Difference between Centrifugal Pump and Reciprocating Pump

A pump is a mechanical device that converts mechanical energy into pressure energy. The pumps are employed worldwide for different residential and industrial applications. There are different types of pumps designed according to the nature of applications. The centrifugal pump and the reciprocating pump are the most common types of pumps. This article mainly explains the difference between the centrifugal pump and the reciprocating pump.

The main difference between the reciprocating pump and the centrifugal pump is, a centrifugal pump transfers liquid by using the kinetic energy of the impeller while a reciprocating pump transfers liquid using a reciprocating component (such as a piston or plunger).

What is a Centrifugal Pump?

A centrifugal pump is a type of pump that transfers fluid by converting mechanical energy into pressure energy by means of centrifugal force acting on the fluid. It is also known as a rotary pump.

centrifugal pump

A centrifugal pump works on the forced vortex flow principle. It has an impeller, diffuser/volute casing, and pump housing. The impeller contains multiple blades. This impeller connects with an electric motor that drives it.

As the liquid strikes the impeller blades, the blades supply kinetic energy to the liquid. As the liquid gets kinetic energy, its speed increases.

After passing through the impeller, the liquid transfers into the diffuser, which slows down the fluid and increases its pressure up to the desired level. As the liquid’s desired pressure is achieved, the liquid is discharged.

The centrifugal pumps are used to transfer a large amount of fluid from one place to another. These pumps can’t efficiently pump to high viscosity fluids.

What is a Reciprocating Pump?

A reciprocating pump is one of the most common types of positive displacement pumps. It pumps the fluid by using a reciprocating component (such as a plunger or piston). A reciprocating pump works on the positive displacement principle.

reciprocating pump

First of all, the reciprocating piston creates a cavity inside the pump. This cavity on the suction side generates a pressure difference between the pump and the fluid storage tank.

As the pressure difference is generated, the fluid is transferred from the storage tank into the pump. As the desired amount of fluid is sucked, the inlet and outlet valves are closed, and the piston starts reciprocating inside the pump. This piston increases the pressure of the fluid. When the fluid pressurization process completes, the fluid transfers to the desired area.

The main advantage of the reciprocating pump over the centrifugal pump is that it has the capability to efficiently transfer the high viscosity fluids. The reciprocating pumps are used to provide a low discharge rate at the high head. They can’t handle a large amount of fluid as centrifugal pumps.

Centrifugal Pump Vs Reciprocating Pump

The main difference between the reciprocating pump and the centrifugal pump is given below:

Reciprocating PumpCentrifugal Pump
A reciprocating pump transfers liquid by using a reciprocating piston or plunger.A centrifugal pump pumps liquid by using an impeller and diffuser.
It operates on the positive displacement pump.It operates on the forced vortex flow principle.
It is a type of positive displacement pump.It is a type of dynamic pump.
These pumps can efficiently pump high-viscosity fluids.These don’t have the capability to pump high-viscosity fluids efficiently.
They can’t supply continuous flow.They deliver a continuous supply of flow.
Fluid viscosity doesn’t affect the pump performance.The pump performance reduces by increasing the fluid viscosity.
A reciprocating pump doesn’t have priming issues.A centrifugal pump needs initial priming.
It has a high initial cost.It has a low initial cost.
These types of pumps require high maintenance.They require very low maintenance.
They have high maintenance costs.They have low maintenance costs.
It has more reciprocating parts than the centrifugal pump.The centrifugal pump has fewer parts.
It has a complex construction.It has easy construction. 
In this pump, the torque is not uniform.It has uniform torque.
It needs a large installation floor space.It requires a very small installation space.
The reciprocating pump installation is very complicated.The centrifugal pump has an easy installation.
It is less efficient.It is more efficient.
The reciprocating pumps have the following types: Piston PumpPlunger PumpThe centrifugal pumps have the following types: Radial PumpAxial Pump
It can’t handle a large amount of fluid.It has the capability to handle a large amount of fluid.
The reciprocating pumps are used for low flow rates at high-head applications.The centrifugal pumps are used for low-head and high-discharge rate applications.
It has a self-priming ability.It doesn’t have a self-priming ability
It requires a heavy foundation.A simple foundation is sufficient for this pump.

FAQ Section

What is the centrifugal pump used for?

Centrifugal pumps are most commonly used for domestic purposes and applications where higher discharge at the low head is required. They are usually used to pump high-viscosity liquids.

What are the reciprocating pumps used for?

Reciprocating pumps find application in applications where precise fluid delivery is essential, and also when the necessary delivery pressure exceeds the capabilities of alternative pump designs.

Why is the centrifugal pump most used?

Centrifugal pumps are usually used for pumping light fuels, chemicals, and water. These pumps are ideal to transfer large volumes of low-viscosity fluids.

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