Ongoing pump maintenance is based on a number of factors, including mechanical seal replacement and an ability to service the pump without disturbing the piping. One end-suction centrifugal pump has a function that means the motor does not have to be moved for maintenance.
While mechanical seal replacement in VIL pumps is a relatively easy procedure, there is more to total service. This comprises replacement of the throttle bushing, impeller and pump shaft. In most cases, the motor must be removed, requiring space and sometimes hoisting equipment, even with a relatively small pump. Depending on where the VIL pump is installed within the system, it may need to be removed and lowered from the piping at the ceiling to the ground for safe servicing. This can add more maintenance downtime.
To conserve space, VIL pumps tend to be spaced close together, which can pose accessibility issues. It can be challenging, time consuming and pose a safety hazard for technicians to work on a large VIL pump between two others that continue to operate at full speed. One pump may need to be shut down, forfeiting redundancy and risking adequate capacity. Service access in a base-mount installation is straightforward because the layout of the system enables easier access.
Pump Life Expectancy
Base-mounted pumps can have greater reliability, extending product life. The mechanical seals in VIL pumps need external flushing tubes that can be vulnerable to damage and can plug over time, leading to premature seal failures and lower life expectancy. Base-mounted pumps have internal flushing capability that can pass up to three times more flow over the seal faces, helping reduce seal temperature.
In addition, some base-mounted pumps have two sets of bearings—one set for the thrust and radial load, and one set for the motor, reducing wear and tear. VIL pumps have only a motor bearing, which may reduce total life. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Equipment Life Expectancy Chart shows the longevity of base-mounted pumps.
Vibration, Support Factors
The rotating elements within a pump cause vibration. Both base-mounted and VIL pumps have motors and impellers that rotate, and both pumps are designed and manufactured to the same vibration standard (ANSI/HI 9.6.4). ANSI/HI 1.1-1.5, Centrifugal Pumps, for Nomenclature, Definitions, Application & Operation cites seven possible sources of vibration in pumps:
Base-mounted pumps, typically attached to the ground, send their vibration into the earth, which can extend its equipment life (per ASHRAE 2015 handbook and the U.S. Department of Energy).
Vibration challenges must be managed based on the location of installation and required horsepower.
Inertia bases are necessary for pumps that are not installed on the ground floor to help absorb vibration. Base-mounted pumps installed on the ground floor only require a housekeeping pad. VIL pumps can be installed without an inertia base where the mass of the pumps, piping and water is relatively small, and the building, ceiling and piping can accept the load—generally less than 7.5 hp. In larger horsepower applications—usually greater than 25 hp—a base-mounted pump is recommended with an inertia base (ASHRAE HVAC Applications Handbook, section 48.44-45).
According to the ASHRAE HVAC Applications Handbook, in addition to inertia bases being required for most large horsepower applications not at ground level (i.e., base-mounted pumps), “all inline pumps should be mounted on free-standing springs, regardless of location.” This point is worth noting, as there are mounting requirements for both types of pumps.
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