HP Ratings / Submersible Pump Industry

HP Ratings / Submersible Pump Industry
by Steve Doolittle, National Sales Manager
HP Ratings as applied in the Submersible Pump Industry can be
misleading at times and lead to misinterpretation when evaluation pumps.
Comparing pumps based on HP Rating could lead to an erroneous
In this article, I’ll explain why this occurs. I’ll also go into some detail of
what factors to consider when you are to comparing different models of
submersible pumps.
Understand that a Submersible Pump Manufacturer typically will not buy
an assembled motor. The stator and rotor for a particular pump as well as
the bearings and mechanical seals are purchased separately and
assembled into the motor housing. Therefore, the pump manufacture is
also the motor manufacture. Being the motor manufacturer, some latitude
is obtained as to how the HP Rating of the pump is established. Since a
motor used with a submersible pump operates in an environment with a
narrow temperature range, the manufacturer determines how a particular
submersible motor is utilized. Designing a pump where its motor will work
below its load limit (non-overloading) is the goal of the Pump Engineer.
Working under its load limit is the key. You never want your pump to
do more work than its motor can handle (or overload). This all relates
back to controlling the temperature of the motor. Three factors
involved in determining a motor's operational limits are the internal
operating temperature of the unit, the Class rating of the motor winding,
and the rate of heat dissipation. A good pump design will have a motor
that will typically operate at least 50 degrees below its temperature rating
at the full run out capacity of its impeller. This is accomplished by utilizing
a motor large enough to handle the load. Additionally, the motor housing
design must be able to quickly dissipate the heat being generated during
Since the pump manufacturer determines the HP Rating on the
nameplate of the pump, other factors need to be considered when
evaluating a submersible pump. The pump’s nameplate Full Load
Amperage (FLA) Rating is very important. The FLA Rating is one of the
better indications of the amount of work the pump’s driver (motor shaft) is
capable of doing. The type of impeller must also be taken into
consideration. For example, in a given situation a Vortex Impeller might
be preferred because of its solid-handling capabilities, but it might also
require a greater HP rated pump. Finally, pumps can not be compared
without reviewing their performance curves.
How do Pump Manufacturers establish a pump's HP Rating? Based on
my observations, I've found three methods used.
The first method uses the pump performance curve (GPM vs. Head) as a
basis for establishing its HP Rating. There is not a direct electrical
relationship to this HP Rating. Manufacturers use this method for smaller
Residential or Commercial grade pumps. This would include Sump
Pumps, Sewage Ejectors and 2 HP Grinder Pumps. If you compare most
any pump curve within a specific Sump, Sewage, or Grinder category
having the same motor speed (RPM) and solids capacity, you'll see the
relationship of the pump performance curve to the HP Rating without
regard to the electrical current draw of the pump. These pumps, being
used intermittently, do not consume large quantities of electrical power.
For that reason the solid-handling capacity, the pump's reliability and the
pumps ability to meet the application's design point is of greatest
The second method is more precise and is utilized by manufacturers who
supply pumping systems for Industrial use, primarily in the Water and
Wastewater Industry. These customers expect to be provided with
products where there is a direct relationship between the electrical ratings
and hydraulic performance of the unit. These relationships can be seen
with the use of published performance data and mathematical formulas.
Finally, and most important, there is usually a direct correlation between
the FLA and HP Rating on the pump’s nameplate to the Full Load Current
Charts as published by the National Electrical Code. This is critical since
these are usually larger pumps of a heavier duty nature, which are
operated with more sophisticated electrical control systems. When
designing an engineered pumping system the electrical and
instrumentation people expect the pump’s HP Rating to be in line with the
NEC’s Chart. This enables them to properly size the power distribution
and control system.
The third method is one you need to be most aware of. There are some
reputable manufacturers in the Industry who misrepresent some products
in their line. Knowledgeable pump people can readily see these
discrepancies. For instance recently I saw a curve on a 5 HP Grinder
Pump, which I could only match with my 7.5 HP Model. Upon further
investigation I noticed that this 5 HP pump had a higher FLA Rating than
my 7.5 HP unit. An engineer might reject the 7.5 HP pump if he did not do
a thorough evaluation of the two pumps. Another Manufacturer shows a
3" solids handling pump with some impressive flows at higher heads. Few
can detect that this pump will not pass a 3" solid, but independent testing
proved that to be the case. But, this pump and its curve remain
unchanged in that Manufacturer’s catalog. These isolated instances
demonstrate why you need to evaluate a pump on factors other than HP,
since the criteria used to rate some pumps do not fall within the standard
acceptable practices of the Industry.
#1) You need to evaluate the full run out of the selected impeller diameter.
The Industry Standard for minimum Total Dynamic Head (TDH) is 5 to 10
feet. But sometimes a performance curve for a particular pump stops at a
TDH point greater than 10 feet. If a pump is selected, which has a high
minimum Head, you need to make sure that your system has sufficient
Head, which will protect it from overloading.
#2) The larger heavier duty type pumps usually have curves where both
the Performance and HP curve are plotted on the same graph. The
performances of varying impeller diameters are shown with a solid line
whereas the HP limits are shown with a dashed line. At any point, where
the solid impeller curve crosses the dashed HP curve, you’ll have an
overloaded motor. To be safe, always select a pump where there is a
sufficient gap between the impeller's operating point and the HP line. The
larger the gap, the cooler your motor will operate and a likely longer
service life. Ideally, select the HP where the desired impeller in nonoverloading through its full run-out, or 10’ TDH.
#3) Motor windings are rated by Classes. Each Class has a temperature
rating to which the winding’s insulation can be exposed. The higher the
temperature rating of the winding the greater protection you’ll have
against overheating a motor. Additionally, the higher rated winding will
provide a longer service life when properly applied. Typical ratings are as
Class A - 221 Degrees F Class B - 266 Degrees F
Class F - 311 Degrees F Class H - 356 Degrees F
#4) Oil Filled motors will dissipate the heat from the motor much quicker
than an Air Filled type. There are some arguments that might favor Air
Filled, but these are outweighed by the heat dissipating and lubrication
properties of an Oil Filled motor.
#5) The weight of a pump can be of significance. A heavier pump will
have thicker castings, which provide for faster heat dissipation. It may
also have a higher rated motor. Some manufactures do no list the weight
of their pump in their general technical data, but it is worth inquiring into. If
you find two pumps to be equal but one weighs 25% more than the other,
the pumps may not be as equal as they might appear.
#6) All impellers are not the same. Comparing materials, one manufacture
may offer Cast Iron while another uses Ductile Iron. Also one may be a
Single Vane style while another uses a Dual Vane. The standard for one
manufacture may be a Semi-Open type while another uses an Enclosed
impeller. In an application with a high concentration of solids, you may
want to consider using a Vortex type. A discussion on impellers is to
broad for this paper, but you should be aware that there are advantages
and disadvantages to each design.
This article was written in order to provide some insight into the design
and construction of submersible pumps. Hopefully, this topic has been of
interest to you and provided information that will be beneficial in the
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