The most important factor in ensuring a pump system offers a long service life is to get the installation right. No amount of good engineering, proper pump selection, or correct application of pumping technology can overcome the challenges a poor installation can throw at a pump system. So it’s critical that we all know the bare minimum requirements to ensure a good installation.
Step 1: Read the Manufacturer’s Installation Instructions
Virtually all pump manufacturer’s offer Operation and Maintenance Manuals (O&M’s). In addition to information on proper pump operation and maintenance these manuals usually also provide information on how to install the pumps. It is critical that the Installer review and understand these instructions prior to attempting to install the pumps. Not only with this information prove invaluable, failing to comply with the instructions could void the manufacturer’s warranty. So always always always start by asking for, and thoroughly reviewing the manufacturer’s written instructions.
Step 2: Visual Inspection Looking for Obvious Signs of Problems
Once you’re certain the Installer has taken care of Step 1 it’s time for a quick visual inspection of the equipment. First, ask the manufacturer if they have an Inspection Checklist. If one is available use it to check any items they indicate are important. If one isn’t available to call the manufacturer up and ask what items you should be looking for.
Depending on the type of equipment, typical installation inspection requirements may include:
- All equipment appears to be properly installed: guards are in place, anchor bolts are installed, seals are not leaking excessively, electrical connections are neatly terminated in appropriate junction boxes, equipment is installed level as verified by a machinist level (not a carpenter’s level), etc.
- A simple verification of alignment using a straightedge to compare the alignment of the coupling hubs at several increments around the perimeter of the coupling.
- Verification that the equipment is properly anchored and that baseplates are grouted (depending on equipment design and manufacturer requirements).
- Add lubricant and/or check lubricant levels.
- Verify that the seal flush arrangement is correctly assembled and appears to be functioning.
- Conduct a bump test to make sure the motor is rotating in the right direction (only done with the motor decoupled from the pump, or with the pump filled with liquid).
- Remove the bolts from the pump flanges to confirm that the piping is properly anchored and not transmitting any thrust to the pump.
These are simple inspections that can be conducted by any knowledgeable pump professional. The key is to move slowly, be thorough, and always refer back to the manufacturer’s O&M and Installation Inspection Checklist. In the case of small pumps, this may well be the final step prior to startup. However, for larger pumps, additional inspections are often required.
Step 3: Factory-Authorized Service
In the case of large equipment, it will probably be necessary to bring either a service technician employed by the equipment manufacturer or a service technician formally approved by the equipment manufacturer to perform additional inspections and commissioning.
This is the step where the pump sales and application professional will bow out and give way to personnel who specialize in inspecting and starting large rotating equipment.
Typical services at this step may include:
- Alignment inspection: Once the simple straight edge method has been applied the next step in terms of accuracy would be to use dial indicators to actually measure the degree of misalignment. The highest level of accuracy would be attained by utilizing laser alignment equipment to measure misalignment with a great degree of accuracy.
- Vibration measurement: There are many vibration standards that apply to pumps depending on the application and the customer’s preference. Two of the more commonly applied standard which contains vibration limitations are the Hydraulic Institute Standards and the American Petroleum Institute. It is fairly common for vibration testing to be conducted on large equipment to verify that the vibration levels exhibited in the field are within the allowable levels according to the relevant standard.
- Flatness measurement: Some installations may even require that sophisticated equipment be used to verify the flatness of the installed equipment beyond what can be verified with a machinist level. This is particularly important and more commonly required when dealing with large vertical equipment due to this equipment’s sensitivity to seemingly minor out-of-plumb installation conditions.
If services at the Step 3 level are required it’s important that these be handled by qualified professional service technicians approved by both the Manufacturer and the Owner of the equipment.
REMINDER(!) and Conclusion
It bears repeating that at every step reference should always be made to the manufacturer’s instructions. They are the ones who designed the equipment, are intimately aware of the capabilities and sensitivities of the equipment, and will be responsible for warranty the equipment against defects. Keeping that warranty intact is important. So following the manufacturer’s instructions at every step along the way is non-negotiable.
Once these steps have been completed the installation is ready for the startup, and you can rest easy knowing that you’ve done everything you could to ensure that the equipment installation was done right.