This is the fourth part of a series based on Optimizing Pumping Systems: A Guide to Improved Energy Efficiency, Reliability, and Profitability, written by pump systems experts. This new guidebook continues the mission of Pump Systems Matter ( and the Hydraulic Institute ( to advance knowledge on pumping systems.

Pumping systems are used worldwide to transport fluids and operate in most industrial processes. Commercial and residential buildings also rely on pumps for essential services. Pumping systems account for nearly 25 percent of the energy consumed by electric motors, and for 20 percent to 60 percent of the total electrical energy usage in many industrial water and wastewater treatment facilities. Figure 1 shows the potential saving in gigawatt hours per year for optimization opportunities in key energy- intensive industries.

The process of identifying, understanding, and effectively eliminating unnecessary losses while reducing energy consumption, improving reliability, and minimizing the cost of ownership over the economic life of the pumping systems is commonly referred to as systems optimization. Besides reducing energy costs, improving the performance of an existing pumping system yields other benefits (Table 1).

Assessing the Current System
The first step in pumping system optimization is to assess the current system for existing deficiencies in need of correction. Many pumping system problems result from improper pump selection and operation, and these pumps can require considerable maintenance. The symptoms in Table 2 appear when improper sizing, selection, operation, or other issues result in suboptimal performance. The more symptoms present, the greater the likelihood of potential energy savings.

Next, the pump systems selected for assessment should be thoroughly evaluated to determine the true system requirements. In some systems, the operating pressures or rates of flow may be excessively high. Occasionally, this analysis will reveal that one or more pumping systems can be turned off without compromising the process.

Diagnostics & Data Collection
The next step in system optimization is to collect performance data such as rate of flow, suction and discharge pressure, or power consumption, using accurate and repeatable instrumentation. If the testing is not detrimental to the process, then consider a permanent installation. Continuously or intermittently measuring important parameters directly affecting process energy consumption can pay off in a short time.

Compare System Curve with Pump Performance Curve
Once the data have been collected, it is possible to compare the existing operating conditions to the design conditions and determine whether the pump is appropriately sized. The original pump performance curve is useful to construct a curve for the operating points of the existing system. Comparing acquired test data to the original performance curve provides an immediate sense of the current pump condition. Even comparing a single test point to the original curve can help the user determine whether the first step is to overhaul the pump or investigate the system further.

Depending on the system operation and fluid properties, a curve may be corrected for speed, temperature, specific gravity, or viscosity. In most cases, measurements that balance quantitative and qualitative aspects will be sufficient for major decisions regarding system optimization.

How to address each case can be determined without spending excessive time calculating error margins. If the piping cannot be changed, simply moving the pump curve closer to the desired operating condition will improve system efficiency.

Pump Duty Point
Figure 2 illustrates that the pump delivers the head and flow determined by the intersection of the pump curve and the system curve, commonly called the duty point. Maximum efficiency and lower power consumption will be achieved by ensuring the flow and head at the BEP closely match the duty point.

Pump industry best practice is to ensure that the system curve intersection should be +/-10 percent of BEP flow, which will reduce energy costs and provide benefits (Table 3).

Energy Costs from Passive Throttling Devices
Other components of the existing system must also be assessed. When throttling valves or bypass lines are used to control flow, conduct an analysis to determine the most efficient means of flow control. These variable flow systems may benefit from pump speed control, such as variable speed drives.

Evaluate the system piping configuration for optimization opportunities. A proper configuration includes a straight-run of pipe leading into the pump inlet to ensure a uniform flow distribution into the pump. Evaluate the use of vanes or other means of “straightening” the flow when this is not possible. Finally, analyze the size and pressure drop of the suction piping to minimize friction losses.

Evaluate Opportunities
Data analysis should indicate the system components that need to be changed for better efficiency. Some typical ways to optimize pumping systems include:

Motors: Every pump needs a prime mover. Electric motors are frequently- used drivers for pumps. The electric power a motor consumes is another important piece of data to evaluate when looking for opportunities to save. Measurement of low voltage motor power is usually easy and an important point in data collection. The power consumption can uncover any potential problems (mechanical or electrical) with the motor and provide a quick method to check for wasted energy.

Variable-Speed Operation: Using control methods that reduce the power to drive the pump during the periods of reduced demand can save energy costs. Where interruption of flow can be tolerated, on-off control may be the most energy-efficient option. Varying pump performance by changing speed is most often the best energy-efficient control method. Figure 3 shows the energy consumption of other popular control methods when compared to variable-speed control.

The energy that a pump consumes varies as the third power of the speed, so a 50 percent reduction in speed will reduce the power consumed by as much as 80 percent, depending on the system head curve characteristics. It is then possible to match the pump operating speed to the system requirements without throttling.

Stop/Start Control: In this method of control, switching the pump on or off varies the flow delivered within a given timeframe. It is necessary to have a storage capacity in the system such as a wet well, elevated tank, or accumulator-type pressure vessel. The storage facility can provide a steady flow to the system with an intermittently operating pump. This method effectively minimizes energy consumption if intermittent flow, stop/start operation, and the storage facility are acceptable. By arranging the run times during the low tariff periods, this method can be used to benefit from off-peak energy tariffs.

To reduce energy consumption with stop/start control, pump at the lowest flowrate the process permits while maintaining an acceptable pump operating range and capacity reserve. This reduced flow minimizes friction losses in the pipe, and an appropriately- sized pump can be installed. Ensure that the maximum system flow requirements are satisfied.

Multiple, Staged Pump Operation: Another energy-efficient method of flow control, particularly for systems where static head is a high proportion of the total, is the installation of two or more pumps in parallel. Variation of flowrate is achieved by switching additional pumps on and off to meet demand. It is often necessary to install two or more pumps in parallel to achieve the head and flow required and/or to vary the flowrate into the system. By plotting the pump curves onto the same graph as the system curve, it is possible to determine the flow and head obtained when running one, two, or three pumps by the intersection points shown in Figure 4.

Pump Replacement and Upgrade: Proper pumping system design is the most important single element in minimizing energy and life cycle costs. Other meaningful savings can be realized by evaluating the entire pump system, including the piping, fittings, and valves upstream and downstream from a pump, as well as the motor and motor driver. As mentioned previously, however, one of the most significant wastes of power involves the traditional practice of oversizing a pump by selecting design conditions with excessively “conservative” margins in both capacity and total head. This practice can lead to a situation where a great deal of attention is given to a small gain in pump efficiency (at BEP), while ignoring a potential power savings of as much as 15 percent, because of an overly conservative approach in setting the required conditions of service.

Model the System and Implement Scenarios: The use of analytical methods and/or hydraulic system modeling offers benefits at various stages in the system improvement process. If a system model already exists, then use it to evaluate potential solutions.

A system model has a major advantage over other potential approaches – i.e., it accounts for all of the system interactions. Changes in pump speed or impeller, control schemes, tank levels, etc., can all be evaluated on a common platform (Table 4).

Before committing to any construction or purchase decisions, thoroughly evaluate the impact of the modifications on all processes. To evaluate an existing pump system and ensure a successful project, be sure to:

  • Understand the operational deficiencies of the system and the process guarantees
  • Identify and understand any and all system problems
  • Carefully assess the system under full range of operation
  • Use qualified technicians and quality instrumentation to capture field data
  • Utilize available historical data from the plant operating system
  • Understand the true cost of energy and production downtime
  • Model the system and implement scenarios in the computer to optimize energy and economic benefits
  • Ensure buy-in from stakeholders in purchasing, operations, maintenance, and management by presenting results that show how each group will benefit from the system upgrade

“Improving the Performance of Existing Pumps” is the fourth article in a series based on the new guidebook Optimizing Pumping Systems, A Guide to Improved Energy Efficiency, Reliability, and Profitability, currently available from Hydraulic Institute (HI) and Pump Systems Matter (PSM). Next month’s article will focus on optimizing new pumping system designs.

?Gregg Romanyshyn is the technical director at the Hydraulic Institute. In this position, he oversees the technical aspects related to the Hydraulic Institute. Mr. Romanyshyn has over 30 years experience involved with pump- related businesses and has been at the Hydraulic Institute for 10 years. The Hydraulic Institute is the largest association of pump industry manufacturers in North America and serves the pump community by providing product standards, guidelines, and references, and is a forum for the exchange of industry information.

1. ANSI/HI Pump Standards. For more information on these standards visit
2. Optimizing Pumping Systems, A Guide to Improved Energy Efficiency, Reliability, and Profitability. For more information on HI Guidebooks, visit

Hydraulic Institute Members and Pump Systems Matter Sponsors contributed to the content of this article.

Education Course on Saving Energy and Improving Pump Systems Performance

Pump Systems Matter (PSM) and the Hydraulic Institute (HI) are offering a new one-day course designed to help pump users learn how to identify and reduce hidden operating and energy costs in their pumping systems, and ultimately increase their profitability. The course also helps pump users more effectively communicate with customers, distributors, and vendors by imparting the critical knowledge needed to present and discuss energy-savings opportunities.
The course, Pumping System Optimization: Opportunities to Improve Life Cycle Performance, represents a wise time and dollar investment for both companies and individuals. The course is reasonably priced, and attendees will gain a new awareness of the skills they’ll need to help improve efficiency in their pumping systems and reduce energy and operating costs. Attendees also earn seven professional development hour credits (PDH) from the Hydraulic Institute after completing the course.

Pump Systems Matter and HI will next host the course on October 19, 2010 in Cleveland, OH. Additional course details and registration information are available Classes are limited to 25 attendees to ensure an effective learning environment. Special in-company or regional classes can also be organized for “host” companies with sufficient advance notice.