Pump NPSH Available & Required: Meaning, Relation, Impact

The two most important terms used in the Pump Industry are Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH) Available & Net Positive Suction Head Required. These terms have an impact on the pump’s efficiency, life, power consumption, and overall OPEX cost. So, in Today’s article, we will discuss the fundamentals of Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH).

What is NPSH?

In general terms, the net positive suction head is the pressure required at the pump inlet to avoid Cavitation. Since NPSH is expressed in terms of absolute fluid column height in meter head or feet head it is always positive. This pressure should be greater than the vapor pressure of the fluid so that the problem of cavitation can be avoided in the pump.

What is Cavitation?

Cavitation occurs in a fluid flow system where the pressure of liquid starts falling below its vapor pressure. Due to which the liquid starts boiling and bubbles are formed. When these bubbles are exploded, they erode the surface of the system. This phenomenon is known as cavitation.

If cavitation of the pump is not stopped at an early stage it may lead to abnormal vibrations in the pump body, damage of pump bearings, churning sound, impeller surface may get eroded and finally, the impeller also gets damaged.

What Is NPSHA?

NPSHA or NET Positive Suction Head Available is generally provided by the system designer or process engineer of the particular system. The value of NPSHA varies from system to system. It is dependent on the fluid temperature, the pressure exerted by the atmosphere on the fluid, losses in the pump suction side, pump static lift, or static height of fluid (generally taken from Low Water level to the top surface of fluid).

What is NPSHR?

NPSHR or NET Positive Suction Head Required is the minimum suction head required at the pump suction flange. It is provided by a pump supplier or pump manufacturer. The value of NPSHR is calculated by pump suppliers by testing the pump in his workshops. The value of NPSHR varies from pump supplier to supplier. This value also varies from the pump model to the model.

Relation Between NPSHA & NPSHR

As already mentioned, the NPSH(R) is the minimum required head at the pump suction flange to avoid cavitation of the pump. So, in order to avoid cavitation NPSH(A) should always be greater than NPSH(R).

If the value of NPSHA falls below the value of NPSHR a low vapor pressure will be formed at the pump suction. Due to low vapor pressure, the water will start boiling even without attaining the boiling point. Due to which bubbles of water will start forming, these bubbles will reach the pump impeller eye and due to low pressure at the pump impeller eye, they will explode there. This explosion of bubbles will lead to deterioration of the pump impeller with many more problems.

Impact of Cavitation on Pump Impeller
Fig. 1: Impact of Cavitation on Pump Impeller

For more detailed explanation regarding NPSHA & NPSHR watch the video attached below

Video 1: Video Explaining NPSH in details

Calculation of NPSHA

As mentioned above NPSHA is calculated by the process designer for a particular system. The formulae to calculate NPSHA is given as below:


TermDetail of TermConsiderations
HA  (mWc)The absolute pressure on the surface of the liquid in the supply tankTypically, atmospheric pressure (vented supply tank), but can be different for closed tanks.
H(mWc)The vertical distance between the surface of the liquid in the supply tank and the centreline of the pumpCan be positive when the liquid level is above the centreline of the pump (called the static head)  Can be negative when the liquid level is below the centreline of the pump (called suction lift)  Always be sure to use the lowest liquid level allowed in the tank.
HF (mWc)Friction losses in the suction piping.Piping and fittings act as an obstruction (restriction), working against liquid as it flows towards the pump inlet.
HV (mWc)Velocity head at the pump suction portOften not included as it’s normally quite small.
HVP (mWc)Absolute vapor pressure of the liquid at the pumping temperatureMust be subtracted in the end to make sure that the inlet pressure stays above the vapor pressure.
Remember, with an increase in temperature, vapor pressure also goes up.
Table 1: Explanation of terms used in NPSH formula above

The formulae mentioned above can be further simplified to the below-mentioned formulae. This formula is used by process engineers to calculate NPSHA for the pumping system.

NPSH(A)= P(atm) + Static head – frictional head loss in the suction side – Vapour Pressure of Water

Typical Drawing of Pump Suction
Fig. 2: Typical Drawing of Pump Suction

Negative Impacts of NPSH on Pumping System

  • Impeller Erosion
  • Pump Vibration
  • Sound
  • Bearing Damage
  • High Power Consumption
  • Low Pump Efficiency

Hence, the available NPSH is very important while designing and selecting a pump for a process.

For a more detailed explanation of the Calculation of NPSH(A) please watch the following video. For more updates on similar video articles please like the Channel: Piping Engineers

Video 2: Video Explaining NPSH (A) Calculation

Want to learn more. Here are a few Handpicked articles to add value to your learning process.

NPSH for Pumps: Explanation and Effect
Cause and Effect of Pump Cavitation
Pump Suction Intake Design with Sample Calculation
Types of Pumps used in Process Plants
Major Factors Affecting the Pump Performance
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Anup Kumar Dey

I am a Mechanical Engineer turned into a Piping Engineer. Currently, I work in a reputed MNC as a Senior Piping Stress Engineer. I am very much passionate about blogging and always tried to do unique things. This website is my first venture into the world of blogging with the aim of connecting with other piping engineers around the world.

3 thoughts on “Pump NPSH Available & Required: Meaning, Relation, Impact

  1. Hi Anup,
    The explaination is effective for learners.
    can you explain about pump performance and interpretation of test results and performanc curves.

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