Centrifugal Pump Protection
A centrifugal pump is dead-headed when it is operated with no flow through it, for example, with
a closed discharge valve or against a seated check valve. If the discharge valve is closed and
there is no other flow path available to the pump, the impeller will churn the same volume of
water as it rotates in the pump casing. This will increase the temperature of the liquid (due to
friction) in the pump casing to the point that it will flash to vapor. The vapor can interrupt the
cooling flow to the pump's packing and bearings, causing excessive wear and heat. If the pump
is run in this condition for a significant amount of time, it will become damaged.
When a centrifugal pump is installed in a system such that it may be subjected to periodic shutoff head conditions, it is necessary to provide some means of pump protection. One method for protecting the pump from running dead-headed is to provide a recirculation line from the pump discharge line upstream of the discharge valve, back to the pump's supply source. The recirculation line should be sized to allow enough flow through the pump to prevent overheating and damage to the pump. Protection may also be accomplished by use of an automatic flow control device.
Centrifugal pumps must also be protected from runout. Runout can lead to cavitation and can
also cause overheating of the pump's motor due to excessive currents. One method for ensuring that there is always adequate flow resistance at the pump discharge to prevent excessive flow through the pump is to place an orifice or a throttle valve immediately downstream of the pump discharge. Properly designed piping systems are very important to protect from runout.