A Buyers Guide to Fire Fighting PumpsWater Pumps
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.
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 Cromtech or Water Master 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.
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.
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:
- Water Master Honda Fire Fighting 1.5″ Water Pump – popular for home owners on small to medium rural blocks. Also comes with a hose kit and cover.
- Crommelins Fire Fighting 1.5″ Water Pump with Trolley – also a very popular domestic model (see demonstration video at the top of this article).
- Pumpmaster Honda Fire Fighting 2″ Water Pump, 4.8hp – a common choice for larger areas and equipment washdown tasks, as well as councils/local governments.
Check out our full range of Water pumps online.
DISCLAIMER* Please note, this advice is general in nature and we strongly recommend consulting the product manual and where relevant, a professional installer.