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What is Pumps & Related Components

There are a wide range of pumps and pumping equipment, as the pumping module sets out. These range from simple hand pumps to complex wind pumps, and diesel, petrol, kerosene and electric pumps. It is important that pumps be size according to need, demand, and the technical, financial and locational aspects relevant to the particular site.

The terms and definitions contained herein have been kindly provided with the permission of Dankoff Solar Products, Inc. They provide both the learner and the expert with an excellent base for developing a better understanding pumping system requirements and applications.

Glossary of Terms and Definitions

Booster Pump: A surface pump used to increase pressure in a water line, or to pull from a storage tank and pressurize a water system. See surface pump.

Centrifugal Pump: A pumping mechanism that spins water by means of an "impeller". Water is pushed out by centrifugal force. See also multi-stage.

Check Valve: A valve that allows water to flow one way but not the other.

Diaphragm Pump: A type of pump in which water is drawn in and forced out of one or more chambers, by a flexible diaphragm. Check valves let water into and out of each chamber.

Foot Valve: A check valve placed in the water source below a surface pump. It prevents water from flowing back down the pipe and "losing prime". See check valve and priming.

Positive Displacement Pump: Any mechanism that seals water in a chamber, then forces it out by reducing the volume of the chamber. Examples: piston (including jack), diaphragm, rotary vane. Used for low volume and high lift. Contrast with centrifugal. Synonyms: volumetric pump, force pump.

Impeller: For impeller, see centrifugal pump

Jet Pump: A surface-mounted centrifugal pump that uses an "ejector" (venturi) device to augment its suction capacity. In a "deep well jet pump", the ejector is down in the well, to assist the pump in overcoming the limitations of suction. (Some water is diverted back down the well, causing an increase in energy use.)

Multi-Stage Centrifugal: A centrifugal pump with more than one impeller and chamber, stacked in a sequence to produce higher pressure. Conventional AC deep well submersible pumps and higher power solar submersibles work this way.

Priming: The process of hand-filling the suction pipe and intake of a surface pump. Priming is generally necessary when a pump must be located above the water source. A self-priming pump is able to draw some air suction in order to prime itself, at least in theory. See foot valve.

Pulsation Damper: A device that absorbs and releases pulsations in flow produced by a piston or diaphragm pump. Consists of a chamber with air trapped within it.

Pump Jack: A deep well piston pump. The piston and cylinder is submerged in the well water and actuated by a rod inside the drop pipe, powered by a motor at the surface. This is an old-fashioned system that is still used for extremely deep wells, including solar pumps as deep as 350 metres.

Sealed Piston Pump: See positive displacement pump. This is a type of pump recently developed for solar submersibles. The pistons have a very short stroke, allowing the use of flexible gaskets to seal water out of an oil-filled mechanism.

Self-Priming Pump: See priming.

Submersible Pump: A motor/pump combination designed to be placed entirely below the water surface.

Surface Pump: A pump that is not submersible. It must be placed no more than about 20 ft. above the surface of the water in the well. See priming. (Exception: see jet pump)

Vane Pump (Rotary Vane): A positive displacement mechanism used in low volume high lift surface pumps and booster pumps. Durable and efficient, but requires cleanly filtered water due to its mechanical precision.

Solar Pump Components

DC Motor, Brush-Type: The traditional DC motor, in which small carbon blocks called "brushes" conduct current into the spinning portion of the motor. They are used in DC surface pumps and also in some DC submersible pumps. Brushes naturally wear down after years of use, and may be easily replaced.

DC Motor, Brushless: High-technology motor used in centrifugal-type DC submersibles. The motor is filled with oil, to keep water out. An electronic system is used to precisely alternate the current, causing the motor to spin.

DC Motor, Permanent Magnet: All DC solar pumps use this type of motor in some form. Being a variable speed motor by nature, reduced voltage (in low sun) produces proportionally reduced speed, and causes no harm to the motor. Contrast: induction motor

Induction Motor (AC): The type of electric motor used in conventional AC water pumps. It requires a high surge of current to start and a stable voltage supply, making it relatively expensive to run from by solar power. See Inverter.

Linear Current Booster: See pump controller . Note: Although this term has become generic, its abbreviation "LCB" is a trademark of Bobier Electronics.

Pump Controller: An electronic device which varies the voltage and current of a PV array to match the needs of an array-direct pump. It allows the pump to start and to run under low sun conditions without stalling. Electrical analogy: variable transformer. Mechanical analogy: automatic transmission.

Pump System Engineering

Friction Loss: The loss of pressure due to flow of water in pipe. This is determined by 3 factors - pipe size (inside diameter), flow rate, and length of pipe. It is determined by consulting a friction loss chart available in an engineering reference book or from a pipe supplier. It is expressed in PSI (pounds per square inch) or bar (1 bar equals 1 kilogram per square centimetre), or feet or metres (equivalent additional feet of pumping).

Head: See synonym: vertical lift.

Suction Lift: Applied to surface pumps: Vertical distance from the surface of the water in the source, to a pump located above surface pump located above. This distance is limited by physics to around 6 metres (20 feet) at sea level (subtract about 30 cm [1 foot] per 330 metres [1000 foot] altitude) and should be minimized for best results.

Submergence: Applied to submersible pumps: Distance beneath the static water level, at which a pump is set. Synonym: immersion level.

Total Dynamic Head: vertical lift + friction loss in piping (see friction loss).

Vertical Lift: The vertical distance that water is pumped. This determines the pressure that the pump pushes against. Total vertical lift = vertical lift from surface of water source up to the discharge in the tank + (in a pressure system) discharge pressure. Synonym: static headNote: Horizontal distance does NOT add to the vertical lift, except in terms of pipe friction loss. NOR does the volume (weight) of water contained in pipe or tank. Submergence of the pump does NOT add to the vertical lift

Water Well Components

Borehole: Synonym for drilled well. A borehole is the common terminology for a drilled well outside of North America.

Casing: Plastic or steel tube that is permanently inserted in the well after drilling. Its size is specified according to its inside diameter.

Cable Splice: A joint in electrical cable. A submersible splice is made using special materials available in kit form.

Drop Pipe: The pipe that carries water from a pump in a well up to the surface.

Perforations: Slits cut into the well casing to allow groundwater to enter. May be located at more than one level, to coincide with water-bearing strata in the earth.

Pitless Adapter: A special pipe fitting that fits on a well casing, below ground. It allows the pipe to pass horizontally through the casing so that no pipe is exposed above ground where it could freeze. The pump may be installed and removed without further need to dig around the casing. This is done by using a 1 inch threaded pipe as a handle.

Safety Rope: Plastic rope used to secure the pump in case of pipe breakage.

Submersible Cable: Electrical cable designed for in-well submersion. Conductor sizing is specified in millimetres, or (in USA) by American Wire Gauge (AWG) in which a higher number indicates smaller wire. It is connected to a pump by a cable splice.

Well Seal: Top plate of well casing that provides a sanitary seal and support for the drop pipe and pump. Alternative: See pitless adapter

Water Well Characteristics

Driller's Log: The written form on which well characteristics are recorded by the well driller. In most states, drillers are required to register all water wells and to send a copy of the log to a state office. This supplies hydrological data and well performance test results to the public and to the well owner.

Drawdown: Lowering of level of water in a well due to pumping.

Recovery Rate: Rate at which groundwater refills the casing after the level is drawn down. This is the term used to specify the production rate of the well.

Static Water Level: Depth to the water surface in a well under static conditions (not being pumped). May be subject to seasonal changes or lowering due to depletion.

Wellhead: Top of the well, at ground level.

Water Distribution

Cut-In Pressure and Cut-Out Pressure: See pressure switch.

Gravity Flow: The use of gravity to produce pressure and water flow. A storage tank is elevated above the point of use, so that water will flow with no further pumping required. A booster pump may be used to increase pressure. 2.31 Vertical Feet = 1 PSI. See pressure.

Head: See vertical lift and total dynamic head. In water distribution, synonym: vertical drop.

Open Discharge: The filling of a water vessel that is not sealed to hold pressure. Examples: storage (holding) tank, pond, flood irrigation. Contrast: pressure tank.

Pressure: The amount of force applied by water that is either forced by a pump, or by the gravity. Measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). PSI = vertical lift (or drop) in Feet / 2.31, or in bar (1 bar equals the equivalent downward force of a vertical shaft of water 10 metres high exerted on one square centimetre of surface).

Pressure Switch: An electrical switch actuated by the pressure in a pressure tank. When the pressure drops to a low set-point (cut-in) it turns a pump on. At a high point (cut-out) it turns the pump off.

Pressure Tank: A fully enclosed tank with an air space inside. As water is forced in, the air compresses. The stored water may be released after the pump has stopped. Most pressure tanks contain a rubber bladder to capture the air. If so, synonym: captive air tank.

Pressure Tank Pre-charge: The pressure of compressed air stored in a captive air pressure tank. A reading should be taken with an air pressure gauge (tire gauge) with water pressure at zero. The air pressure is then adjusted to about 3 PSI lower than the cut-in pressure (see Pressure Switch). If pre-charge is not set properly, the tank will not work to full capacity, and the pump will cycle on and off more frequently.