The pumping world is vast and varied. Whatever liquid or matter you’re looking to shift, we can guarantee there is a pump designed to shift it.

But buying a pump can be a complicated business. With so many brands, models and nonsensical jargon to assess and understand, it’s no wonder so many people are put off buying their own pump and opt to hire a professional.

Understanding which pump is right for your situation is critical to not wasting your time and money. Buy the wrong pump and it is a waste of money. Hire someone to buy your pump and it is an even bigger waste of money.

To simplify the world of pumping and help you make the right choice when purchasing a pump, we’ve developed this ultimate pump type guide. This guide will give you a description of each pump type and we will then describe the situation in which you are most likely to use that pump. The pumping world simplified.

Centrifugal or a Positive Displacement Pump?

One of the key elements to consider when purchasing a pump is whether the pump is operated by a centrifugal or positive displacement system.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it does sound technical, but understanding the difference between these two types of pump operations is not a difficult task. Plus, once you understand the difference between a centrifugal and positive displacement pump, everything becomes so much more simple.

Centrifugal Pump - Operates using one or more impellers. Think ‘aeroplane engines’ and you are on the right track.


Best choice for: Low viscosity liquids like water. Operate at their best in high passing rate systems.

Positive Displacement Pumps - Do not have impellers. Instead they use rotating, reciprocating or pulsing parts to pump liquid.


Best choice for: High viscosity liquids. Operate best when moving liquids safely at a low speed.

How Does an Air Operated Diaphragm Pump Work?

Air operated diaphragm pumps are used in a variety of different industries and can be used to pump a wide range of liquids including oil, petrol, food, beverage items, and even cement.

The air operated diaphragm pump is a type of positive displacement pump that uses compressed air to move two diaphragms instead of an electric motor.

The pump works by shifting compressed air from one chamber to another, moving the diaphragms of the pump and forcing liquid from the intake of the pump to the discharge point.


When to Use an Air Operated Diaphragm Pump?

Air operated diaphragm pumps are used in a wide variety of industries. Generally you are most likely to find this type of pump used in industries where electricity isn’t available.

This pump will also be in frequent use when the liquid that is being pumped contains a large number of solids. It can also be used when pumping liquids of a corrosive nature.

How Does a Booster Pump Work?

Booster pumps work by drawing fluid into the pump using the impellers through the intake. The impeller then boosts the pressure of the liquid as it passes through the pump. Booster Pumps come in various designs depending on the brand or model and they can work with a single impeller or multiple impellers.


When to Use A Booster Pump?

Booster pumps are generally used in domestic settings where a further boost of pressure is needed in a system. They will generally only work when pumping relatively thin liquids like water and will be used in potable water distribution systems (drinking water, toilets, taps).

For more information about Booster Pumps please read our dedicated complete guide here. 

How Does a Borehole/Well Pump Work?

Borehole/Well pumps are a type of vertical turbine pump that are used to pump water from underground water sources.

The pump works by driving an impeller that draws water into the pump. Once the water is inside the tube the water is pumped through the body of the tube and brought to the surface.

All well-pumps will come hermetically sealed to prevent water from entering the motor and causing a short circuit.


When to Use A Borehole/Well Pump?

Borehole/Well pumps are often used in situations where access to a water supply is difficult. They can be used as part of irrigation systems, fire pumps and general potable water distribution.

One of the main reasons behind using well pumps is that they can save you serious amounts of money - by taking reliance off the mains water supply.

Well pumps can generally only be used to pump relatively thin liquids like water.

How Does a Condensation Pump Work?

A condensate pump is a specific type of pump that collects condensation in a heating or cooling system.

A condensation pump works by having a reservoir where condensation is collected. Once a certain amount of condensation has been collected the pump will be switched on via a float switch. The pump will then continue to run and pump out the water until the float returns to the lower level.


When to Use a Condensation Pump?

Condensation pumps will usually come fitted inside of heating or air conditioning systems. In the event that you need to replace a condensation pump, great care should be taken in handling the pump. Impurities will be collected in the filter and the chemicals found inside of a condensation pump can be harmful to your health.

How Does a Macerating Pump (sanitary) Work?

When the flush is activated in normal toilets the waste is sent into the main drain or sewer line using a gravity system. In the event that a toilet is located below or away from the main sewer line, a macerator pump will be needed to “upflush” the waste from the toilet to the sewer line.

When analysing how a macerating pump works it is important to remember that the pump is activated by the toilet flush. Once the pump is activated it goes through a grinding system that breaks down the waste. This is achieved through a set of grinding teeth that are attached to the intake impeller. When the waste is sufficiently liquid the system pumps the waste to the main drain or sewer.

Please note that when using a macerating pump you must strictly NOT flush wet wipes or other sanitary products into the system.


When to Use a Macerating Pump (sanitary) Pump?

Macerating pumps are generally only used in a bathroom system that is below or away from the main sewer line. Systems that can use a macerating pump include the toilet, shower, sink and bath.

If you would like further information about macerating (saniflo) pumps please read our guide here:

How Does a Dosing Pump Work?

A dosing pump is required on the occasions where it is necessary to add chemical treatments to a water supply.

This type of pump is a tool that can be implemented to accurately measure the amount of water passing through the pump and add (dose) the required percentage of chemical into the system.

This allows you to be safe in the knowledge that you have the correct chemical to water solution.


When to Use a Dosing Pump?

A dosing pump can be used in conjunction with a variety of water supplies. These include swimming pools, aquariums and hot tubs. They can also be used in certain ponds but this depends on the pond manufacturer.

How Does a Drum Pump Work?

Drum pumps work by having a narrow vertical shaft that fits inside the drum opening. When the motor is attached to the top of the vertical shaft the motor kickstarts an impeller, which pumps the liquid out of the barrel.


When to Use a Drum Pump?

Drum pumps are a type of pump that are used to empty barrels, tanks, IBCs and drums. Frequently found in factories, the pumps are used to to remove liquid from the 100 or 200 litre barrels that make large liquid transportation simple.

How Does a Central Heating Pump Work?

A central heating pump is a vital part of your central heating system. When the central heating system heats up the water in the boiler it needs to move quickly around the home to heat radiators. If the water is slow to move around your home you can often struggle to sufficiently heat certain areas of the home. The central heating pump adds an extra element of pressure to the system, speeding up the process.


When to Use a Central Heating Pump?

As the name suggests, central heating pumps only really have one appliance use - central heating systems. Most central heating pumps will come pre-fitted in your central heating system.

If you would like further information about central heating pumps please read our complete guide here. 

How Does a Rainwater Harvesting Pump Work?

Although gravity flow can be implemented in the majority of rainwater harvesting systems, in some cases you will require a pump to move water around your home and garden.

Similar to submersible pumps, rainwater harvesting pumps are hermetically sealed systems that utilise a float switch to deliver water around your home. The major difference between a submersible pump and a rainwater harvesting pump is that the latter has the ability to filter the water before pumping it around your home. This allows you to rest assured that you are drinking, washing or cleaning with safe water.


When to Use a Rainwater Harvesting Pump?

As the name suggests, rainwater harvesting pumps are utilised in rainwater harvesting systems. They can also be used as an alternative to submersible pumps in irrigation or water supply systems, but please keep in mind that they work at a considerably lower pressure.

If you would like further information about rainwater harvesting pumps please read our complete guide here. 

How Does a Shower Pump Work?

There are two types of pumps to consider when boosting the pressure in a shower.

Firstly, you have the positive head shower pump. This pump is a gravity operated system which is started when you are getting a minimum flow rate of 0.6 litres per minute.

The positive shower pump works by relying on gravity to feed the water from your water tank into the pump and then kick-starting the impellers, which then pump the water to the shower.

The second pump to consider is the universal head shower pump. This pump is installed when the shower head level is level, or above the cold water storage tank.

A Universal Shower pump pressurises everything in the pipe from the pump to the mixer valve ensuring the pump starts each time.

These pumps are often used in loft conversions, residential flats and home renovations.


When to Use a Shower Pump?

Again, as the name suggests, the main use of a shower pump is when you are experiencing pressure issues with the shower. If your Monday morning does not start with an invigorating and rejuvenating shower, then it is time to invest in a shower pump.

For more information on shower pumps please take a look at our complete guide here.

How Does a Submersible Pump Work?

As the name may suggest, a submersible pump needs to be submersed to operate. Hermetically sealed to ensure the inner electrics are protected, a submersible pump is either air or oil fuelled and can accommodate a range of impellers to tackle liquids and solids of different size and viscosity.


When to Use a Submersible Pump?

Useful in a variety of situations where you may want to remove unwanted bodies of water, you will find submersible pumps in irrigation systems, well systems and they can also be operated in the event of flooding.

Generally you will find that submersible pumps can only handle water or relatively thin liquids. Saying that, some submersible pumps can be fitted with the appropriate impeller to handle thicker liquids and solids.

If you would like further information about submersible pumps please read our complete guide here.

How Does a Solids Handling Pump Work?

Solids handling pumps are a centrifugal design that can handle rocks, debris and other solids while clearing wastewater. Similar to submersible pumps in design, a solids handling pump uses a large reinforced impeller to sheer and pass the type of solids found when clearing wastewater. Although they are similar to submersible pumps in design and theoretical application, solids handlings should not be submersed underwater.


When to Use a Solids Handling Pump Work?

You will find solids handling pumps in operation when wastewater contains debris, rocks and other solids that may damage a submersible pump. These can include construction sites, mines and pits where the risk of dirty water containing debris is high. They can also be used in the event of flooding but should be kept out of water at all times.