Create a roadmap for proper pump maintenance

Taking care of your pump is like caring for your vehicle. Once you choose the perfect vehicle for your particular needs, you’re ready to put it to work for you. You may start with a protective wax when you first pull it into your driveway from the sales lot, then as time goes on you will service the vehicle with proper oil changes, tune ups and tire rotation or replacement.

By Karl Eiler, Grundfos Pumps Corp. July 15, 2008

Taking care of your pump is like caring for your vehicle. Once you choose the perfect vehicle for your particular needs, you’re ready to put it to work for you. You may start with a protective wax when you first pull it into your driveway from the sales lot, then as time goes on you will service the vehicle with proper oil changes, tune ups and tire rotation or replacement.

If you treat it right, it’s likely to offer you many years of high performance and reliability — which is exactly what you want from your pump system: no breakdowns, smooth operation and a lot of mileage.

Where does pump maintenance begin?

The design phase is where it all begins. Provisions should be made on the front side of an installation to allow for ample accessibility to service the pump without effort. Lifting arrangements for ease of removal should be considered as well. Finally, good preparatory activities for an installation include ensuring that isolation valves are in place to avoid draining the system if and when the pump is to be serviced; and getting gauges installed on the inlet and discharge flanges for pump monitoring.

If a pump is not matched correctly to the application, a lot more than simple maintenance will be required to keep the pump up and running without failure. The pump’s construction materials must be compatible with the pumped media, and a properly sized pump for the respective application is the answer to trouble-free operation.

A pump sized too small for the application will not maintain proper pressures and flows. Conversely, a pump sized too large can incur substantial energy costs — and worse, can damage both the pump and the entire system.

Proper installation will save a lot of headaches down the road. Is the pump installed per the manufacturer’s instructions? This is not a good time to take shortcuts. To avoid future breakdown or pump failure, it is integral to the pump’s stable operation to follow these instructions verbatim.

Off to a good pump startup

Once the selection of the best suited pump for the application has been made and the pump has been installed per the manufacturer’s instructions, a proper startup is critical for circumventing future pump problems or unscheduled maintenance events.

The installation and operation manual for proper pump startup should be followed to the detail, and will provide the sound foundation for optimum pump operation. The following is a general checklist that is standard to many pump startup procedures:

  • Follow the installation and operation manual for proper startup procedures

  • Ensure that all lines supplying the pump have been flushed before the pump is installed

  • Check that all filtering/straining devices are clear of debris

  • Vent all air from the pump and lines

  • Ensure that all valves are open to the appropriate amount

  • Check for proper motor protection

  • Check for proper motor rotation

  • Check for leaks and ensure all fittings are properly tightened

  • Bump-start the pump and listen for any unusual sounds, and watch for leaks

  • Check for proper voltage (under load, as close to the motor as possible).

    • Preventive maintenance

      Routine scheduling may avert failure and extend pump life. Scheduling maintenance events at regular intervals that best accommodate conditions and time of operation can ensure optimum pump performance and avoid unplanned downtime throughout the life of the pump. The event should be planned in advance so that when the job is scheduled, all resources needed, including tools, spare parts and/or service kits, are readily available. It’s also good practice to check and verify that tools and spare parts operate correctly prior to the event. The goal of a scheduled maintenance event is to perform the task scrupulously, correctly and efficiently, with minimal downtime.

      Following the event, documentation is critical to meaningful record keeping, as tracking the maintenance event provides useful, performance-related information and can provide diagnostic clues pertinent to troubleshooting and “tweaking” for the pump’s best performance. This documentation also provides a good starting point for the next routine maintenance event.

      Finally, detailed procedures outlining the related tasks specific to the pump should be reviewed prior to the event. The following discussion highlights basic maintenance tasks that should be included in preventive maintenance procedures.

      Pump end maintenance

      Regular pump maintenance is fairly simple and can keep your pump downtime to a minimum. These maintenance events can also be beneficial to other system components. Here are simple procedural tasks associated with the care of the pump end:

    • Ensure the pump meets required performance and is operating smoothly and quietly

    • Listen for any abnormal noises or vibrations

    • Check for leaks, particularly at the shaft seal

    • Check flow and pressure

    • Remove and clean all system strainers or filters

    • Lubricate according to manufacturer’s specifications using the proper lubricant

    • Check for loose bolts, nuts and fittings

    • Open the air vent to remove any trapped air.

      • Motor maintenance

        Getting the best possible overall efficiency out of your pump makes sound financial sense, and routine motor maintenance is critical to that end. The following checklist provides the most basic tasks associated with motor maintenance:

      • Clear dust and dirt from the motor

      • Check winding resistances, voltage, current draw and phase imbalance

      • Grease bearings according to manufacturer’s instructions; use only the suggested lubricant; do not over-grease or mix grease types

      • Check for corrosion and condensation

      • Check for excessive heat/noise/vibration.

        • If excessive heat from the motor is observed, check the motor’s current draw and line voltage. High heat in a motor can also be caused by a lack of cooling. Ensure that ambient conditions around the pump are within the manufacturer’s specifications and that the cooling fan blades are intact and operating properly.

          Electrical and electronics inspections

          Examine the wire connections and look for signs of heat or arcing. Be sure that terminal screws are tight. Inspect terminal boxes and enclosures with particular attention to areas that may be a conduit for moisture intrusion.

          Check the pump fault log for alarms or warnings since the last maintenance. Ensure the pump is operating within the manufacturer’s environmental specifications, as electronics can be sensitive to both heat and moisture.

          Get value out of preventive maintenance

          A successful preventive maintenance event is well-orchestrated with careful planning and attention to detail. A meeting with related parties before the event to identify the specific details and expectations of the event, along with a checklist and/or report to document results, may help to optimize preventive maintenance events. A follow-up review of the event may also be beneficial.

          If you want to avoid pump breakdowns and enjoy smooth operation and plenty of mileage out of your pump systems, schedule and perform the recommended maintenance events. Like your vehicle, preventive maintenance will pay off and keep you running strong in the fast lane.

          Author Information
          Karl Eiler is the service supervisor at Grundfos Pumps Corp.