Pumps and pumping systems are like the unsung heroes of modern society – quickly and quietly transporting vital water supplies, chemicals and waste to and from locations that rely upon their consistent, reliable operation. In fact, pumps and pumping systems generally go unnoticed until a problem arises or downtime occurs. This is particularly true in the water and wastewater industry, where the disruption of pumping operations may lead to a variety of issues, from the inconvenient to the catastrophic. In many cases, however, by simply choosing the correct pump for the application, issues can be prevented.

In a water or wastewater application, where debris of varying sizes and proportions can make its way into the system, any piece of pumping equipment being considered should be capable of passing solids that are at least three-inches in diameter.

When choosing the correct equipment for a pumping application, the choice can often be reduced to a handful of simple steps which — when followed carefully and thoroughly — can help eliminate much of the stress and confusion often involved with the equipment purchasing process. In addition, purchasing the correct pump ensures a longer pump life and greatly minimizes the occurrences of downtime. Purchasing the right pump for the job isn’t like buying a pair of tennis shoes that will wear out in a year. This is a decision that users have to live with for years, if not decades. As such, it’s important to take the necessary time to ensure the selected pump will not only do the job, but also do it dependably for years to come.

Find an Experienced Partner
One of the most important steps along the way when purchasing new pumping equipment comes at the very beginning — choosing an expert with whom to work. A distributor is often a key partner in the quest to specify the correct pump for an application, as they will help identify important information about the facility, the specific pumping application, the liquid being pumped, where it is being pumped to, how quickly it needs to be pumped, and a variety of other vital considerations.

A good pump distributor has the ability to analyze each piece of information provided by the user to develop a clear picture of the pumping situation. Based on this information, the distributor can make an educated recommendation on the type of pumping equipment that will best suit the needs of the application.

Trash pumps are used here to pump wastewater from a South Carolina quarry.

The issue, however, is determining which distributor offers the appropriate level of expertise for the application under consideration. A telling indication of this is the number of years the professionals have been involved in the business, as well as the pump manufacturer they represent.

Typically, the more years the better. The number of years the distributor has been around is indicative of the quality of work that they do, because it takes years of experience working with pumps and pumping systems to fully understand the many intricacies and nuances that are involved in their use. This is not to say that someone with less time in the position can’t do a fantastic job of accurately examining and diagnosing the correct equipment for a given application, but it is often a much safer bet to fall back on the expertise of a distributor with tested experience.

There are many factors that go into the ultimate success or failure of a pumping system. As such, solid distributor partnerships can be helpful to the user in considering all of the factors that are necessary for effective pump selection.

Distributors who do poor work, make faulty recommendations and fail to back up their work with trustworthy dependability don’t last long in the business. They quickly receive a reputation for sub-par work and are usually shunned by the most dependable, trusted pump manufacturers, which also tend to have many years of experience under their belts.

Know Your Application
Once a reliable equipment distributor has been secured, the problem or situation at hand must then be diagnosed. Throughout this process, it is absolutely vital to provide clear, concise and, above all else, factual information. Doing so is the only way to ensure the most appropriate piece of equipment is specified for the application under consideration.

4 Tips for Finding the
Right Distributor

1. Look for quick & accurate troubleshooting capabilities. Many distributors serve customers with many miles between them. In such scenarios, being there to troubleshoot a problem by seeing it first hand is a luxury that’s rarely available, and intelligence and experience are needed to bridge the distance. Also, you should look for distributor/manufacturer partners that are readily available 24/7.

2. Don’t under-estimate the value of single-source responsibility. Single-source responsibility is your guarantee that despite the problem the manufacturer of the lift station, for instance, is going to give superior service. Stay clear of distributor/manufacturer partners who who claim responsibility only for the pumps in a lift station, because a pump is just a single piece of the solution – albeit an important one.

3. Check for a solid track record. At any given time, a distributor may find himself maintaining technology he helped install several years prior – it’s what you would call an ownership in your business. As such, you want to make sure your distributor/manufacurer partners have time-tested experience in your application environment.

4. Look for a patient team. It’s important to have support from your distributor/manufacturer partners during the design phase of a project. Try to find a team that understands and is willing to create O&M manuals in a way that will ensure the longevity and reliability of the system as a whole.

A good distributor will request all of the information available about the pumping project under consideration. It is important to be prepared to provide exact data and information on the pumping location and the substance being pumped, including the liquid being pumped, required flowrates, total head required, temperature, viscosity, specific gravity of the liquid, percentage and size of solids, etc. When purchasing replacement equipment for an ongoing application, it is also important to provide all information on the pumping application, including what type of pump is being replaced and why. If a material data safety sheet is available, it should also be supplied to the distributor. This information-sharing stage is conducted in the interest of creating a picture for the distributor that allows for precise equipment recommendations.

In the instances when the wrong pump is supplied for an application, the result is often a major operational breakdown. Each pump contains both elastomers and metal components, making it vital to correctly match the elastomers needed for a pump with its metal components. For instance, some chemical substances have been known to swell or destroy the rubber components in the pump. Component deterioration (either elastomeric or metallic) is just one of the many examples of ways that pumping equipment can be irreparably damaged by being incorrectly matched with a liquid being pumped.

These types of mechanical failures lead to large amounts of wasted operational time and money that most facilities can ill afford. Warranties may also be voided if the end-user supplies incorrect information in the initial selection process.

Differentiate Between Pumps & Pumping Needs
When supplied with all necessary information, an experienced pump distributor will have the ability to examine specific applications and meet the needs of the project and budget with an appropriate piece of equipment. A seemingly endless number of differences separate one type of pump from another. Therefore, this step allows all options to be whittled down from a large list of potential pumps to one that will best fit the application.

For example, in a water or wastewater application, where trash of a varying nature can make its way into the system, any piece of pumping equipment being considered should pass solids that are at least three inches in diameter. Fish, debris, trash and other unmentionables can put even the best pump to the test in a wastewater environment. Most experienced facility engineers will know to look for three-inch solids-passing capability. However, smart engineers know better than to stop here.

Trash-handling centrifugal pumps account for nearly 90 percent of all pumps used in the primary wastewater pump application. Why? Because these pumps are capable of handling large amounts of liquids and solids at any given point in time. In fact, when planning for wastewater applications, most municipalities focus on key flow times — typically between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. In addition, they will look at times of traditionally high usage — such as during halftime of the Super Bowl. During these times, when waste systems are charged with processing peak flows, heavy-duty solids-handling systems are a must.

For applications that require smaller, more accurate measurements of viscous liquids to be pumped, a peristaltic pump or hose pump is a good fit. However, this type of pump would never be needed in an application that moves large amounts of water at a high flowrate. In most cases, this type of equipment will be used in some type of metering or dosing application in a wastewater facility, such as assisting in the overall pumping application, lowering pH levels, injecting chemicals as needed to maintain a safe and efficient environment, etc.

Making the Tougher Distinctions
With more complex application requirements, a variety of potential solutions can present themselves. Often, decisions in these sorts of scenarios require more investigation by the distributor because of the presence of multiple pump options. For example, many applications may seem to require a metering pump, many of which are of the mechanical diaphragm type. But piston and progressive-cavity pumps can also be utilized for specific applications in this area — usually those requiring higher flows.

Pump construction materials also play a factor. Most common materials of construction for these types of pump would include Buna, Viton or Teflon diaphragms. Buna is a Butadiene Acrylo-Nitril rubber compound with a maximum temperature rating of 240 F. Viton is a fluorinated hydrocarbon compound with a maximum temperature rating of 400-600 F. Teflon is a tetrafluoro-ethylene resin compound also used in pump diaphragms for abrasive/corrosive applications with a maximum temperature rating of 450 F. Other appropriate materials, depending on the liquid being pumped, would include various stainless steels or other nonmetallic substances.

One Size Does Not Fit All
Although there are ways to help make the pump purchasing process simpler and more effective, there is no clear-cut set of circumstances that call for one pump over another. Each pumping application carries with it its own unique set of considerations and conditions, which must be evaluated as a part of the overall selection process.

This is the reason that a pump distributor is so valuable — for their ability to take all factors into consideration. A responsible distributor will always make the smartest recommendation for their clients. Additionally, the most reliable distributors are typically associated with the most reliable pump manufacturers.

At times, that may mean recommending a piece of equipment that will have a higher upfront cost. While these initial costs may be slightly more than other pieces of equipment, the equipment is usually a smarter long-term investment, as it will lead to less system downtime and lower maintenance costs over the life of the equipment.

John Amundsen is a district manager at the Gorman-Rupp Co, a manufacturer of pumps and pumping systems for the municipal, water, wastewater, sewage, industrial, construction, petroleum, fire and OEM markets. Mr. Amundsen has been actively involved in the pumping industry for more than 28 years, on both the distributor and manufacturer’s level. He can be reached at jamundsen@gormanrupp.com or 419 755-1011.