A Buyers Guide to Fire Fighting Pumps

A Buyers Guide to Fire Fighting Pumps
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Get the lowdown on how to choose fire fighting pumps you can rely on when it counts:

Preparing your home for fire season?  Fire fighting pumps are a must if you choose to stay and defend your home against a fire.

But don’t be fooled by their name – fire fighting pumps aren’t just for fighting fires. They can also be used for irrigation, washing down farm machinery and other jobs that need pressurised water. But in all cases, there are some key things to consider to ensure you get the right firefighting pump with the right features;

1. What Performance Characteristics do I need to look for in the pump?

Pressure: For firefighting, irrigation and equipment washdown, you’ll need around 100PSI or above. As a point of reference, a regular garden hose dispenses water at about 30-40PSI. Look at the specs of the pump you are considering, it will list in metres what is called the ‘Maximum Head’ – multiply this number by 1.42 to give you the PSI…e.g. if a pump has a Maximum Head of 75 metres, then its max pressure is approx. 107 PSI. Definition of Maximum Head outlined below.

Flow Rate: Think about the sheer volume of water you need to move and the distance the water needs to be pumped. For most domestic use, anywhere between a 200 litres per minute up to 1000 litres per minute will likely suffice. In conjunction with flow rate, you need to consider Maximum Head;

Maximum Head: Again, each pump has a ‘Maximum Head’ specification; it refers to the maximum height the pump can pump to. If you have a pump with a maximum head of 60 metres, your flow rate will about zero at 60 metres. So you need to consider the difference in height between the pump and where you are pumping the water. For example, if you need to push water up a hill or tackle a fire up an incline. Look at the below Fire / High Pressure Pump chart from the Water Master range; this will help illustrate what pump suits your flow and pressure requirements for a fire fighting pump.

However, as a rule of thumb, the Maximum Head capacity of the pump will tell you what the pump can do in terms of; suction height + uplift. For example, if you needed to draw up water 5 metres from the water source to the pump, then move the water from the pump up a gradient of 25 metres, then you would need a pump with a maximum head greater than 30 meters (5 +25). You’ll also need to allow for a small loss in head capacity due to friction. With this in mind, its worth noting that moving the water considerable distances will compromise the pressure you get upon discharge from your pump; important to know when considering your fire fighting situation, and again its worth looking at the pump charts to determine the best pump for your requirements.

Inlet/outlet size: Firefighting pumps have inlet/outlet sizes typically ranging from 1″ to 4″ (sometimes more) and they essentially draw in water through an inlet valve (from a pool, dam, creek, tank etc.) and then disperse it from a discharge valve. The larger the pump outlet size, the quicker the job will get done; for example a 3″ pump will finish a job 3 times faster than a 1″ pump.

Fire Fighting Pump Curves plotting the specs of Maximum Head and Flow Rate for the Water Master Pump models

Fire Fighting Pump Curves plotting the specs of Maximum Head and Flow Rate for the Water Master Pump models

Again, check out the above Water Master Fire Fighting Pump Curves plotting the specs of Maximum Head and Flow Rate. For an idea how other types of pumps (eg. Transfer or Trash Pumps) fair with pressure and water flow you can view the full Water Master pump range HERE.

Generally speaking, Transfer Pumps (for moving large volumes of water) will have lower PSI capacity, but have higher flow rates, whereas High Pressure Fire Fighting Pumps will have a higher PSI but move lower water flow rate volumes on a litres per minute measure.

2. What Physical Characteristics do I need to look for in the pump?

Self-Priming capability: The important “self-priming” capability of a pump comes from the pump’s ability to retain water after the very first prime. This will overcome the problem of air blockage and makes sure your pump is ready to fight fires when you need it most. Make sure your Fire Fighting Pump is self-priming.

Robust, metal build: Because of how firefighting pumps are used, their fixtures are generally made from metal rather than plastic, like the delivery outlet caps and body. Look for sturdy metal componentry in your firefighting water pump. Beware of cheap pumps using plastic elements as these can often cause you issues under higher demands.

Quality Engine:  Look for a quality engine to power your pump from the likes of Honda or Yamaha in petrol, or Crommelins/Subaru in Diesel. These world leading engines are backed by extensive national service networks of accredited agents all over the country, so you know that if you ever need your pump repaired or serviced, then good help is close by.

Honda powered fire fighting pumps are extremely popular for home fire protection and other domestic water pumping tasks

Honda powered fire fighting pumps are extremely popular for home fire protection and other domestic water pumping tasks

3. A Petrol or Diesel Fire Fighting Pump?

Water pumps can be petrol or diesel powered. It’s worth knowing that mains-powered electric pumps are not recommended as firefighting pumps unless you have a dependable back-up power supply, such as a Generator. Diesel engines are more fuel efficient, will usually perform for longer and are considered a safer option than Petrol. However, petrol options are cheaper and there is often a greater range of petrol models to choose from.

4. Other considerations?

Mobility: Not all fire fighting pumps are designed to be fixed in one place. If the pump needs to be mobile, think about its weight and how you will move it around – by hand or mounted on a trailer? Some pumps have trolley kits attached or convenient handles for easy maneuverability which could be worth considering.

Crommelins Fire Fighting Pump with Trolley, powered by Subaru

Crommelins Fire Fighting Pump with Trolley, powered by Subaru

Starting: Easy starting is an absolute must. Firefighting pumps often come with a choice of starter options: recoil, electric starter, or both. Look for a reliable ignition system too – something that requires less maintenance and guarantees easy starting. Again, when you opt for a quality brand using engines such as Honda, Yamaha or Subaru you get reliability for the life of the engine running your pump.

Accessories: Depending on the pump you choose, you may need to purchase a few accessories to go with your fire fighting pump, such as:

  • Suction hose and filter
  • Strainer and float – to get water to the pump
  • Firefighting hoses– 19mm or 25mm diameter (0.7 to 1 inch) is recommended with enough length to reach around all sides of your home
  • Nozzles – some nozzles require minimum pressures before they can operate properly.

Ready to buy?

Once you’ve answered the above questions, you’re ready to start looking at a fire fighting pump range and find the right one for you. In our experience, the most popular fire fighting models are the:

Check out our full range of Water pumps online.

Sean Connolly

Sean Connolly

Managing Director at My Generator
Sean is the co-founder and Managing Director of My Generator (mygenerator.com.au)
Sean Connolly

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Comments

  • Degan November 19, 2015, 12:24 am

    Great post Sean,
    Completely new to this, and was after a simple explanation of what I should be looking for in a fire fighting pump.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Troy Walsh January 15, 2016, 1:20 am

    Do your Honda pumps use genuine Honda engines? Not the cheap rip-off versions.

    • My Generator Admin January 15, 2016, 1:45 am

      Hi Troy, the answer is most definitely yes. Our Water Master Honda Pumps use genuine Honda engines, from Honda Australia. For any servicing or warranty requirements, you can take the engine to any approved Honda service agent around the country, of which there are over 400.

      We are aware of some cheaper power equipment being sold on places such as eBay that use imitation Honda engines or engines not supplied by Honda Australia, but we do not stock these brands. All our products are from brands using legitimate componentry and are backed by extensive warranties and national service networks.

      Thanks, Steve

  • Andrew April 5, 2016, 11:07 am

    Hi I have GX160 engine which came with a Davey 2″ pump – it is about 15 years old but has done very little work as the Davey was never much chop. Is it worth fitting a new pump to the Honda ( it is a T type shaft) or just start again. What are my options?

  • ross berringer September 12, 2017, 3:39 pm

    I need a word of advice. We own a recreation property on an unserviced island and are trying for formulate a fire fighting plan. Our nearest source of water is the ocean. At low tide the ocean level is 10 meters below the level of the building with a run of about 70 meters to where the pump will be located. What size pump do i need to generate meaningful water pressure ?
    thanks

    • L Adams September 12, 2017, 11:12 pm

      Hi Ross, great question. Firstly most standard transfer/pressure pumps are not designed to transfer salt water. We are aware of people that do use standard transfer/pressure pumps to move salt water, but if they are not flushed thoroughly with freshwater after use (which often they are not), then the seals will be damaged and corrosion is likely to occur. This damage would not be covered under warranty.

      You may need to look at a Chemical Pump which are built with stainless steel heads, fasteners and shafts, along with viton seals. These pumps are specifically designed for pumping waste water, chemicals, sea water, fertiliser and other caustic liquids…

      In terms of your pump size requirements, ideally you would also know things such as the gradient uplift (if any) for the 70 metre run… as a rule of thumb, the maximum head capacity of the pump can tell you what the pump can do in terms of; suction height + uplift. In your example, if you needed to draw up water 10 metres from the water source to the pump, then move the water from the pump up a gradient of say another 5 metres, then you would need a pump with a maximum head greater than 10 meters (10 + 5). Obviously the flow rate (litres per min) decreases as the required max head increases… take a look at this Honda Powered Water Master 2″ Chemical Transfer Pump as an example, and see the performance chart on that page of how much Liters/min against max head (metres). This will help you ascertain what the flow and pressure will be like for certain pump models used at your property under the described conditions. Thanks.

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