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Types of Pumps

Getting a pump for your project requires a good bit of planning because there’s no such thing as a single pump solution. To help you, we are providing information about the different types of pumps and when to use them. 

Most construction projects will require a pump. It’s a consideration that must be made for every job, and the type of pump you need is rarely going to be the same from project to project. Facts like the site’s elevation to the season (or seasons) when you work on the project must be taken into account. We’ve covered the different site considerations, so let’s look at the different types of pumps and when they are the best fit for a project.


What Should You Look for When Selecting a Pump?

There are four factors you need to review for every pump you consider:

  • Performance, or how quickly the pump will move high volumes of water from the site to the new location (typically measured in horsepower)

  • Durability, or how well the pump will withstand the harsh work it will need to do, particularly in more severe environments

  • Downtime, low downtime means that debris will pass through the hoses or pipes without requiring frequent downtime to remove clogs

  • Value, or how economical the price is for the other three key factors

Some sites will require that your pump has low downtime, while others will be fairly easy to keep mostly clear of clogs. There are several secondary considerations:

  • Power source (usually the pump's design will dictate the type of energy source you will need - electric or fuel)

  • Energy efficiency (the more energy efficient a pump is, the lower the costs to operate it)
Another important consideration is the best way to set up the pump. Typically, you have two options for preparing the pump:

  • You can mount the pump on a trailer. While this makes the pump a lot more portable, it can take up space on the site. For projects with less room, this may not be the best solution.

  • Skid-mounted and pipe-framed pumps take up less space but can take time to set up before they can be used.

If there isn’t much available space, that will often dictate which of the two mountings you should use. For smaller jobsites, it could be difficult to find a final discharge location. If needed, you can get different kinds of tanks, including sediment tanks to help remove the liquids, waste, and chemicals. This will also help you remain compliant with local, regional, and federal regulations.

Common Water Pump Designs

Pumps are classified into one of two different design types:


  • Centrifugal designs include an impeller and volute to generate the suction to move the water. The impeller (a rotating disk) and vanes are attached to the engine or motor to create the centrifugal force. The volute (a curved funnel) houses the impeller. Before it can be used, the pumps either need to be primed or have water in them. As long as it is running, you will need to ensure that water remains in the pump so that it isn’t damaged during operation.

  • Positive displacement designs include a flexible diaphragm that contracts and expands to establish a consistent flow. They are most often used for low seepage, such as trenches and excavations where water will continue to flow into the space you are trying to clear. A big advantage of positive displacement pumps is they can continue to run even if no water is running through them.

Types of Pumps

The pump's design refers to the core of the pump. However, there are many different types of pumps that use these two main cores.

General Purpose/De-watering Pumps

General purpose pumps, also known as de-watering pumps, are designed to move clear water quickly and effectively. They have a wide range of uses because they can help to clear out water from irrigated areas, provide flood control, and to drain pools. They are best used for light construction.

There are three types of general purpose pumps:

  • Lightweight to clear out fast seepage and largely clear water

  • Generic general purpose for removing water from manholes, cofferdams, and other similar structures

  • High-pressure pumps provide the greatest pressure and are best at handling vertically challenging applications


Construction/Trash Pumps

Trash pumps, also called construction pumps, are another type of centrifugal design, and are generally more versatile than standard de-watering pumps. These pumps are designed to move the kinds of bracken, sediment, stones, sticks, and other solid content that will clog most other pump types. The design of these pumps calls for pre-priming the pump casing with water to help facilitate the continual “wet-self prime” process of water flow.


Multi-Purpose Pumps

Multi-purpose pumps are centrifugal pumps that are designed to move water and chemicals. Easily the most versatile type of pump, it can handle everything that de-watering pumps can, but can also help you remain compliant with environmental regulations as it will ensure chemicals are not relocated outside of the construction area. If needed, you can even pump the water and chemicals into drums and other containers to properly dispose of them.

Since there are many types of chemicals that could be on-site, multi-purpose pumps are reinforced to ensure they are not damaged during use. They often have chemical resistant seals and reinforced cores. They are the only pumps that are specifically designed to withstand the kinds of chemicals that could be present on a construction site.


Submersible Pumps

The last type of centrifugal pumps on the list, submersible pumps are often used as sumps for both commercial and residential uses. They are designed for a lot of specialized uses, like managing the water around decorative fountains, garden irrigation, seepage, swimming pools, hot tubs, crawl spaces, and cooling towers. There are many unique uses for this one type of pump because it is made to handle greater volumes of water. They are even used in wells, showing just how durable and versatile they can be.

As their name suggests, submersible pumps can be submerged in the water. Since they can work directly with the water around it, submersible pumps don’t need to draw the water up, just move it through the pipes, making it more energy efficient and cost effective.


Diaphragm Pumps

This is the only positive displacement pump that we’ll cover, but it can be highly effective for specific projects. They have a number of different names, including mud hens, mud hogs, and mud suckers, aptly indicating how they are typically used to remove shallower amounts of water. Mud causes a lot of problems for centrifugal pumps, but it does little to affect the performance of a diaphragm pump.

Of all the pumps, it has the lowest discharge rate. For locations where water will probably continue to slowly seep into the area or where rain might make a puddle a common problem, you want to have a diaphragm pump in place because it will be a lot easier to allow it to run with minimal interruptions.


Pump Type Checklist

We are providing a handy chart to help you quickly assess what type of pump will work best for different projects. To speed up the decision-making process, you can use the following chart so that you don’t forget any of the key factors to determine the right pump for your job.

Table Showing Pump Types
Chart based on information from Honda Power Equipment

Pump Accessories

Determining the right pump takes a lot of the pressure off, but once you have the pump in place, you will likely find that you need pump accessories to optimize its performance. There are several different accessories that assist in providing a successful watering/de-watering project:

  • Individual adaptors and couplers to connect the hose to either a pump or another hose

  • Gaskets to replace any that are misplaced or broken because of usual wear and tear

  • Pipe nipples to attach strainers

  • Hose nozzles

  • Strainers to ensure only the right stuff goes through your pump

  • Hose assemblies with pin lugs or camlock hoses (including any necessary camlock fittings and camlock connections). The main difference between pin lugs and camlock hoses is how they connect to the pump. Pin lugs thread directly onto the pump, while camlock hoses use a quick connect system that makes it easy to attach to a pump.
  • Hose kits can be a great option to get everything you need, and they typically include:
o   Discharge hoses
o   Suction hoses
o   Water pump hoses
o   Corresponding couplers and adaptors

  • Dewatering bags – used to remove sediment from water as it is being discharged

  • Heavy-duty power cords if running an electric unit

  • Proper fuel storage for gas and diesel models

You may need some of these accessories to adapt a pump to the available power sources or to address unique issues with a jobsite. However, it’s always nice to keep spares on hand to ensure you don’t fall behind if parts fail, are damaged, or get lost. Most of these accessories can be cleaned and stored for future use, so you will be able to use them on multiple projects


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