CENTRIFUGAL PUMP OPERATION
The condition that must exist to avoid cavitation is that the net positive suction head available
must be greater than or equal to the net positive suction head required. This requirement can be
stated mathematically as shown below.
A formula for NPSHA can be stated as the following equation.
NPSHA = Psuction - Psaturation
When a centrifugal pump is taking suction from a tank or other reservoir, the pressure at the
suction of the pump is the sum of the absolute pressure at the surface of the liquid in the tank
plus the pressure due to the elevation difference between the surface of liquid in the tank and
the pump suction less the head losses due to friction in the suction line from the tank to the
NPSHA = Pa + Pst - hf - Psat
NPSHA = net positive suction head available
= absolute pressure on the surface of the liquid
= pressure due to elevation between liquid surface and pump suction
= head losses in the pump suction piping
= saturation pressure of the liquid being pumped
If a centrifugal pump is cavitating, several changes in the system design or operation may be
necessary to increase the NPSHA above the NPSHR and stop the cavitation. One method for
increasing the NPSHA is to increase the pressure at the suction of the pump. For example, if a
pump is taking suction from an enclosed tank, either raising the level of the liquid in the tank or
increasing the pressure in the space above the liquid increases suction pressure.
It is also possible to increase the NPSHA by decreasing the temperature of the liquid being
pumped. Decreasing the temperature of the liquid decreases the saturation pressure, causing
NPSHA to increase. Recall from the previous module on heat exchangers that large steam
condensers usually subcool the condensate to less than the saturation temperature, called
condensate depression, to prevent cavitation in the condensate pumps.
If the head losses in the pump suction piping can be reduced, the NPSHA will be increased.
Various methods for reducing head losses include increasing the pipe diameter, reducing the
number of elbows, valves, and fittings in the pipe, and decreasing the length of the pipe.