In dealing with pumps, someone is likely to come across different head-related

Someone is also likely to come across the terms
Available
(NPSHA), and Net Positive Suction Head Required (NPSHR.) These
terms are discussed in a separate article on this web site.

Head is a unit of pressure expressed as a column of liquid, in Feet, instead of the
usual unit of pounds per square inch gauge(PSIG). A pressure in PSIG is simply
converted to its equivalent column of liquid. That column of liquid develops the
same pressure in PSIG at the bottom of that liquid column. The length of that
column, in Feet, is referred to as the

The equation for converting a pressure to an equivalent head of liquid:

H     =  [PSIG x 2.31] / SG

where    H    =   head, in feet
PSI   =   pressure, in PSIG
SG    =   specific gravity of liquid
2.31  =   conversion factor

Example:  How much head, or column of gasoline, will a pressure of 100 PSIG
produce if the gasoline has a specific gravity of 0.80?

H     =   [100 x 2.31] / 0.80 = 289 Feet

Another way of looking at this example, in understanding the term
pressure of 100 PSI acting at the bottom of a vertical pipe containing gasoline, will
push the gasoline 289 Feet above its original level inside that pipe.

There are many reasons why it is preferable to express a pressure in terms of its
equivalent head in Feet, or column of liquid, rather than in PSIG:

• A pump performance curve is usually plotted based on its flow rate in
gallons per minute (GPM), and its head in Feet. The  unit of head is used
because a pump always develop the same head regardless of the specific
gravity of the liquid.

If the unit of pressure in PSIG is used, instead of the head (in Feet), then
the pump performance curve will change every time the liquid specific
gravity changes. It is impractical and confusing to plot different
performance curves with varying pressures for exactly the same pump.

• In a system analysis where several factors have to be taken into
consideration such as height of elevation, length of pipes, equivalent pipe
lengths of fittings, friction loss,etc., the analysis is simplified because of
the consistent unit (Feet) being used.

becomes easier.

Suction head - the suction pressure converted into head. If the suction pressure
is a negative number the term is sometimes referred to as

Discharge head - the discharge pressure, measured by a pressure gauge,

Differential head - the differential pressure converted into head. It is equal to the
the
suction lift.

Velocity head - the head needed to increase the velocity of the liquid at the pump
discharge nozzle over the velocity of the liquid at the suction nozzle. Velocity head
is present only is the discharge nozzle is smaller than the suction nozzle. If the
nozzles are of the same size then the velocity head is zero.  The velocity head is
calculated from the equation:

Hv     =  V^2  / 2g

where    Hv     =   velocity head, in Feet
V        =   liquid velocity, in Feet per second
g        =   acceleration due to gravity, in Feet/sec^2

The formula for calculating the increase in liquid velocity is:

V      =     [Q x 0.321] / [A2 - A1]

where    Hv   =     velocity head in Feet
Q     =     flow rate in gallons per minute
A     =     the difference in the flow area between the suction nozzle and
discharge nozzle, in square inches.
2.31       is a unit conversion factor

Example: What is the velocity head of a 4x6x11 single stage, horizontal, end
suction pump with a flow rate of 800 GPM?

Solution:

In the universal pump designation consisting of three groups of figures, the first
figure refers to the discharge nozzle size, the second figure refers to the suction
nozzle size, and the third figure refers to the nominal impeller diameter size.

First, calculate the change in liquid velocity:

V      =    [800 x 0.321] / [A6 - A4]
V      =    [800 x0.321] / [28.274 - 12.566] = 4 Feet

H     =     V^2 / 2g
H     =    [4]^2  / [2x32.2] = 0.248 feet

(More on
velocity head developed by the peripheral velocity of an impeller is
discussed in a separate article on this web site.)

Total dynamic head - the total dynamic pressure converted into head. It is the

Static head -  the head due to difference in elevation between a reference point
(such as the top of a tank) and a datum point (such as the centerline of an
impeller.) If the reference point is above the datum point the static head is a
positive number. If the reference point is below the datum point the static head is
a negative number, and is sometimes referred to as suction life (instead of static
head.) The static head is numerically equal to the difference in elevation
expressed in Feet. Static head is also known as

Friction head - the head loss due to friction, or to overcome friction, such as in
pipes, fittings, and other surface areas in contact with the liquid (sometimes
referred to as the wetted areas.)
Related topics:

Pump basics
Types of pumps
Horizontal vs. Vertical pump
Axial split vs. Radial split case pump
Parallel-series operation
Self-priming pump
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