Pros And Cons Of Various Irrigation Pumps

There are various types of pumps that are used to perform certain tasks. Many variables need to be considered when selecting the right size and type of pump. Choosing the wrong pump size for your irrigation system can result in a lot of wasted power.

If you choose to select your pump without using a pump dealer, one of the main things you will need to obtain is a pump curve. A pump curve, which is created by the pump manufacturer, shows the pump performance in an illustrated graph. Lower flow results from higher pressures and higher flows results from lower pressures.

The pumps performance is affected by two variables. The horsepower of the motor attached to the pump is the first variable. A pump has two parts the pump which actually moves the water and the motor which moves the pump. Bigger motors result in more volume and pressure giving an advantage if you have a pump that can be attached to different sizes of motors. Size of the impeller is the second variable.

The impeller is responsible for moving the water by spinning and causing a centrifugal action. Higher pressure is created when a larger impeller fits tighter in a case which prevents slippage. If you have higher pressure than what your system requires it may cause your system to waste energy. Determining the proper pump really boils down to selecting a model and size that produces the GPM (the flow amount that the pump is able to produce) and head (measured in feet of head, the amount of pressure the pump is able to produce). Pumps are generally sold with custom impeller sizes.

A way to determine the impeller size you need is to draw an impeller curve through the feet head/GPM intersecting point making your curve parallel to the other impeller curves. Ultimately it would probably be easier and time-saving to contact a pump dealer and provide them with your GPM and feet head you are looking to pump and they can provide you with the best fit for your irrigation needs.

When shopping for a pump for your irrigation system, keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to transfer water from your water source to your sprinkler system as efficiently as possible. An efficient pump system is one where the pump matches the needs of the water source, the piping system, and the irrigation equipment.

Because there are so many different pumps on the market in general, and a fair number of pumps designed specifically for irrigation applications, it can feel overwhelming to try and pick one. The power and capacity of the pump you choose will be based on your system’s exact specifications, but knowing a few pros and cons of the various pump designs can help you decide what kind of pump you want, and give you some direction in your shopping.

Pump Type Benefits Points to Consider


Propeller Pump

  • Simple construction
  • Doesn’t need to be primed
  • Efficiently pumps very large flow rates at low TDH
  • capable of pumping water with some sand in it
  • Can use electrical or tractor power, as well as internal combustion engine
  • Portable
  • Cannot generate suction to lift water
  • Provides low (less than 75 feet) energy output
  • Cannot be valved back to reduce flow rate
  • Critical intake submergence depth


Submersible Pump

  • Compatible with deep wells and crooked wells
  • Closed impeller for maximum efficiency
  • Doesn’t need to be primed
  • Easy to install
  • Can be less expensive in applications requiring a pump with a smaller diameter
  • Ideal for booster applications
  • May be more expensive in applications requiring a pump with a larger diameter
  • Can only be powered by electricity
  • More susceptible to lightning strikes
  • Requires moving water to cool motor


Centrifugal Pump

  • Simple
  • Highly efficient in many applications
  • Easy to install
  • Can use electrical or tractor power, as well as internal combustion engine
  • Constant flow rate
  • Doesn’t overload with increased TDH
  • Priming required
  • Must be located within 20 ft. of water supply surface
  • Lost prime may result in pump damage
  • Motor may overload if the TDH is much lower than the design value


Turbine Pump

  • Quiet operation
  • Can use electrical power or internal combustion engine
  • Efficiently provides high TDH and flow rates
  • Doesn’t need to be primed
  • Compatible with well use
  • May be used in conditions where water depth fluctuates
  • May be more difficult to install, inspect, and repair
  • Impellers must be periodically adjusted to maintain high efficiency
  • Installation costs higher than centrifugal pumps
  • Repair and maintenance more expensive than centrifugal pump