How Can You Prevent Unexpected Vacuum Pump Failures?

Identifying potential problems with your vacuum pump system can mean the difference between a scheduled repair and productivity loss from pump failure.

Let’s start with four common signs your vacuum pump is in need of attention:

  1. Excessive pump leakage
  2. Unusual sounds or excessive noise
  3. Excessive pump discharge pressure
  4. Pump vibration

These apply to all vacuum systems. More specific troubleshooting will depend on your system setup and vacuum pump type.

Excessive Pump Leakage

All vacuum systems have some amount of air-in leakage. But if there’s a reduction in process gas pumping capacity, excessive leaks are likely to blame. This occurs because the pump must move the air-in leakage as well as the process gas from the vacuum chamber.

Vacuum system leaks typically occur at the joints of the vacuum lines and at the vacuum chamber. The issue may be caused by the pump itself or by other equipment in the vacuum system.

Unusual Noises During Pump Operation

As with any equipment, unusual sounds or excessive noise are signs of a problem. Common causes include bearing failure or a foreign object inside the pump. Depending on the type of system you have, other reasons for noisy pump operation include high horsepower or cavitation.

Excessive Pump Discharge Pressure

Unless they have a specifically designated compressor, vacuum pumps are designed to discharge to or just slightly above atmospheric pressure. Increases in discharge pressure above this level raises the differential pressure across the pump. This excess pressure can lead to serious problems. These include increased pump temperature, leading to overheating and pump seizure, and increased current draw. The latter can lead to an overheated motor or an overloaded circuit, tripped breaker or ground fault.

Pump Vibration

Vibration problems may be systemic in nature or emanate from the vacuum pump itself. Check the separators and piping. Improper alignment and tension of the coupling is a common reason for pump vibration, as is excessive seal water to the pump.

Three Proactive Ways to Prevent Unexpected Vacuum Pump Failures

Addressing problems promptly goes a long way in preventing vacuum pump failures. Even better is to prevent problems before they start.

While there is no way to prevent all issues (even the best-maintained system will age and require repairs or replacement) these three proactive strategies will help increase productivity and extend the useful life of your vacuum pump system.

1. Optimal Setup & Equipment for Your Application

Many vacuum pump problems emanate from systems that aren’t optimally configured for the application, or weren’t adapted to meet changes in demand. These systems may be operating under demands and conditions for which they weren’t designed.

For example, excessive air-in leakage often results from an operating pressure mismatch between the pump and piping materials. Sizing of system piping has a significant impact on vacuum pump performance.

Experienced vacuum system engineers and technicians can design, configure and install a system to meet your exact requirements. Regular performance audits help ensure you’re getting everything from your system that you should.

2. Regular Maintenance

Regularly scheduled maintenance not only spots potential issues, but keeps your system running at peak efficiency. An experienced technician can inspect and troubleshoot your system, as well as recommend steps to optimize performance.

3. Continuing Education

Vacuum pump technology is continually evolving. Continuing education courses, like those offered by C&B, help you keep pace with change and gain a deeper knowledge of pump application and maintenance repair.

C&B Equipment offers pump installation and repair, as well as remanufactured vacuum pumps for a fraction of the cost and lead time. Contact us today.

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