Trim or Replace Impellers on Oversized Pumps for Reduced Energy Consumption

As a result of conservative engineering practices, pumps are often substantially larger than they need to be for an industrial plant’s process requirements. Centrifugal pumps can often be oversized because of  “rounding up,” trying to accommodate gradual increases in pipe surface roughness and flow resistance over time, or anticipating future plant capacity expansions. In addition, the plant’s pumping requirements might not have been clearly defined during the design phase.

Because of this conservative approach, pumps can have operating points completely different from their design points. The pump head is often less than expected, while the flow rate is greater. This can cause cavitation and waste energy as the flow rate typically must be regulated with bypass or throttle control.  

Oversized and throttled pumps that produce excess pressure are excellent candidates for impeller replacement or “trimming,” to save energy and reduce costs. Trimming involves machining the impeller to reduce its diameter. Trimming should be limited to about 75% of a pump’s maximum impeller diameter, because excessive trimming can result in a mismatched impeller and casing. As the impeller diameter decreases, added clearance between the impeller and the fixed pump casing increases internal flow recirculation, causes head loss, and lowers pumping efficiency. 

For manufacturing standardization purposes, pump casings and shafts are designed to accommodate impellers in a range of sizes. Many pump manufacturers provide pump performance curves that indicate how various models will perform with different impeller diameters or trims. The impeller should not be trimmed any smaller than the minimum diameter shown on the curve. 

Net positive suction head requirements (NPSHR) usually decrease at lower flow rates and can increase at the higher end of the pump head curve. The NPSHR at a given flow rate will normally be greater with a smaller impeller, but engineers should consult with the pump manufacturer to determine variations in NPSHR before trimming the impeller. Manufacturers can often provide trim correction charts based on historical test data.

How Impeller Trimming Works

Trimming reduces the impeller’s tip speed, which in turn reduces the amount of energy imparted to the pumped fluid; as a result, the pump’s flow rate and pressure both decrease. A smaller or trimmed impeller can thus be used efficiently in applications in which the current impeller is producing excessive head. Pump and system curves can provide the efficiency or shaft power for a trimmed impeller. If these curves are not available, affinity laws can be used to predict the variations in pumping performance with changes in the impeller diameter:

Q2 / Q1 == DDDD2 / D1 

H2 / H1 = (D(D2 / D1)2    

bhp2 / bhp1 = (HHHH2Q2) / (H1Q1) 

= (D(D(D(D2 / D1)3


Q  = pump flow rate, in gallons per minute (gpm)

H  =  head, in feet (H1 is head for the original impeller; H2, for a trimmed impeller

bhp = brake horsepower   

D  =  impeller diameter, in inches

In practice, impeller trimming is typically used to avoid throttling losses associated with control valves, and the system flow rate will not be affected. 

Note that, in contrast to centrifugal pumps, the operating regions of mixed-flow and axial-flow pumps are limited because of flow rate instabilities. Therefore, consult with the pump manufacturer before changing the impeller diameter. Removing stages is often advisable for a multistage centrifugal pump that is oversized for current operating conditions.

When a pump serves a critically important process, it might not be possible to wait for the impeller to be trimmed. In that case, consider ordering another impeller and continuing operation until the new impeller can be installed.


A double-suction centrifugal pump equipped with an impeller 14 inches in diameter is throttled to provide a process cooling water flow rate of 3,000 gpm. The pumping system operates for 8,000 hours per year with a head of 165 feet (ft) and pump efficiency (η) 

of 80%. The pump requires 156 bhp. Pump and system curves indicate that a trimmed impeller can supply the 3,000-gpm required flow rate at a head of 125 ft. From the affinity laws, the diameter of the trimmed impeller is approximately as follows:

(H2Q2) / (H1Q1)   =    (D2 / D1)3

Holding Q constant,

D2 =    D1 x (H2 / H1)1/3 =    14 x (125 / 165) 1/3 =    12.76 inches

Assuming that the pump efficiency remains unchanged, installing a 123/4-inch trimmed impeller reduces input power requirement to the following:

bhp2 =    (H2 x Q2) / (3,960 x η) =    (125 x 3,000) / (3,960 x 0.8) =    118.4 bhp

Estimated energy savings, assuming a 94% motor efficiency, are as follows:

(bhp1 – bhp2) x 0.746 kW/hp x 8,000 hours/year / 0.94 = 238,720 kWh/year

At an electricity cost of 5 cents per kWh, total cost savings are estimated to be $11,936 per year.


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://www.dynaproequipment.com/about-us.html


Match Pumps to System Requirements, U.S. Department of Energy Pumping Systems Tip Sheet #6, 2005

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

“Control Valve Replacement Savings,” U.S. Department of Energy Performance Optimization Tip, Energy Matters, July 1998; available online at: http://www.nrel.gov/docs/legosti/fy98/23382.pdf