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Published by rhwills
FAO Document 43 - Water Lifting Devices. PDF with all sections combined.
FAO Document 43 - Water Lifting Devices. PDF with all sections combined.

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Published by: rhwills on Jun 04, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Rotodynamic pumps, of any kind, will only start to pump if their impellers are flooded
with water prior to start-up. Obviously the one certain way to avoid any problem is to
submerge the pump in the water source, but this is not always practical or convenient.
This applies especially to portable pump sets, which are often important for irrigation, but
which obviously need to be drained and re-primed every time they are moved to a new

If sufficient water is present in the pump casing, then even if the suction pipe is empty,
suction will be created and water can be lifted. A variety of methods are used to fill
rotodynamic pumps when they are mounted above the water level. It is, however, most
important to note that if the suction line is empty but the delivery line is full, it may be
necessary to drain the delivery line in order to remove the back pressure on the pump, to
enable it to be primed. Otherwise it will be difficult if not impossible to flush out the air in
the system. One way to achieve this is to fit a branch with a hand valve on it at the
discharge, which can allow the pump to be "bled" by providing an easy exit for the air in
the system.

The most basic method of priming is to rely on the footvalve to keep water in the system.
The system has to be filled initially by pouring water into the pipes from a bucket; after
that it is hoped that the footvalve will keep water in the system even after the pump is not
used for some time. In many cases this is a vain hope, as footvalves quite often leak,
especially if mud or grit is present in the water and settles between the valve and its seat
when it attempts to close. Apart from the nuisance value when a pump loses its prime,
many pumps suffer serious damage if run for any length of time while dry, as the internal
seals and rubbing faces depend on water lubrication and will wear out quickly when run
dry. Also, a pump running dry will tend to overheat; this will melt the grease in the
bearings and cause it to leak out, and can also destroy seals, plastic components or
other items with low temperature tolerance.

The two most common methods for priming surface-mounted, engine driven suction
centrifugal pumps are either by using a small hand pump on the delivery line as
illustrated in Fig. 72, (this shows a diaphragm priming pump which has particularly good
suction capabilities) or an "exhaust ejector" may be used; here suction is developed by a
high velocity jet of exhaust from the engine, using similar principles to those illustrated in
Fig. 57 and described in more detail in Section 3.8.9 which follows.

Several alternatie methods of priming surface suction pumps may be commonly
improvized. For example, a large container of water may be mounted above the pump
level so water can be transferred between the pump and the tank via a branch from the
delivery line with a valve in it. Then when the pump has to be restarted after the pipe-line
has drained, the valve can be opened to drain the tank into the pump and suction line.
Even the worst footvalves leak slowly enough to enable the system to be started, after
which the tank can be refilled by the pump so as to be ready for the next start.

Alternatively, a large container can be included in the suction line, mounted above the
level of the pump, which will always trap enough water in it to allow the pump to pull
enough of a vacuum to refill the complete suction line. Care is needed in designing an
installation of this kind, to avoid introducing air-locks in the suction line.


Fig. 72 Direct-coupled air-cooled diesel engine and pump installation with hand-operated
diaphragm pump for priming

Yet another simple method to use, but only if the delivery line is long enough to carry a
sufficient supply of water, is to fit a hand-valve immediately after the pump discharge
(instead of a non-return valve) so that when the pump is turned off, the valve can be
manually closed. Then the opening of this valve will refill the pump from the delivery line
to ensure it is flooded on restarting.

Sometimes the most reliable arrangement is to use a special "self-priming" centrifugal
pump (Fig. 73). Here, the pump has an enlarged upper casing with a baffle in it. When
the pump and suction line are empty, the pump casing has to be filled with water from a
bucket through the filler plug visible on top. Then when the pump is started, the water in
the casing is thrown up towards the discharge and an eye is formed at the hub of the
impeller which is at low pressure; until water is drawn up the suction pipe the water
discharged from the top of the pump tends to fall back around the baffle and some of the
entrained air carries on up the empty discharge pipe. The air which is discharged is
replaced by water drawn up the suction pipe, until eventually the suction pipe fills
completely and the air bubble in the eye of the impeller is blown out of the discharge
pipe. Once all the air has been expelled, water ceases to circulate within the pump and
both channels act as discharge channels. A check valve is fitted to the inlet of the pump
so that when the pump is stopped it remains full of water. Then even if the foot valve on
the suction line leaks and the suction line empties, the water trapped in the casing of the
pump will allow the same self-priming function as described earlier to suck water up the
suction line. Hence, pumps of this kind only need to be manually filled with water when
first starting up after the entire system has been drained.


Fig. 73 Self-priming centrifugal pump

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