What happens when the pump is airlocked?

Answered by Stephen Mosley

When a pump becomes airlocked, it means that air bubbles have accumulated near the entrance of the pump, causing a decrease in flow and potentially halting production. This phenomenon occurs due to the difference in pressure between the high-pressure liquid being expelled by the pump and the lower pressure in the area of the impeller eye.

To understand the concept of airlock, it is important to first grasp how a pump operates. A pump is designed to generate flow and increase the pressure of a liquid by utilizing an impeller or rotor. The impeller rotates, creating a centrifugal force that propels the liquid out of the pump at a higher pressure than the surrounding environment.

However, when air bubbles are present within the liquid, they can become trapped near the pump entrance. This happens because air is compressible, unlike liquids, and it tends to accumulate in areas of lower pressure. As the impeller spins and creates a high-pressure zone, the air bubbles are pushed towards the entrance but are unable to escape due to the lower pressure in the impeller eye.

The accumulation of air bubbles near the pump entrance can have detrimental effects on the pump’s performance. Firstly, the presence of air disrupts the smooth flow of liquid, leading to a decrease in flow rate. This reduction in flow can negatively impact production processes that rely on a continuous supply of liquid.

Moreover, airlock can cause a decrease in pump efficiency and an increase in power consumption. The air bubbles act as a barrier, hindering the pump’s ability to generate the desired pressure and flow. This inefficiency can result in the pump working harder and consuming more energy than necessary.

In severe cases, airlock can completely halt production. When the accumulation of air bubbles becomes significant, the pump may fail to draw in the liquid, resulting in a lack of flow. This can lead to equipment downtime, production delays, and potential financial losses for industries relying on the continuous operation of their pumps.

Addressing airlock issues requires appropriate measures to remove or prevent the trapped air bubbles. These measures can include the installation of air release valves or air elimination systems, which allow the air to be released from the pump system. Regular maintenance and inspection of the pump can also help identify and rectify any airlock issues before they escalate.

When a pump becomes airlocked, the accumulation of air bubbles near the pump entrance disrupts the flow of liquid, reduces pump efficiency, and in severe cases, can halt production. Understanding the causes and effects of airlock is crucial for industries relying on pump systems to ensure smooth operations and prevent costly downtime.