How Motors Have Changed the Pump Industry


Written by:
William C. Livoti, Baldor Electric Company
Published:
December 22, 2011

Read more about The History of Pumps here.


Electric motors have had a huge impact on the pump industry. 

While it is not certain how centrifugal pumps were powered in the early days, it is assumed with reasonable certainty that the power source was not as efficient or reliable as an electric motor. Can you imagine running a pump with a belt and pulley configuration powered by a steam engine? 

motor
Quality assurance testing (0 Turing to rotor OD on a three-phase rotor) 1920-30s. Photo courtesy of Baldor Electric Company.

Michael Faraday devised a machine that generated electricity from rotary motion (the electric motor), but it took almost 50 years for the technology to reach a commercially viable stage.

In 1895, the first modern electric power plant went online using Nikola Tesla's alternating current (AC) motor (generator). Until then, all other motors had used direct current.  

The industry quickly saw the value of AC motor technology, coupling motors to pumping applications.The pump industry now had the ability to efficiently vary the speed of the pump using a stand-alone power source. Here are examples of how electric motors helped advance pump technology:

  • Speed/process control using motor pole count
  • Compact pump packages
  • Vertical pumping technology was developed around electric motors
  • High speed pumping technology (steam turbines were the driver of choice)
  • Improved pump/system efficiency
  • Variable speed technology
  • Eddy current drives
  • Variable frequency drives

Steam turbine technology could be used in a number of the pump applications listed above. However, in today's energy-conscious society, steam is more costly and less efficient than electricity. The electric motor has become the driver of choice in about 75 percent of all pump systems, but it cannot cure the energy crisis. The focus is now on the total system looking beyond component efficiency.

 

History of Energy Efficient Motors

 

1983 Motor industry begins to offer “premium efficient” motors but no standard exists

October 1992 Energy Policy Act of 1992 signed

October 1997 Energy Policy Act of 1992 goes into effect

1998 Consortium for Energy Efficiency establishes premium efficiency standards

August 2001 NEMA Premium® Efficiency Motor Standard Defined

July 2005 Energy Policy Act of 2005

December 2007 Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007 signed

February 2010 Small Motor Rule made by DOE

December 2010 Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007 takes effect

 

Read more about The History of Pumps here.

 

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