Pump Selection and Troubleshooting Field Guide

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Air leaks in suction piping If liquid pumped is water or other non-explosive, and explosive gas or dust is not present, test flanges for leakage with flame or match. For such liquids as gasoline, suction line can be tested by shutting off or plugging inlet and putting line under pressure. A gauge will indicate a leak with a drop of pressure. Air leaks in stuffing box Increase seal lubricant pressure to above atmosphere. Speed too low See item 5. Discharge system head too high See item 4. Suction lift too high See item 3.

Impeller partially plugged See item 7. Cavitation; insufficient NPSH depending on installation a. Increase positive suction head on pump by lowering pump or increasing suction pipe size or raising fluid level.


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  • Sub-cool suction piping at inlet to lower entering liquid temperature. Pressurise suction vessel. Defective impeller Inspect impeller. Replace if damaged or vane sections badly eroded. Defective packing Replace packing and sleeves if badly worn. If strainer is used, net clear area should be3 to 4 times area of suction pipe. Suction inlet not immersed deep enough If inlet cannot be lowered, or if eddies through which air is sucked persist when it is lowered, chain a board to suction pipe.

    It will be drawn into eddies, smothering the vortex. Wrong direction of rotation Compare rotation of motor with directional arrow on pump casing. Impeller diameter too small probable cause if none of above Check with factory to see if a larger impeller can be used; otherwise, cut pipe losses or increase speed, or both, as needed. But be careful not to seriously overload drive.

    Air leaks in suction piping See item 8. Mechanical defects See item 15, 16, Obstruction in liquid passages Dismantle pump and inspect passages of impeller and casing. Remove obstruction. Air or gases in liquid Test in laboratory, reducing pressure on liquid to pressure in suction line. Watch for bubble formation. May be possible to over rate pump to point where it will provide adequate pressure despite condition. Better to provide gas separation chamber on suction line near pump, and periodically exhaust accumulated gas. See item Excessive impeller clearance Adjust impeller clearance. Impeller diameter too small Probable cause if none of above See item Related Information.

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    Richard P. Beverly (Author of Pump Selection and Troubleshooting Field Guide)

    Returning user. Request Username Can't sign in? Forgot your username? Enter your email address below and we will send you your username. If necessary, straightening vanes in the wet well can be used to smooth out the approach.

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    Submersible Pumps There are two different kinds of pumps that come under the category of submersible: well pumps and solids-handling pumps. Well Pumps In a well pump assembly, the motor is on the bottom, with the impellers above, all of which is suspended by a pipe column, which also carries the water upward. Centering spiders a special type of bushing are needed between the pipe column and the well casing. With this type of assembly, the torque from the motor is adequate to swing the pipe column. If the pump is allowed to swing far enough to contact the well casing, the motor could overheat and fail.

    Pump Selection and Troubleshooting Field Guide

    The motor relies on water passing by it to keep it cool. The author has inspected pumps where such a condition occurred. A burned spot on the motor casing was easily visible where it came in contact with the well casing and overheated.

    To keep the pump cool, the pump is often set at a n appropriate depth so that most of the water will be drawn up past the motor to the impellers from below. When well pumps are running, it is common for the water level in the well to be drawn down a certain amount.

    The amount of drawdown depends on the capacity of the aquifer, the size of the well casing, and the capacity of the well pump. The maximum drawdown expected must be added to the desired discharge pressure of the pump in order to size it properly. The pump must also be installed well below that point. Power cables for the motor are generally strapped to the pump casing from the ground surface down to the motor.

    In addition, several monitoring functions may be wired back to the control panel to indicate the possibility of a n alarm condition, such as moisture in the motor or overheating. A level probe is also common. These alarms are highly recommended to protect the pump and to help prevent a total failure. Submersible Solids-Handling Pumps These pumps are designed to handle solids up to 2 in. Solids-handling pumps are not common in water systems. However, they can be used for removing accumulated solids from a n intake or in solids-handling systems.

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    Whatever the application, they a r e typically installed in a wet well or sump, which must be sized appropriately. On the other hand, too large a sump could cause wastewater to turn septic. The pump and wet well combination should be designed so that the pump does not come on and off rapidly. Frequent starting and stopping of the pump could cause excessive power use and wear to the motor. As with a vertical line shaft turbine pump, there is a minimum submergence that must be maintained in the wet well.

    If the water is allowed to go below that point, the pump could create a vortex and air could enter the pump, causing unstable operation. Because a submersible pump is inaccessible while it is operating, there are only limited means of detecting potential problems. Power draw. Determining the power draw at the motor starter is relatively simple with the correct instruments.

    Too high a power draw could mean the pump suction is fouled. Even pumps with inlet cutting blades can become fouled. If fouling occurs often, some type of bar screen may be necessary on the incoming wastewater to protect the pump. Moisture and overheating alarms. These alarms should not occur often to the same pump. If they do, there may be a manufacturing defect.

    When these alarms do occur, the pump needs to be removed from service and sent to a repair facility that specializes in submersible pumps and motor repair. Frequent starting and stopping. If it is not possible, it may be necessary to install smaller pumps. Maintenance There are two types of maintenance: scheduled preventative and crisis management. Scheduled Maintenance Maintenance recommended by the manufacturer can be scheduled in advance, hopefully before problems occur. Also, when maintenance is scheduled, the necessary parts can be obtained in advance and downtime can be minimized.

    Crisis Management Although a strong term, catastrophic failure can occur when maintenance is deferred. In such a case, poor performance may occur for a time prior to complete failure. When failure does occur, it may involve other system components as well, and usually entails a much greater expense than scheduled or recommended maintenance. Conducting proper maintenance procedures in a timely manner may be difficult in small systems with inadequate staff.

    Budgeting for the expense is often difficult also. Small systems often have the same operational and maintenance problems, only with fewer staff and a smaller budget than larger systems. Required maintenance is not something that can be delayed because the equipment appears to be working well. Whether intended or not, delayed maintenance results in crisis management.

    Besides being poor practice, it may result in higher costs for repair. Those in charge of water systems also have the responsibility of maintaining such equipment in the best interests of the public that is served. Pumps are often the most expensive component of a water system to operate, and they should be properly maintained. The following information is recommended: 1. Hydraulic profile of the system, including elevation of the pump and the level of the receiving reservoir. Design conditions, including discharge pressure, pressure boost, suction-side conditions, and flow rate, with any anticipated variations in system demand.

    The complete family of curves for each pump, with the operating point highlighted.