Boiler feedwater pump

Boiler feedwater pump

A boiler feedwater pump is a specific type of pump used to pump feedwater into a steam boiler. The water may be freshly supplied or returning condensate produced as a result of the condensation of the steam produced by the boiler. These pumps are normally high pressure units that use suction from a condensate return system and can be of the centrifugal pump type or positive displacement type.

Construction and operation

Feedwater pumps range in size up to many horsepower and the electric motor is usually separated from the pump body by some form of mechanical coupling. Large industrial condensate pumps may also serve as the feedwater pump. In either case, to force the water into the boiler, the pump must generate sufficient pressure to overcome the steam pressure developed by the boiler. This is usually accomplished through the use of a centrifugal pump.

Feedwater pumps usually run intermittently and are controlled by a float switch or other similar level-sensing device energizing the pump when it detects a lowered liquid level in the boiler. The pump then runs until the level of liquid in the boiler is substantially increased. Some pumps contain a two-stage switch. As liquid lowers to the trigger point of the first stage, the pump is activated. If the liquid continues to drop (perhaps because the pump has failed, its supply has been cut off or exhausted, or its discharge is blocked), the second stage will be triggered. This stage may switch off the boiler equipment (preventing the boiler from running dry and overheating), trigger an alarm, or both.

Steam-powered pumps

Steam locomotives and the steam engines used on ships and stationary applications such as power plants also required feedwater pumps. In this situation, though, the pump was often powered using a small steam engine that ran using the steam produced by the boiler. A means had to be provided, of course, to put the initial charge of water into the boiler (before steam power was available to operate the steam-powered feedwater pump). The pump was often a positive displacement pump that had steam valves and cylinders at one end and feedwater cylinders at the other end; no crankshaft was required.

See also

* Injector


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