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Centrifugal Pumps 101: Types, Key Components, and Applications in Construction

Centrifugal Pumps 101: Types, Key Components, and Applications in Construction

A centrifugal pump sitting on the edge of a hole in the dirt

Centrifugal Pumps 101: Types, Key Components, and Applications in Construction

Reading time: 6 min 30 sec

Introduction to Centrifugal Pumps

Centrifugal pumps play a considerable role in construction projects, where they’re primarily used for transferring fluids like water, sewage and slurry. These pumps are designed to move fluids through the conversion of rotational kinetic energy into hydrodynamic energy using centrifugal force.

In this article, we'll provide an overview of the functions and applications of centrifugal pumps. We’ll dive into factors that influence the performance of these pumps, tackling common problems encountered in their usage and the extent to which those problems affect operations. 

By understanding how centrifugal pumps work and what’s required to maintain them, you can effectively deploy these specialized machines on your next project. 

Basic Principles and Anatomy of Centrifugal Pumps

The operation of a centrifugal pump revolves around the concept of centrifugal force. This is a type of force that pushes outwards anything that is moving in a circular motion. 

If you’ve ever observed a washing machine during a spin cycle, then you’ve seen centrifugal force in action. Centrifugal force is what causes your clothes to stick to the outside of the spinning drum as the drum picks up speed.

Centrifugal pumps feature a motor-driven impeller, a disc with multiple backward-facing blades, that rotates to set the liquid in motion. As the impeller spins, it draws the liquid into its center. Guided by the impeller's blades, the liquid is flung or 'centrifuged' outwards.

Moving along the flow path, this fluid is then guided via a casing towards the outlet of the pump, where it's eventually discharged with a higher velocity and pressure than its initial intake state. This fluid motion is at the core of the centrifugal pump's operation.

Key Components

Key components of a centrifugal pump include the impeller, bearings, shafts, seals and hoses. The impeller, as mentioned, transfers energy from the motor to the fluid, facilitating the pumping process. 

Bearings are significant as they support the pump shaft, reducing the friction and ensuring the smooth rotation of the shaft. Shafts themselves are crucial as they transmit the torque during operation from the motor to the impeller. 

Seals play a protective role by preventing leaks from the pump. They provide a sealing contact between the stationary pump casing and the rotating shaft, ensuring that fluid does not escape.

Lastly, hoses are vital for directing the fluid being pumped. They allow the fluid to be guided from the pump to the intended location, ensuring precise and effective use of the pump.

Types of Centrifugal Pumps in the Construction Industry

Centrifugal pumps come in several variations, with each one designed to meet specific needs within the construction industry.

Single Stage vs Multi Stage

For starters, there are single-stage and multi-stage pumps. Single-stage pumps feature just one impeller and are typically used for low to moderate pressure applications, such as water and sewage transportation. 

In contrast, multi-stage pumps feature multiple impellers within a single casing. Each stage increases the pressure, enabling the pump to manage high-pressure tasks, such as pumping fluids over significant heights or long distances.

Submersible vs Non-submersible

Next, we have submersible and non-submersible pumps. As the name suggests, submersible pumps can be fully submerged in the liquid they are pumping, perfect for draining flooded areas. Non-submersible pumps, also known as surface pumps, cannot be submerged and need to be installed above the fluid level. These are often used for general water transfer in construction sites.

Trash Pumps

When it comes to water drainage, the trash pump is another important type of pump. Unlike standard centrifugal pumps, trash pumps can move water containing solids and debris, hence their name. This feature makes them the perfect choice for draining water from construction sites filled with sand, sticks, pebbles and other trash.

Standalone vs Component Pumps

Lastly, we have standalone centrifugal pumps compared to centrifugal components integrated within larger machines. Standalone pumps are individual units providing pumping solutions as needed. 

On the other hand, smaller centrifugal pump components are integrated into larger machines such as HVAC systems, pressure washers and car wash systems. These integrated systems typically utilize the pumping mechanism to support another primary function.

Specific Use Case and Applications

Centrifugal pumps are important for several key use cases that are of paramount importance on construction sites.


A crucial application is in the dewatering process. Trenches, foundations and other excavations often fill up with water due to rain or groundwater seepage. Centrifugal pumps are used to evacuate this water quickly and effectively. 

Process Water Systems

In large-scale mixing operations, process water systems rely heavily on these pumps. These systems may involve mixing concrete, with centrifugal pumps providing the necessary high pressure to facilitate the mixing process.

Emergency Water Removal

During emergencies such as flooding, centrifugal pumps can be invaluable for swift water removal from construction sites or structures. Trash pumps, a variant of centrifugal pumps, are perfect for this task as they readily handle water mixed with debris often found in the aftermath of a flood.

Maintenance Best Practices

Routine maintenance is necessary to ensure that centrifugal pumps operate smoothly and can serve their intended lifespan. The impeller, seals and bearings are the most commonly replaced components.

Common symptoms of wear or damage include abnormal sounds, vibration, seal leaks, decrease in the pump's output, overheating and increased energy consumption. If ignored for extended periods, these signs could escalate into severe mechanical failures, lead to pump malfunction, or even cause safety hazards onsite. 

Best practices to maximize a pump's lifespan include regular inspection, conducting routine checks for leaks, vibrations and unusual noises, monitoring the pump's energy consumption and removing any blockages immediately. Also, always ensure that the pump is operating within the manufacturer's recommended specifications.

Comparisons to Other Pump Technologies

Centrifugal pumps are not the sole players in the pump market. Other technologies, like diaphragm pumps and positive displacement pumps, have their own unique applications and advantages.

A diaphragm pump operates through a combination of the reciprocating action of a rubber or thermoplastic diaphragm and valves on either side of the diaphragm. A primary benefit of diaphragm pumps over centrifugal pumps is their capacity to handle high viscosity liquids and solids without the risk of damage.

Positive displacement pumps, on the other hand, work by causing a liquid to move by trapping a fixed amount and then forcing (displacing) that trapped liquid into the discharge pipe. They can outperform centrifugal pumps under conditions requiring high pressure and low flow rates, or with high viscosity liquids.

Choosing A Centrifugal Pump for Your Fleet or Jobsite

Choosing a centrifugal pump, whether for rent or purchase, requires the consideration of several factors.

Firstly, try to gauge how often you need a pump. Short-term, one-off or infrequent needs may favor renting over purchasing. Renting eliminates maintenance overhead, storage concerns and upfront investment. If you expect continuous, long-term use, then purchasing may be a cost-efficient option.

When planning to purchase, there are key considerations to ensure you invest in the right pump. Consider the nature of the fluid, its viscosity, presence of solid particles, temperature and chemical compatibility with the pump materials.

Reliability and durability are other important criteria. High-quality pumps may have a higher initial cost, but often compensate with extended operational life and fewer breakdowns. Additionally, check the pump's energy efficiency as inefficient pumps can inflate operating costs over time. 

Final Thoughts

From dewatering operations to large-scale mixing processes, centrifugal pumps are a key piece of equipment on construction sites of all sizes. However, the optimal performance of these pumps hinges greatly on regular maintenance and timely replacement of parts like impellers, seals, bearings and hoses. Knowing the signs of wear and damage and addressing them on time can extend the pump's life and maximize its efficiency.

The EquipmentShare Shop has a wide range of OEM and aftermarket parts available for centrifugal pumps and other pump equipment. Can’t find exactly what you’re looking for? Reach out to our dedicated parts experts and get personalized assistance.

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