Industrial centrifugal pumps

Difference Between Centrifugal and Reciprocating Pump

Most industries use pumps to carry out operations and manufacture products. Any place that needs to move fluid or increase its pressure will likely have a pump. The two types used are centrifugal and reciprocating (positive displacement). Reciprocating pumps often have the upper hand because they are efficient, don’t need to be primed and are ideal for industrial settings.

Let’s have a look at the two:

Centrifugal Pumps

A centrifugal pump uses centrifugal force to move fluid, transferring rotational energy from one or more driven rotors, called impellers. The fluid enters the impeller and is discharged with centrifugal force along the impeller’s circumference through the vane tips.

Usually, an electrical motor powers a centrifugal pump. A centrifugal pump has about 40-50% efficiencies on low flow/high head applications.

Reciprocating Pumps

Reciprocating pumps are positive displacement pumps that work by capturing a moving fluid in a cavity and discharging a fixed amount of it via mechanical pressure. This fluid displacement takes place with a plunger, piston or diaphragm, depending on the design of the reciprocating pump.

As we learned in the working principle of reciprocating pumps, piston or plunger pump works like a simple bicycle pump – the first stroke of the pump creates a vacuum, releasing the inlet valve and shutting the outlet valve as it creates a suction effect to draw fluid into the piston chamber. As the motion is reversed, the opposite happens due to compression as the inlet valve is under pressure. This pressure causes the inlet valve to close and opens the outlet valve, discharging the fluid in the piston chamber.

A diaphragm pump features an expanding and decreasing cavity. When the cavity expands the liquid is sucked in at the inlet side and when the cavity decreases, the fluid is discharged on the discharge side.

Difference Between Centrifugal and Reciprocating Pump

The main difference between reciprocating pumps and centrifugal pumps is that reciprocating pumps work with high medium pressure heads, and centrifugal pumps work with low medium pressure heads. Generally, a reciprocating pump is more efficient than a centrifugal pump because it operates in low-flow and high-discharge pressure environments.

Let’s break it down into a table so you can see and compare the difference between centrifugal and reciprocating pumps.

Key Features  Centrifugal  Reciprocating 
Construction This is simple in construction. This is complicated in construction.
Head or Pressure application This work on low or medium pressure head. Reciprocating pump work at the High-pressure head (high discharge pressure)
Discharge Discharge is high (through small heads) Discharge is low (at high heads)
Relief valve requirement  No Recommended to protect the pump 
Flow Smooth Pulsating
Flow rate accuracy and delivery Variable  Constant
Self-priming No Yes
Space consideration Depends on flow rate and discharge pressure Small
Initial cost  Low, easy-to-install High (up to four times the cost of centrifugal) depending on the desired flow rate and pressure
Power consumption and efficiency High power consumption, low efficiency Low power consumption, high efficiency
Maintenance needs  Low, with fewer moving parts.  High, but low total cost of ownership
Zero leakage Magnetic drive technology (can be expensive) Double diaphragm and leak protection
Fluid handling Used to pump a range of liquids, including clean, clear, abrasive fluids, dirty water, and oil. Can be used to lift highly viscous liquids. Suitable for clean, clear, and non-abrasive fluids (low viscosity)

In summary, the difference between centrifugal and reciprocating pumps lies in their construction, pressure handling, flow characteristics, and overall performance. Centrifugal pumps are known for their simplicity and suitability for low to medium-pressure applications, offering smooth flow but variable flow rate accuracy and delivery.

On the other hand, reciprocating pumps, with their more intricate construction, excel in high-pressure scenarios, delivering a constant flow despite pulsations. They are self-priming but come with a higher initial cost, but their power efficiency, low total cost of ownership, and leak protection advantages make them a good fit for demanding industrial settings. Choosing between these pump types depends on your application requirements and priorities.

If you need help evaluating the difference between centrifugal and reciprocal pumps and deciding which one is right for your system, call us at 1-800-367-4180 (toll-free). As your industrial pump supplier in Canada, we’re here to help you choose, install, maintain, and monitor a variety of equipment. And to answer questions about things you’ve previously tried gone wrong.