4 Ways to Winterize Your Slurry Pumps
Slurry pumps are designed to handle thick liquids containing large amounts of abrasive solid matter, so it stands to reason that most slurry pumps can withstand an incredible amount of physical wear. However, these robust pumps are much more vulnerable to damage caused by freezing temperatures.
Aggregate mines, sewage treatment facilities, and other industries that rely on slurry pumps should take steps to protect their pumps from cold weather this winter. Here are some of the easiest and most effective ways to winterize your slurry pumps.
1. Drain Your Pumps Before Shutdown
Slurry pumps should always be completely emptied of fluid before they are deactivated, and thoroughly draining your slurry pumping system is especially important in winter. If your pump is exposed to freezing temperatures, any water left inside the inactive system will start to freeze, causing potentially catastrophic damage as the freezing water expands.
You may need to partially disassemble the slurry pump and attached piping to make sure the system is completely drained. This can be hard, time-consuming work, but it is well worth the effort.
You can make this job a lot easier by attaching a dump valve to a section of your system’s piping. Some slurry pump models can also be retrofitted with integrated drain valves, which can be opened to drain any slurry caught in the pump housing or impeller. Dump and drain valves must be used immediately after the pump is deactivated, or the fluid within may start to freeze before it can be drained.
2. Use External Heat Sources
During periods of extreme cold, slurry may start to freeze within a pumping system even while the pump is still operational. Exposing your pump and piping to external heat sources will help to prevent cold slurries from becoming too viscous.
Heat tracing, also known as heat tape, is a cost-effective way to maintain adequate temperatures for efficient pumping. These insulated strips of heating cable can be attached to pump housings, external piping surfaces, and any other parts of the system where freezing problems are likely to occur.
Constructing a heated enclosure around the slurry pump can be even more effective. These enclosures can also provide a comfortable shelter for pump maintenance personnel and are very useful for protecting pumps in isolated locations that may be cut off by blizzard or snowdrifts.
3. Choose Appropriate Lubricants
Cold temperatures can also cause excess wear in pump bearings and other moving components if they are not properly lubricated. Lubricants that are not rated for extremely low temperatures may start to freeze themselves, creating ice crystals that can increase friction and cause premature part failure.
Before the worst of the cold weather arrives, you should check that the lubricants used by your slurry pump are rated for the coldest temperatures you expect to encounter. If you need a replacement lubricant, consider choosing a synthetic lubricant. These are more expensive than mineral oil and other conventional lubricants, but will remain effective at significantly lower temperatures.
4. Maintain Your Pump Agitators
Most slurry pumps used in industrial applications will already be fitted with a pump agitator. These devices are designed to agitate slurry before it reaches the slurry pump itself and will prevent separated solid matter from caking around the pump intake.
These devices are particularly useful during the winter months and will help to prevent cold, viscous slurry from collecting around vital pump components. Make sure that your pump agitators are regularly inspected and maintained throughout the winter. Pumps that lack agitators should be retrofitted with compatible agitator models.
Following these simple steps will ensure that your slurry pumps make it through the winter without serious problems. If you have any more questions about slurry pump maintenance or replacement, contact the industrial pump specialists at Compressor-Pump & Service, Inc.