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Understanding Head Pressure in Pump Selection: Key Factors and Considerations


In the process of selecting a pump, one of the most critical factors to consider is the head pressure. The head pressure is the pressure required to move a fluid from the inlet of a pump to the outlet, overcoming frictional and other losses in the system. Understanding the head pressure is crucial in selecting the right pump for the job and ensuring optimal performance.

Factors Affecting Head Pressure:

  1. Flow rate: The flow rate, or the volume of fluid being moved by the pump, directly affects the head pressure. As the flow rate increases, the head pressure decreases, and vice versa.

  2. Viscosity: The viscosity of the fluid being pumped also affects the head pressure. High viscosity fluids require more pressure to move, resulting in a higher head pressure.

  3. System pressure: The pressure in the system being pumped is another factor to consider. Higher system pressures require a higher head pressure from the pump.

  4. Net positive suction head (NPSH): The NPSH is the amount of pressure required to prevent the fluid from boiling in the pump. It is affected by the fluid's temperature, pressure, and other factors. A low NPSH can result in cavitation and reduced pump performance.

  5. Suction lift: The suction lift is the vertical distance between the pump and the fluid source. A higher suction lift requires more head pressure to move the fluid.

Choosing the Right Pump:

Centrifugal pumps and positive displacement pumps are the two main types of pumps used in industrial applications. Each has different characteristics that affect the head pressure and should be considered when selecting a pump.

Centrifugal pumps use a rotating impeller to create a centrifugal force that moves the fluid. They are ideal for high flow rate, low viscosity fluids, and low head pressures. Positive displacement pumps, on the other hand, use a mechanical action to move the fluid, making them ideal for high viscosity fluids and higher head pressures.

Pump Curves:

When selecting a pump, it is essential to understand the pump curve, which shows the relationship between the flow rate and the head pressure. It is also important to consider the efficiency of the pump, which can affect the head pressure and overall performance.


In conclusion, understanding head pressure is crucial in selecting the right pump for any given application. Factors such as flow rate, viscosity, system pressure, NPSH, and suction lift all play a role in determining the required head pressure. By considering these factors and understanding the characteristics of centrifugal and positive displacement pumps, it is possible to select the right pump for the job and ensure optimal performance.


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