Choosing the Right Portable Fire Pump

When an emergency occurs, you need to be able to respond quickly. That means having water available for long distance hose lays or pumping up to high elevation areas.

This is where a portable fire pump comes in handy. They can be used on a variety of vehicles and provide varying levels of pressure and volume.

High Pressure

Designed to meet NFPA 20 requirements for fire fighting pumps this portable high pressure water pump provides excellent power for its size. It features a Honda brand engine with a strong reputation for quality. This model is compact and weighs a mere 60 pounds. It has a 2-inch suction and discharge port that use standard NPT threads. It can be used to refill water tanks for a quick response, to supply two 60-gpm fog nozzles over short lengths of 1 3/4-inch line, or as a back-up in hydrant situations. It can also be used to prime or flush hydrants.

A high pressure fire pump is ideal for situations where a department’s system demand exceeds what its available water supply can provide. The pump is a valuable tool when water needs to be delivered over long distances or to overcome elevation issues such as hills and mountains.

Fire department leaders will often select a multistage multiport pump for this type of situation. These models have multiple discharge outlets and a variable flow rate. For example, one outlet could be set at a lower pressure (100 psi net pump pressure) to feed the ground floor or lower zone of a building. Another outlet can be set at a higher pressure (175 psi net pump pressure) to supply the middle floors or mid zone. And a third option can be set at the top floor or high zone.

Look for a pump with sturdy metal componentry and not plastic elements, as they are subject to more wear and tear. It is also important to look for a firefighting pump that has a diesel engine as opposed to a petrol option. Diesel engines are typically more fuel efficient and have a longer lifespan than petrol options.

Finally, consider the pump’s rated capacity and pressure, as well as the size of its suction and discharge ports. These dimensions impact how quickly the pump can move water, which is measured in gallons per hour or gallons per minute. Pumps with larger discharge and suction port diameters increase the flow rate, but may compromise the amount of water pressure that can be produced upon discharge.

Medium Volume/Medium Pressure

Depending on the fire pump system installed, it may need to be able to deliver more volume or higher pressure than a standard fire pump can provide. For these situations there are several different pump types available. Selecting the right type of pump can reduce installation costs, maintenance requirements and overall system operation.

One of the most common pump types is the centrifugal pump, which uses a single driver to deliver both high volume and high pressure to the water distribution system. As water enters the pump it passes over an impeller which spins and creates centrifugal force that moves the water to the discharge nozzles.

Centrifugal pumps are inexpensive to purchase and operate, but can require a fair amount of space for proper operation and maintenance. This is typically due to the fact that the drivers for these pumps are located in the casing of the pump and must be removed to gain access for repairs.

Another popular style of portable fire pump is the positive displacement fire pump. These are generally driven by gas or diesel engines and typically use a split case that allows the engine to be opened for pump maintenance. These are highly reliable and have a wide range of rated flow and pressure capacities. They also need the most space of any pump type.

In addition, some manufacturers make special classes of fire pumps to meet the needs of specific users and applications. For example, the fire pump manufacturer Waterous offers a number of different models that are designed to be mounted on specialized attack vehicles. These include a floating pump that has a 3-gallon fuel tank that gives the user flow rates of up to 100 gallons per minute (gpm) with pressures up to 190 psi, and a model that mounts to a backpack frame to provide a fire pump that can run for 2.5 hours on a tank of gas and achieve pressures up to 220 psi.

Another example of a specialty fire pump is the Darley 2BE 13V twin portable pump, which is powered by a 23-horsepower (hp) Briggs & Stratton Vanguard gasoline engine that provides 300 gpm at 15 psi for tank fill and up to 100 gpm at 20 psi for water delivery or foam application.

Large Volume/Low Pressure

When system demand exceeds the water pressure (measured in psi or bar) available in a building’s water supply, a fire pump increases the volume (measured in gallons per minute) and/or the pressure (measured in psi) of the water. This type of pump is used mainly in high-rise buildings and storage warehouses to increase the pressure on their water supply. Depending on the application, a fire pump can be driven by either an electric motor or a diesel engine. In buildings where electrical capacity is limited, an electric driver is preferred because it requires less maintenance and produces fewer negative environmental impacts than a diesel engine-driven pump.

To determine the best portable fire pump for a particular installation, the designer must first perform a hazard analysis to identify the most hydraulically demanding area in the building. This will help the design team understand the maximum amount of water the system must pump in order to prevent a significant loss of life and property. Based on this information, the design team can then use NFPA 20 to determine how much flow and pressure is required.

In addition to the gallons per minute and psi required by NFPA 20, the design team should also consider a fire pump’s churn rating, which is the maximum pressure that a pump can achieve in a short period of time. This is especially important for buildings with taller structures, as a higher churn rating will allow the pump to maintain its flow even when a large amount of water is required in a short period of time.

The churn rating is determined by dividing the total head of a pump (which is the sum of the suction and discharge heads) by the rated capacity of the pump. The results of this calculation are then compared to the churn curve provided by the fire pump manufacturer. Ideally, the churn curve should fall within or above the first point marked on the graph.

If the churn curve does not meet this requirement, the design team should consider increasing the size of the test header or installing a pressure-reducing valve on the system. It is also important to note that the NFPA 20 standard requires a bypass line be connected between the outside screw and yoke of the pump on the suction side and between two normally open control valves positioned before the outside flange of the pump on the discharge side.

Standard Range

Fire pumps are an essential component of water-based fire protection systems. They increase the pressure (measured in psi and bar) of a water source to bridge the gap between system demand and available water supply.

Having the right portable fire pump for your application is vital to ensure the best results and safe operation of your water-based fire suppression system. It is important to consider the volume and pressure of the system as well as the size of the portable fire pump you will need. We recommend utilizing the fire pump sizing chart below to help you determine what pump fits your needs.

We offer a variety of high-quality, low-maintenance fire pump options for different industry applications. These include both single and multi-stage portable fire pumps in various pressure and volume combinations. All our portable fire pumps are UL Listed or SASO approved and powered by either gas or diesel engines.

Our single-stage portable fire pumps feature a hard anodized pump body and replaceable bronze wear rings for increased durability and corrosion resistance. They also have a self-adjusting, self-lubricating mechanical seal to reduce maintenance and downtime. They deliver maximum pressures of 220-375 psi* and max flows of 110-155 US GPM*.

Multi-stage portable fire pumps use a belt drive and have multiple impellers to produce more pressure. However, a multi-stage fire pump requires a separate controller to manage each stage, increasing the complexity and cost of the entire unit. Hale offers a line of single-stage, single-pump portable fire pumps with a high-performance design that eliminates the need for a separate controller and delivers both lower cost and higher reliability.

When choosing a portable fire pump look for one that has a recoil or electric starter to simplify starting and minimize maintenance. You should also look for a portable fire pump that uses a fuel-efficient engine for greater longevity and reduced operating costs.

Every fire pump must undergo an annual flow test to determine if it is capable of producing the minimum, rated and peak load flow rates required for the system it will serve. These tests must be conducted in an area with good ventilation and using hoses that have passed a previous pressure testing procedure. They must also be performed by trained personnel who follow the proper safety precautions, including wearing protective equipment and shutting down discharges before changing nozzles.