How Does A Water Pump Work?

Water pumps have been used for centuries to move water from one place to another or from a source to a dispenser or storage location. Without them, many industries and simple jobs we take for granted would be much more difficult. While the first water pumps were powered by hand or, in some cases, windmills, today they are far more powerful and effective.  

Today, you can find many different variations on the water pump, built for any application you can imagine. From massive pumps used on farms and construction sites pulled by a tractor to minuscule pumps used in synthetic hearts, water pumps are everywhere in the modern world. While there are an incredible number of different types of pumps for different applications, we’ll focus on the most common types of water pumps that are available for consumer and household use.

Types of Water Pumps

There are two main types of water pumps used today in commercial or home applications: powered by fuel like gasoline or diesel, or pumps powered by electricity. Gas pumps are typically stronger and can handle more fluids, so they are recommended for industrial applications or uses where a very powerful pump is needed. However, they also typically have more moving parts and require more upkeep and maintenance. 

Electric pumps are typically less powerful, but more convenient and portable than gas-powered pumps. They don’t require fuel or oil and don’t release harmful emissions when used inside. However, both types of pumps serve important functions and depending on your needs, a gas-powered pump might be superior to an electric-powered pump.  

From there, there are two further main types of water pumps we will look at, centrifugal pumps and positive displacement pumps. How do these two types of pumps achieve their goal of moving water from one location to another?

Centrifugal pumps

These pumps are the most common ones found in general applications, like de-flooding a basement or clearing a construction site. They work by using a motor to spin or rotate an impeller to bring water into the pump. This motor also pressurized the discharge, forcing the water out of the pump in the opposite direction it came in.  

These pumps work well for high flows, liquids with solids in them, and lower-viscosity fluids. Essentially, the impeller works just like a powerful fan or propeller, except it is specifically designed to handle fluids, rather than air. 

Positive displacement pumps

Positive displacement pumps work by moving a fixed volume of fluid from one area to another, using pressure. This pressure action can be driven by various means: pistons, screws, diaphragms, gears, vanes, or more. Essentially, these pumps use mechanical action, like a piston, to push the water along from high pressure to low.  

This type of pump is useful for thicker, more viscous fluids, or when a continuous, steady output is required. For example, if a food production facility needed a water pump that would provide a steady output that doesn’t change, a positive displacement pump would be the right choice.   

Of course, these two types of pumps can be broken down into many smaller types, each with its own pros and cons, specific mechanism of action, and applications it can be used for. For example, this is a list of just the different types of positive displacement pumps:

  • Rotary lobe pump
  • Progressive cavity pump
  • Rotary gear pump
  • Piston pump
  • Diaphragm pump
  • Screw pump
  • Gear pump
  • Hydraulic pump
  • Rotary vane pump
  • Peristaltic pump
  • Rope pump
  • Flexible impeller pump

Although they all work through slightly different means, the principle is the same: water is pushed or moved from an area of high pressure to low pressure, and from a source to a receptacle.  

Pumps for All Applications

No matter what you’re using the pump for, or which type of pump you are using, it will follow these basic designs. Whether it’s a motor rotating very quickly, anywhere from 500-5,000 RPM, creating mechanical action that moves fluid from one area to another, or a piston that pushes water from an input to an output, the basic goal of moving water from one place to another remains the same.  

Humanity has long striven to master control over water. The most precious element of all on a universal scale, entire civilizations have lived or died due to their ability to procure and control water. From the Roman aqueducts to Mesoamerican aquaculture, water is more than just a commodity – water is life.

However, sometimes you just have too much water – like a flooded basement, for example! In that case, there’s a perfect pump for you – a small to medium-sized electric centrifugal pump would be your best bet, given that it will need to be used indoors, won’t need to be used continuously, and the consistency of the flow rate won’t matter.  

No matter what your issue is, there is a water pump for you. Contact a water pump retailer today and get the process of finding the perfect one for your application started today!  

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