Guide written by:
Jeremy, construction site supervisor, Cardiff
To optimize pump efficiency and performance, you'll need to kit yourself out properly. Pipes, electrical boxes, regulators, floats, filters, seals... so many things to think about for optimal safety and smooth operation. Just read our expert's advice and go with the flow...
- Intake hose
- Discharge hose
- Water shortage box
- One-way valve
What accessories are there for surface and submersible pumps?
The aim is to limit pressure drops to a bare minimum so as to get the best out of the flow that your pump offers. For your discharge hose, choose a flat hose. Designed to mesh with standard pump fittings, these hoses are easy to install in any configuration, they're resistant to wear and tear and allow high flows. Flat hoses can also be used to dispose of unfiltered water containing small particles of debris.
Intake pipe / hose
If you're using a booster or motor pump, you'll want to take up the water at a low point. You'll therefore need a pipe ofan appropriate diameter for your pump, on the one hand, and resistant to crushing on the other. Provided you can find both of an appropriate diameter, always choose a corrugated or reinforced pipe. This will help prevent any crushing or pinching that might otherwise affect pump operation - making it work overtime to push the water past. If suction is slowed or hampered, the pump motor will tend to overheat and could be damaged. If possible, install a trap at the suction point to exclude debris and a one-way valve to improve uptake efficiency.
The main purpose of a pump is to propel liquid from one point to another. It's crucial that the hydraulic circuit issealed between the pump and the discharge point. Having the right key components will help you to achieve this.
For watering, choose a flexible rubber hose, e.g. the classic garden hose. These are compatible with a range of garden attachments. Hose quality depends on the number of layers it's composed of - several diameters are available.
For water supply systems (e.g. pumping from a well), rigid PVC pipes should be installed. The aim here is to maintain the pressure delivered by the pump, limiting pressure drops as much as possible. Different types of fittings - joints, valves, elbows etc - can be obtained to complete your network.
Leakages usually occur at pipe joints. At intake and outlet points especially, it's important to guard against leaks. For threaded joints, teflon or a combination of oakum and sealant paste can be used to produce a watertight seal. Teflon looks like white tape and wraps around the threadofthe connecting joint. The seal is produced when the two parts are tightened together.
Hemp oakum resembles a coil of brown thread with several strands and is applied in the same way as teflon except with the addition of sealant paste. Some DIYers swear by teflon while others will only use oakum. The pros tend to side with the second lot!
Both these sealing options are single-use. If you unscrew the joint, the seal will have to be remade. Some joint pastes can even be usedalone.
Installing a filter is useful in several contexts: watering from a rainwater collector, water supply, filling a pool, or any other situations where you're pumping a liquidto be reused elsewhere.
Most filters are made up of an outer box (with threaded intake and outlet connections) and a filter cartridge. At the intake end, you can install a filter upstream of your pump to get rid of impurities from the water source before it's pressurized. You then avoid clogging your watering tools etc. at the discharge end, and are left with cleaner, clearer water to work with. In all cases, remember to regularly dismantle and clean the filter cartridge so its residue doesn't hamper the water flow through the pump.
How to control your pump automatically?
Depending on the nature of your installation, you might want to be able to start and stop your pump automatically. Various simple control mechanisms exist, depending on the type of pump.
Submersible pump control
Float and level bulb
Used to start a submersible pump when a set water level is reached, floats and level bulbs work in the following way: a floating component, usually plastic, is placed directly in the source tank or body of water. Inside this sealed plastic component is a switch which changes position (open or closed) as the bulb rises or falls.
As such, when the bulb is covered over with water (vertical position), the pump starts, and when the water level drops and the bulb drops below the horizontal position, the pump stops. The float contains a three-wireconnector connected directly to the pump (just like a switch) or to a control panel (water shortage box). This is the simplest automatic control mechanism.
Control panel or water shortage box
A slightly more complex solution, offering greater safety in case of malfunction, involves a separate control panel. Generally, these come pre-wired. They contain a control switch (automatic or manual), a circuit breaker (magnetic protection), a powercontactor (to be scaled to the power of your pump), thermal protection (calibrated to your pump model to protect it against lack of water, air pockets or accidental wheel jamming) and a terminal block to which you connect the level bulb(s), an optional alarm etc. These boxes are waterproof (IP 55 rating at least) and can therefore be placed anywhere, even completely underwater. For best results, scale the control panel's power rating along with your pump. This type of mechanism is typically used in wastewater pumping stations.
Surface pump, booster pump and motor pump control
This device operates as a switch which starts or stops the pump depending on the prevailing pressure level. The majority of regulators have thermal protection to guard against pump faults (wheel jamming, pump failure etc.) and water shortage protection (which immediately cuts off the pump). They're connected in two ways: a hydraulic connection to the network at the pump outlet, and an electrical connection (inserted between the power supply and the pump).
To choose your regulator, look at models compatible with the electrical power rating of your pump, and then choose one that's also compatible with your desired network pressure.
Floats and level bulbs
One-way valves, pressure plates and heavy-duty PVC
Using a one-way valve prevents loss of pumping power because it only allows water circulation in one direction.
A pressure plate can be placed at the top of the downpipe of your gutter, collecting leaves to prevent pipe blockage.
Heavy-duty PVC is designed for outdoor use, to withstand temperature changes and high pressures. Similar to household PVC but more robust (and generally dark grey in colour).
A strainer can be placed at the end of the intake pipe to filter out impurities prior to pumping.
Joints can be screwed or glued - in both cases a seal is produced using either teflon or oakum and sealant paste.
Quality varies little with these smaller components, but the robustness of the materials should be taken into account (for instance, brass is more solid than any PVC).
Final advice on choosing and using your pump gear...
With a submersible pump, consider fitting your dischargehose withcheck valve to guard against unexpected discharges.
Regarding maintenance, you'll need to take the pump out and clean it at least once a year. Check that there's nothing fouling the propeller, check the watertightness of your electrical cables, and testthelevel sensors. You should also disassemble and clean the check valve(s) and float(s) if fitted.
If your pump is used to collect unfiltered wastewater, get an authorized water treatment company to carry out any maintenance work to the required standard.
Whatever type of installation you have in place, if it uses cartridge filters, disassemble these for cleaning about once every six months. Ditto for suction strainers.
Finally, regardless of the type of pump - motor pump, pond pump etc. - always pay attention to the condition of any sealed joints, both peripheral and on your pump body. If your pump has an oil sump, make sure there are no leaks.
Accidents with pumps are common, so make sure you disconnect the power supply before carrying out maintenance work to protect yourself from the risk of electrocution. When testing your level or pressure sensors, never put your tools or fingers inside the (active) pump body!
Learn more about pump installations...
To find out more about household water installations, follow our editors’ advice and check out their other guides:
- How to choose your booster pump?
- How to connect your hose?
- How to choose your pumping station?
- How to choose your rainwater collector?
- How to choose your swimming pool?
Guide written by:
Jeremy, construction site supervisor, Cardiff, 131 guides
Electrician by trade, I first worked in industrial estates where I installed, wired and fixed a large number of electrical installations. After this, I managed a team of electricians for this type of work. 10 years or so ago, I turned to building and construction. From the modest family home, to gyms and theatres; I have been able to coordinate, audit and organise all sorts of construction sites. for 4 years now, I am restaoring and bulding an extrension to a bungalow in the heart of the welsh countyside. My experience in manual work and my knowledge means I am proud to be of service. Terraces, interior design, roofing, plumbing, electricty, anything goes! We have, my wife, daughter and I, built almost everything we have from scratch! So to answer all of your questions, and to orientate and advise you on coosing your tools? Easy!