
IMPELLER TRIM CURVE

The highlighted letters display the impeller type while the highlighted numbers
signify the impeller trim or impeller diameter (in inches) options for this model
pump. Because of physics, changing the type and diameter of the impeller will
change the produced flow and head of the pump. The flow-head curves for each
impeller option are displayed.
NPSHR CURVE

The chart above shows the various Net Positive Suction Head Required (NPSHR)
ratings for the Goulds 3656. The NPSHR ratings are represented in the highlighted
lines that intersect with the flow-head capacity curves. NPSHR is simply the
minimum amount of pressure required at the suction side of the pump to overcome
the pressure losses at the pump’s intake port. These losses are due to the water
moving through the smaller diameter of the intake port.
NPSHR is measured in positive feet of water. Looking at the chart above, the
numbers over the highlighted lines tell you the minimum required head for a flow rate
to the left of the line. Track your desired GPM along the x-axis of the chart and move
up to see the required NPSHR. For instance, if you need to pump at 80 GPM, 6 feet
of head is the bare minimum NPSHR.
MINIMUM FLOW CURVE

The thick blue line above represents the minimum flow needed for this specific model
pump. If a minimum is included, make sure to never operate your pump at a flow
point to the left of this line. Doing so will cause the pump to cycle improperly –
meaning it will shut on and off continuously and burn out. Typically, one minute per
cycle is the minimum run time.
It should be noted that more advanced curve charts might look different from the
above examples depending on pump type and application. Hopefully this blog post
has given you an understanding of the fundamentals of reading a pump curve chart.
Understanding this information before you purchase a pump will save you time and
money. If you have trouble with a curve or pump sizing, be sure to call Pump
Products at (800) 429-0800 to have a qualified expert assist you.