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 Difference between centrifugal and reciprocating pump

Centrifugal pumps are known for their simple design and easy operation, while reciprocating pumps are known for their complex shape but highly effective in their operation. The centrifugal pump is also called a rotary pump as it uses the kinetic energy of an impeller to force the fluid and increase the kinetic energy. On the other hand, a reciprocating pump which is also called a positive displacement pump works with a piston cylinder. Water is trapped into the cylinder during the suction stroke, it is then forced out during an exhaust stroke. It is widely employed for high viscous fluids.


Today you’ll get to know the difference between centrifugal pump and reciprocating pump. You’ll see their diagram, applications, and working principle. The difference between this centrifugal and reciprocating pump will also be presented in tabular form.

Read more: Things you need to know about pump

Centrifugal pump

centrifugal types pumps use centrifugal force to create velocity in the liquid being handled. This velocity is then converted to pressure. Kinetic energy is decreased and the pressure will be increased. This difference in pressure drives the fluid through the system or plant.

A centrifugal pump has a rotating impeller that creates a vacuum that helps in moving fluids. This impeller is enclosed in housing as it reduces pressure at the inlet. The motion created is what drives fluid to the outside of the pump’s housing. The pressure increases at this stage so that it can send it out the discharge.

Centrifugal pumps are the most common type of pump that can transfer fluid of low viscosity at a high flow rate. Also, low-pressure installations, making them perfect for applications that require pumps to deal with large volumes. Initially, centrifugal pumps are designed for the transfer of water but now used for pumping thin fuels and chemicals.

Finally, these pumps have a simple design and fewer moving parts, which result in lower maintenance requirements and costs. With this, the pump is suited for applications that work daily or continuously.

Read more: Understanding centrifugal pump

Diagram of centrifugal pump:

Watch the video below to learn about the working of centrifugal pump:

Reciprocating pump

With the different positive displacement pumps available, it uses the reciprocating motion of pistons, plungers, or diaphragms to move the liquid through the pump. The discharge of fluid here is in pulses instead of smooth flow of liquid. Reciprocating pumps work by trapping fluid at a fixed volume, usually in a cavity. This trapped fluid is then forced into the discharge pipe.

Reciprocating pumps are used based on their ability to handle high viscosity fluid at high pressure. it can also handle relatively low flows because its efficiency is not affected by pressure. this pump can handle more difficult conditions where dynamic pumps may fail.  They can even run at any point on their curve. However, positive displacement pumps have a complex design.

Also, reciprocating pumps can handle variations in pressure, flow, and viscosity to remain efficient. Centrifugal pumps don’t operate well off the center of their curve. As the flow rate remains constant in this pump (proportional to the speed of operation), smooth and low pulsating is still achieved despite the change in pressure. peristaltic, piston, and diaphragm are types of positive displacement pumps. They are perfect solutions for dosing applications because of their accurate metering.

Read more: Understanding reciprocating pump

Diagram of reciprocating pump:

Watch the video below to learn the working of reciprocating pump:

Difference between the centrifugal and reciprocating pump

Below is the difference between centrifugal and reciprocating pump in tabular form:




It is a rotary pump that uses the kinetic energy of the impeller.

Fluid is discharged continuously

It is a positive displacement type pump that is forced by a piston.

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Do not discharge fluid continuously.

3 The flow rate decreases, making the pressure increase. Pressure has no effect on the flow rate.
4 High viscous fluid can be pumped. Used for pumping low viscous fluid.
5 Pump discharge is inversely proportional to the viscosity of a fluid. The viscosity of fluid has no effect on its discharge rate.
6 Efficiency is low when compared with reciprocating pumps. Efficiency is high.
7 Priming is a problem in centrifugal pump The reciprocating pump has no problem with priming.
8 An impeller is used in transferring the fluid. A piston-cylinder device is used for fluid transfer.
9 Centrifugal pumps are portable and lighter Heavier when compared with a centrifugal pump.
10 It offers higher discharge at low heads It gives higher heads at low discharge.
11 Equipment cost is less Reciprocating pumps are costly.
12 Lesser maintenance is required. Requires higher maintenance.
13 Installation is easy and takes lesser space. Installation can be difficult and more space is required.
14 Mostly used for domestic purposes and where higher discharge at the low head is needed. Mostly used in industries and higher viscous fluid pumped at a high head.

Read more: What is centrifugal casting? – its Advantages and Disadvantages


That is all for this post, the difference between centrifugal pump and reciprocating pump. We have extensively explained the difference of these pumps in tabular, presented their work in video format, and also their diagram so that you can see their components.

I hope you got a lot from this post, if so, kindly share it with other technical students. Thanks for reading. See you next time!

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