Control the Flow of a Pump - Equilibar Fluid Control

Control the Flow of a Pump

Methods of controlling pump flow

  • Control the Flow of a Pump

One method is to ensure the pump always meets its minimum flow requirements by setting up a recirculation loop from the reservoir, also called a bypass line, equipped with a pressure bypass valve. When the process demand is low, the pump output will still meet the minimum flow requirements. The valve used in the process may also be referred to as a pump pressure sustaining valve. The diagram to the right shows an Equilibar® back pressure valve (BPV) used as a pressure bypass valve. Equilibar General Service and Industrial Service BPVs are excellent for these applications.

Another method of controlling pump flow is to use a pump with a variable speed drive which in turn changes the flow of the pump.

A third method for controlling flow from a pump is to throttle the discharge by opening and closing a valve at the exit of the pump. In the case of controlling the discharge of positive displacement pumps, this technique is used to prevent pump slip (also called pump runaway) and has the added benefit of pulsation dampening. The diagram to the right shows an Equilibar flow control valve in series with a flow transmitter controlling the discharge of a positive displacement feed pump.

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In the case of non-positive displacement pumps, throttling the pressure at the pump discharge results in a specific flow rate based on the characteristic performance curve of the pump. This method is described below.

Simple Pump Flow Control for Non Positive Displacement Pumps

Oftentimes in order to control the flow of a pump, a complicated PID loop is used to electronically control the loop based on the output from a flow meter. The modulating control element is usually either a rising stem flow control valve or a variable frequency drive on the pump’s electric motor. While these methods are a proven way to control the flow of a pump, there are applications where such a setup is not desirable. For example, an aggressive media might require a flow meter technology that is prohibitively expensive. In these cases, a simpler pump flow control circuit using an Equilibar Back Pressure Regulator may be preferred.

The circuit at the right uses a back pressure valve to set the flow rate coming out of the pump to the process. With a non positive displacement style pump, also called a rotary impeller or a centrifugal pump, the output flow is inversely proportional to the output pressure of the pump. When the output pressure of the pump is low, the output flow of the pump is high. This relationship between pump output pressure and pump output flow is shown on the pump’s flow performance curve, also called a P-V diagram (see graph at right). For every pressure, the pump will only deliver one specific flow rate. Therefore, to control the flow of a centrifugal pump, simply set the output pressure to the point on the P-V diagram that allows the pump to deliver the desired flow rate.

The output pressure of the pump is set using a back pressure regulator. Once the pressure is set, the flow rate to the process is established. The back pressure regulator (BPR) will isolate any changes that occur in the downstream system by making adjustments in order to keep its inlet pressure (the pump’s output pressure) at the target setpoint.

Equilibar Pump Pressure Sustaining ValveEquilibar flow control valve

Equilibar BD Series Stainless Steel

Equilibar BD Series BPV in SS316L


Schematic of Equilibar Back Pressure Valve Controlling the Flow of a Pump

Equilibar BPV controls pump discharge flow

Pump Flow Versus Pressure Performance Curve

Pump Pressure Vs Flow Performance Curve

Accurate Flow Control with Equilibar Back Pressure Regulators

The unique technology in the Equilibar BPR is particularly applicable in this control scheme. The Equilibar uses a flexible diaphragm membrane as the only moving part. This design eliminates friction to allow the Equilibar BPR to respond precisely and with very low hysteresis. The Equilibar is a pilot operated design where the controlled pressure is set by applying a setpoint pressure of compressed gas to the top side of the diaphragm. The advantages of the Equilibar are:

  • Can choose to electronically control the pilot pressure or set the pilot using a manually adjustable mechanical regulator. This allows you to control the flow of a pump with a simple manual adjustment or with computer automation. The same Equilibar BPV is used in either case.
  • Can control the flow of a pump with extremely high resolution. The frictionless diaphragm is the only moving part in the Equilibar BPR and responds quickly to subtle changes in either the system pressure or the pilot set point pressure
  • The Equilibar is available in a variety of body materials and diaphragm types to meet the harshest of conditions.
  • The simple construction is easy to maintain.

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Video Shows a How a Back Pressure Regulator Can Control the Flow of a Pump

Click on the video link to see an Equilibar back pressure regulator used to control the flow of a pump in Equilibar’s engineering laboratory. The pump is a rotating impeller centrifugal type used to supply cooling water. In this video we demonstrate that the flow rate from the pump is repeatable, allowing you to come back to the same flow rate time and time again. A schematic of the laboratory setup is shown at right.


An exploded view of an Equilibar Multi-Orifice back pressure regulator.

An exploded view of an Equilibar Multi-Orifice back pressure regulator. This unique design allows the BPR instantaneous frictionless control. The dome pilot can be controlled manually or electronically.

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Schematic of Demonstration in Video from Equilibar Test Lab

Schematic of Equilibar Back Pressure Regulator in a pump discharge line to control the flow of a pump as demonstrated in the video. In the demonstration the water is fed back to the storage tank to reduce waste, but it is not used as a bypass line. The manual valve in the recirculation line is simulating process system demand situations.

One of our BD series regulators my be a good fit for your pump flow control application.

BD24 Industrial Service Back Pressure Regulator

BD16 Industrial Back Pressure Regulator

Port Sizes:
Typical Pressure Ranges:
0 - 1 in WC
0 - 28 in WC
0 - 5 psi
0 - 10 psi
0 - 20 psi
0 - 30 psi
0 - 60 psi
Key Applications:
Technical Details


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Marty Kowall, fluid control engineering

Team Member Spotlight: Marty Kowall, design engineer

Since moving to North Carolina at the end of January, design engineer Marty Kowall has provided continuity and collaboration between Equilibar’s work in Asheville and the work of other Richards Industrials product lines in Cincinnati, helping to strengthen the technical efforts at both sites. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Marty earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical Read More

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