Adjustable Speed Pumping Applications for Reduced Energy Consumption

When exploring and learning about pumping systems, I was amazed at the information available online today in 2021.  For a non-engineer, there are numerous sites that provide incredibly easy to read and understand information.  The U.S. department of energy has done an excellent job with their tear sheets.  I’ve provided the information that they teach, as it’s an incredibly reliable resource:

Most pumps operating today were selected to meet a maximum system demand, or potential future demands. This means that most pumps are oversized, rarely operating at their full design capacity. In addition, pumps are often installed in systems with multiple operating points that coincide with process requirements.  A throttling valve is usually employed when the process flow requirement is less than the flow at the pumping system’s natural operating point. 

Throttling valves control flow by increasing the system’s back pressure or resistance to flow. This increase in pressure or head requirements shifts the pump’s operating point to the left along its performance curve, and, typically, away from its best efficiency point. The result is a loss in efficiency.

Adjustable speed drives (ASDs) provide an efficient flow control alternative by varying a pump’s rotational speed. These drives are broadly classified as mechanical (fluid or eddy current) drives and variable frequency drives (VFDs). Today, the VFD is the most frequently specified type of ASD, and pulse-width-modulated VFDs are the most commonly used. 

In centrifugal applications with no static lift, system power requirements vary with the cube of the pump speed. Small decreases in speed or flow can significantly reduce energy use. For example, reducing the speed (flow) by 20% can reduce input power requirements by approximately 50%.

In addition to energy savings, VFDs offer precise speed control and a soft-starting capability. Soft-starting reduces thermal and mechanical stresses on windings, couplings, and belts. Also, VFDs reduce voltage fluctuations that can occur in starting up large motors.  Induction motors with across-the-line starting draw as much as six times the full-load current during start-up. During acceleration, a VFD-controlled motor’s locked rotor current is limited to one and one-half times the full-load current. 

Operating at reduced speeds results in other benefits, as well, such as lower bearing loads, reduced shaft deflection, and lower maintenance costs.

Estimating Performance

We can use the affinity laws to predict the performance of a centrifugal pump with little or no static head at any speed, if we know the pump’s performance at its normal operating point. The affinity law equations are as follows:


The affinity laws show that the pump head decreases significantly when the pump speed is reduced to match system flow requirements (see figure). Pump shaft horsepower requirements vary as the product of head and flow or as the cube of the pump’s speed ratio. Note, however, that the affinity laws will not provide accurate results for systems with static head. In that case, constructing a system curve to calculate new duty points is essential.

Potential Applications  

ASDs are ideally suited for variable-torque loads from centrifugal pumps, fans, and blowers when the system load requirements (head, flow, or both) vary with time. Conditions that tend to make ASDs cost-effective include the following:

  • High horsepower (greater than 15 to 30 hp)—The higher the pump horsepower, the more cost-effective the ASD application.
  • Load type—Centrifugal loads with variable-torque requirements (such as centrifugal pumps or fans) have the greatest potential for energy savings. ASDs can be cost-effective on positive displacement pumps, but the savings will generally not be as great as with centrifugal loads.
  • Operating hours—In general, ASDs are cost-effective only on pumps that operate for at least 2,000 hours per year at average utility rates.
  • High utility rates—Higher utility energy charges provide a more rapid payback on an investment in an ASD.
  • Availability of efficiency incentives—Where they are available, electric utility incentives for reducing energy use or installing energy-saving technologies will reduce payback periods.
  • Low static head—ASDs are ideal for circulating pumping systems in which
  • The system curve is defined by dynamic or friction head losses. They can also be effective in static-dominated systems—but only when the pump is carefully selected. A thorough understanding of pump and system interactions is critical for such applications.



Consider using adjustable speed drives in pumping applications that range from 1 to 1,000 horsepower (hp).

About Jonathon Bell

Jonathon Bell is an entrepreneur, focused on building his family's legacy in the industrial pump market.  Currently, he is focused in Latin America, building Dynapro Pumps Mexico from the ground up while contributing in Canada & the United States with Sales & Marketing efforts.

His commitment is developing teams through individual and partnered coaching, to bring out the best in each team member and giving them the tools to help them reach their goals. Guiding and teaching the core values of passion, evolving, and team communication, his teams and members become top performers in their respective fields.

He is honest, generous, and passionate about others success for them individually, their families, and their communities

About Dynapro:

A professional, trustworthy company, committed to create and maintain lasting relationships with our customers and our community.  Our focus is on constantly evolving our business practices and dedicated service to always be aligned with our clients and the environment.  

Our strong sense of responsibility to the environment and the communities we live and work in help encourage our clients and other companies to join forces with us to make a difference.  

We manufacture our own pump models and interchangeable high quality products, improve products, and materials.  We deliver them for less and faster to help achieve our goal of reduced consumption; energy & materials, and reduce maintenance.

For more information, please visit https://dynaproco.com/about-us-page

References:  DOE/GO-102007-2229 January 2007 Pumping Systems Tip Sheet #11

Industrial Technologies Program Energy Efficiency 

and Renewable Energy 

U.S. Department of Energy Washington, DC 20585-0121 www.eere.energy.gov/industry

Improving Pumping System Performance: A Sourcebook for Industry, U.S. Department of Energy, 2006

Variable Speed Pumping: A Guide to Successful Applications, Hydraulic Institute, 2004