The Basics of Reciprocating vs. Centrifugal Pumps

engineering column PD pumps Understanding the differences between these types of pumps can mean avoiding difficulties and reliability problems.

The demand for the duties that fall within the performance range of reciprocating pumps is rising. Process flows are falling while the pressures required are increasing.

Engineers are generally familiar with operating principles, performance curves and selection criteria for centrifugal pumps, but the training and knowledge around the operating principles of reciprocating pumps is not as common.

Unlike centrifugal pumps, reciprocating pumps have a stronger interaction with the system within which they sit. This is due to the pressure pulsations they generate.

If we think about any linear reciprocating motion of a piston, at some point the velocity of the piston is zero as it changes direction at the top and bottom of its stroke. This means that the pressure pulsations are much larger in a reciprocating machine than in a centrifugal machine.

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10 Key Facts About Reciprocating Pumps

This pump type’s unique system design requirements are often ignored or misapplied, which affects reliability and operation.

Written by: Gary Dyson and Herb Tackett Jr. (Hydro, Inc.)
Publisher: Pumps & Systems / July 2015

 

Because Centrifugal pumps are widely used, pump and rotating equipment engineers are generally familiar with this equipment’s operating principles, performance curves and selection criteria.

 

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Image 1. While centrifugal pumps are the subject of much training, the dwindling population of reciprocating pumps has led to a loss of understanding of this pump type’s unique system design requirements. (Images and graphics courtesy of Hydro, Inc.)

 

While Centrifugal pumps are the subject of much training, the dwindling population of reciprocating pumps has led to a loss of understanding of this pump type’s unique system design requirements. Centrifugal pump specifications are now commonly and incorrectly applied to reciprocating pumps, which can lead to significant reliability problems.

End users should consider these 10 key facts about reciprocating pumps that can influence reliability and operation. Continue reading