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The definition of NPSHA is simple: Static head + surface pressure head - the vapor pressure of your product - the friction losses in the piping, valves and fittings. But to really understand it, you first have to understand a couple of other concepts:

Cavitation is what net positive suction head (NPSH) is all about, so you need to know a little about cavitation. Vapor Pressure is another term we will be using. The product's vapor pressure varies with the fluid's temperature. Specific gravity play an important part in all calculations involving liquid. You have to be familiar with the term. You have to be able to read a pump curve to learn the N.P.S.H. required for your pump. You need to understand how the liquid's velocity affects its pressure or head. It is important to understand why we use the term Head instead of Pressure when we make our calculations. Head loss is an awkward term, but you will need to understand it. o You will have to be able to calculate the head loss through piping, valves and fittings. You must know the difference between gage pressure and absolute pressure. Vacuum is often a part of the calculations, so you are going to have to be familiar with the terms we use to describe vacuum.

Lets look at each of these concepts in a little more detail :

Cavitation means cavities or holes in liquid. Another name for a hole in a liquid is a bubble, so cavitation is all about bubbles forming and collapsing. o Bubbles take up space so the capacity of our pump drops. o Collapsing bubbles can damage the impeller and volute. This makes cavitation a problem for both the pump and the mechanical seal. Vapor pressure is about liquids boiling. If I asked you, "at what temperature does water boil ?" You could say 212° F. or 100° C., but that is only true at atmospheric pressure. Every product will boil (make bubbles) at some combination of pressure and temperature. If you know the temperature of your product you need to know its vapor pressure to prevent boiling and the formation of bubbles. In the charts section of this web site you will find a vapor pressure chart for several common liquids. Specific gravity is about the weight of the fluid. Using 4°C (39° F) as our temperature standard we assign fresh water a value of one. If the fluid floats on this fresh water it has a specific gravity is less than one. If the fluid sinks in this water the specific gravity of the fluid is greater than one. Look at any pump curve and make sure you can locate the values for head, capacity, best efficiency point (B.E.P.), efficiency, net positive suction head (NPSH), and horse power required. If you cannot do this, have someone show you where they are located. Liquid velocity is another important concept. As a liquid's velocity increases, its pressure (90° to the flow) decreases. If the velocity decreases the pressure increases. The rule is : velocity times pressure must remain a constant. "Head" is the term we use instead of pressure. The pump will pump any liquid to a given height or head depending upon the diameter and speed of the impeller. The amount of pressure you get depends upon the weight (specific gravity) of the liquid. The pump manufacturer does not know what liquid the pump will be pumping so he gives you only the head that the pump will generate. You have to figure out the pressure using a formula described later on in this paper. Head (feet) is a convenient term because when combined with capacity (gallons or pounds per minute) you come up with the conversion for horsepower (foot pounds per minute). "Head loss through the piping, valves and fittings" is another term we will be using. Pressure drop is a more comfortable term for most people, but the term "pressure" is not used in most pump calculations so you could substitute the term "head drop" or "loss of head" in the system. To calculate this loss you will need to be able to read charts like those you will find in the "charts you can use" section in the home page of this web site. They are labeled Friction loss for water and Resistance coefficients for valves and fittings. Gage and absolute pressure. Add atmospheric pressure to the gage pressure and you get absolute pressure. Vacuum is a pressure less than atmospheric. At sea level atmospheric pressure is 14.7 psi. (760 mm of Mercury). Vacuum gages are normally calibrated in inches or millimeters of mercury.

To calculate the net positive suction head (NPSH) of your pump and determine if you are going to have a cavitation problem, you will need access to several additional pieces of information:

The curve for your pump. This pump curve is supplied by the pump manufacturer. Someone in your plant should have a copy. The curve is going to show you the Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH) required for your pump at a given capacity. Each pump is different so make sure you have the correct pump curve and use the numbers for the impeller diameter on your pump. Keep in mind that this NPSH required was for cold, fresh water. A chart or some type of publication that will give you the vapor pressure of the fluid you are pumping. You can find a typical vapor pressure chart in the "charts you can use" section in the home page of this web site If you would like to be a little more exact, you can use a chart to show the possible reduction in NPSH required if you are pumping hot water or light hydrocarbons. I will cover this subject in great detail in another paper. You need to know the specific gravity of your fluid. Keep in mind that the number is temperature sensitive. You can get this number from a published chart, ask some knowledgeable person at your plant, or or take a reading on the fluid using a hydrometer. Charts showing the head loss through the size of piping you are using between the source and the suction eye of your pump. You will also need charts to calculate the loss in any fittings, valves, or other hardware that might have been installed in the suction piping. You can find these charts in the "charts you can use" section in the home page of this web site Is the tank you are pumping from at atmospheric pressure or is it pressurized in some manner? Maybe it is under a vacuum ?

Testing has shown that it takes from two to twenty times the NPSHR (net positive suction head required) to fully suppress incipient cavitation. This is called the point of incipient cavitation. NPSHA (net positive suction head available) NPSHR (net positive suction head required) NPSHR (net positive suction head required) is defined as the NPSH at which the pump total head (first stage head in multi stage pumps) has decreased by three percent (3%) due to low suction head and resultant cavitation within the pump. To stop a product from vaporizing or boiling at the low pressure side of the pump the NPSHA (net positive suction head available) must be equal to or greater than the NPSHR (net positive suction head required). Here is where you locate the numbers to put into the formula: Static head. If the level is below the centerline of the pump it will be a negative or minus number. Loss of pressure in the piping. You can measure it with a hydrometer if no one in your facility has the correct chart or knows the number. use one of the following formulas: Inches of mercury x 1. 65 gpm = 7. As I mentioned at the beginning. This number is shown on your pump curve. The formulas for converting pressure to head and head back to pressure in the imperial system are as follows: o o o sg.133 / specific gravity = feet of liquid Pounds per square inch x 2. You need to know the atmospheric pressure at the time you are making your calculation. Cavitation begins as small harmless bubbles before you get any indication of loss of head or capacity. but it is going to be too low if you are pumping hydrocarbon liquids or hot water. You will have to convert the pressure to head. If we were calculating the pump's total head we would look at both the suction and discharge sides. Surface pressure head. you can use the above formula Specific gravity of your product.69 feet of loss for each 100 feet of pipe. valves and fittings . NPSHA is defined as static head + surface pressure head . In the following paragraphs you will be using the above formulas to determine if you have a problem with NPSHA. In the following examples we will be looking only at the suction side of the pump. .31 Vapor pressure of your product .31 / specific gravity = feet of liquid Millimeters of mercury / (22. depending on the impeller shape (specific speed number) and operating conditions. = specific gravity pressure = pounds per square inch head = feet You also need to know the formulas that show you how to convert vacuum readings to feet of head. If you use the absolute pressure shown on the left side of the chart. Example: A 2 inch long radius screwed elbow has a K number of 0. o For valves and fittings look up the resistance coefficient numbers (K numbers) for all the valves and fittings. Convert the gage absolute pressure to feet of liquid using the formula: o Pressure = head x specific gravity / 2.4 x specific gravity) = feet of liquid There are different ways to think about net positive suction head (NPSH) but they all have two terms in common. add them together and multiply the total by the V2/2g number shown in the fourth column of the friction loss piping chart. Look at the vapor pressure chart in the "charts you can use" section in the home page of this web site. Here are a few of them: To convert surface pressure to feet of liquid.4 x 0.4) = 8.6 (for 65 gpm) = 5 feet of loss. go down to the gpm and read across to the loss through one hundred feet of pipe directly from the last column in the chart. Adding them together (8 + 0.the vapor pressure of your product . We all know atmospheric pressure changes through out the day.4 and a 2 inch globe valve has a K number of 8. fittings and valves. but you have to start somewhere. As an example: two inch pipe.loss in the piping. Measure it from the centerline of the pump suction to the top of the liquid level. Use the three charts in the "charts you can use" section in the home page of this web site o Find the chart for the proper pipe size.

from the pump curve) = 9 feet Now for the calculations: NPSHA = Atmospheric pressure(converted to head) + static head + surface pressure head . valves and fittings Static head = 5 feet Atmospheric pressure = pressure x 2. fresh water with a specific gravity of one (1).31/1 = 0. 68°F.34 = 36. 1. Water = 0.62 .27 x 2.7 psi Gage pressure =The tank is at sea level and open to atmospheric pressure. Liquid level above pump centerline = 5 feet Piping = a total of 10 feet of 2 inch pipe plus one 90° long radius screwed elbow. Given: . water converted to head = pressure x 2.42 = 0. Example number 2 . = 14. And we have 36.31/sg.74 feet of head loss in the piping o The K factor for one 2 inch elbow is 0.04 feet so we have plenty to spare.74 + 0.vapor pressure of your product . This time we are going to be pumping from a tank under vacuum.7 x 2.4 x 1.34 feet friction loss in the pipe and fitting.4/10 = 1. Specific gravity = 1 NPSHR (net positive suction head required.04 feet The pump required 9 feet of head at 100 gpm.27 psia from the vapor chart.31/sg = 0. Pumping =100 gpm.6 = a total of 2.4 feet for each 100 feet of pipe or 17.loss in the piping.62 feet Looking at the friction charts: o 100 gpm flowing through 2 inch pipe shows a loss of 17. Vapor pressure of 68°F.6 feet Adding these numbers together. NPSHA (net positive suction head available) = 34 + 5 + 0 .Let's go through the first example and see if our pump is going to cavitate: Given: Atmospheric pressure = 14.2.31/1 = 34 feet absolute Gage pressure = 0 Vapor pressure of 68°F.0.

31/sg.31/sg.7 psi Liquid level above pump centerline = 5 feet Piping = a total of 10 feet of 2 inch pipe plus one 90° long radius screwed elbow. W = Specific weight of liquid at the pumping temperature in pounds per cubic foot. .7 . We get the specific gravity from another chart and find that it is 0.0.7 feet absolute NPSHA = Atmospheric pressure(converted to head) + static head + surface pressure head . so the pump is going to cavitate for sure.34 = 13. For the third example we will keep everything the same except that we will be pumping 180° F.34 feet.16.31 / 0. = 0.97 sg.4/10 = 1. valves and fittings NPSHA (net positive suction head available) = 34 + 5 . providing you know the specific weight of the liquid you are pumping : Pp = Absolute pressure expressed in psia.31/1 = 0. In an open system. Putting this into the pressure conversion formula we get: pressure x 2.2. Vapor pressure of 68°F water = 0. 68°F fresh water with a specific gravity of one (1).27 psia from the vapor chart.4 x 1.6 feet Adding these two numbers together: (1. hot condensate from the vacuum tank. If you are given the absolute and vapor pressures in psia.74 feet.7 psi x 2. The vapor pressure of 180°F condensate is 7 psi according to the chart. NPSHA (net positive suction head available) = 34 + 5 . you can use the following formula.vapor pressure of your product . Pp equals atmospheric pressure. Pvpa = Vapor pressure expressed in psia. Pumping = 100 gpm.vapor pressure of your product .6) = a total of 2. Pa. Fresh water.7 feet of pressure head absolute Vapor pressure of 68°F water = pressure x 2. and you forgot how to convet to feet of head.31/sg.5 inch pipe shows a loss of 17. = 7 x 2.27 x 2. for 180° F.34 feet friction loss in the pipe and fitting.7 .133 /1 = -22.loss in the piping.22.97 = 16.62 . valves and fittings Atmospheric pressure = 14.42 = 0. expressed in psia.74 feet loss in the piping o The K factor for one 2 inch elbow is 0. =34 feet Static head = 5 feet Gage pessure pressure = 20 inches of vacuum converted to head o inches of mercury x 1.22.loss in the piping.2. This is enough to stop cavitation also.20 inches of vacuum Atmospheic pressure = 14. We need 9 feet.133 / specific gravity = feet of liquid o -20 x 1.62 feet Looking at the friction charts: o 100 gpm flowing through 2. NPSHR (net positive suction head required) = 9 feet Now for the calculations: NPSHA = Atmospheric pressure(converted to head) + static head + surface pressure head .34 = -2.4 feet or each 100 feet of pipe or 17.74 + 0. Gage pressure = .7 .

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