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7 Ways to Improve Pumping System Performance

Key Points

  • Most commercial and industrial pumping systems consume excessive amounts of energy.
  • Proper sizing, regular maintenance, and improved controls can optimize their efficiency.
  • Replacing valves or improving flow can help reduce friction loss and increase energy efficiency.

Optimizing pumping system performance has numerous benefits, including lower energy and maintenance costs, and reduced costs over the system’s lifetime. A good pumping system strategy can achieve as much as 50 percent in energy savings. Here are seven recommendations for improving pump system performance from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

1. Analyze system requirements

The key to improving the performance of a pumping system is to fully understand its demand requirements. This means analyzing average and peak demand times with respect to the time of day and year. It is much simpler to design and operate systems with relatively consistent requirements than to have to account for wide variations in demand. Knowing demand patterns helps operators predict real-world operating and maintenance problems.

2. Address friction losses

Unnecessary friction in the fluid system can increase energy use. Controlling friction caused by pipe sizing or roughness is nearly impossible in an existing system. However, operators can improve friction inefficiencies caused by system components, unnecessary flow paths, or high flow rates. Throttle valves in particular are often associated with friction losses. Measurements can be taken to determine efficiency loss through friction.

3. Match pump size to load

Pumps are oversized in 15 to 25 percent of all pumping systems. When a pump is the wrong size, it can cause cavitation and other problems that put wear on the system and waste energy. Here are three ways to rightsize your pumps:

  • Install parallel systems for highly variable loads or larger pumps with speed controls.
  • Reduce pump size to better match the load.
  • Use multiple smaller pumps so that excess pump capacity can be turned off as needed.
4. Reduce pump speed

If your pump is going too fast, it is probably wasting energy. Consider making these adjustments:

  • Reduce speed for fixed loads by trimming the impeller or lowering the gear ratio.
  • Replace throttling valves with speed controls to meet variable loads.
  • Install adjustable-speed drives to better match motor speeds to the load.
5. Upgrade pump components

Replace existing pumps and pump system components with newer, more efficient models. An estimated 15 percent of pumps are more than 20 years old. They are less efficient than newer models and may not be compatible with newer processes.

6. Address operation and maintenance

Like any other equipment, pumps must be properly maintained for maximum efficiency. Make sure you replace worn impellers, especially in semi-solid applications. Pump efficiency degrades from 1 to 5 percent for impellers with less than maximum diameter and with increased wear ring clearance. Also, be sure to inspect and repair bearings, lip seals, packings, and other seals. Pumps can also act as turbines, recovering pressure energy that would otherwise be wasted.

7. Centralize system control

By monitoring and controlling your pumps from a single location, you can immediately detect problems so that you can quickly repair them. Collected system data can be used for water modeling, energy use optimization, and predictive maintenance, as well as for seasonal flow and weather adjustments.

Effectively managing collection and distribution activities is also vital to efficient system operation. Continuous monitoring of remote systems will help identify overflow situations or potential ground contamination. Features to look for include:

  • High-resolution displays that allow you to view control graphics, diagnostics, trends, alarms, and status
  • Access to dynamic system points, historical data, and event logging
  • A sophisticated alarm management program

Get our free pump maintenance checklist. Submit your contact information to receive a pump maintenance checklist that you can share with clients.

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