Vacuum Pump Service, Part 3 – Interval training

Lab vacuum pumps are exposed to all kinds of challenging substances: acid vapors, organic solvent vapors, water, particulates. It’s not surprising that a product designed to create suction would have to contend with all of these materials, but does it have to be such a headache?

In prior blog entries (Vacuum Pump Service, Parts 1 & 2), we discussed how the selection of the right pump technology and protecting the pump from vapors and particulates can help reduce service requirements, even in this corrosive environment. In this blog entry, we’ll talk about service intervals.

Service schedule
Choosing the right pump for the application and protecting the pump during operation will greatly extend service cycles. Even so, there is a significant difference in the service intervals recommended by manufacturers, even for pumps of the same technology family.

Oil-sealed rotary vane pumps rely on oil to seal and lubricate. When lab reagent vapors –even water vapor – mix with the pump oil, it loses those essential properties and needs to be changed. How quickly it changes color or viscosity depends on your application. Pump oil when new is usually clear or a light yellow color. Watching the color of the pump oil through the view glass will often give you an early indication of the need for an oil change.

Diaphragm pumps, since they operate without oil, never need oil changes. Depending on the material in the wetted path and the nature of the vapors you are pumping through them, they will often provide significantly longer service intervals than an oil-sealed pump. Nonetheless, the service intervals among apparently similar pump models can vary greatly. Some models may have a recommended first service of as short as 3000 operating hours – if the manufacturer offers any guidance at all. If not, ask! This is one indication of the quality of the product, even if the specifications (ultimate vacuum and pumping speed) are the same as another model.

Other diaphragm pumps are available with recommended service intervals of as long as 15,000 hours. Imagine driving your car at 60 miles an hour for 15,000 hours– that would be 900,000 miles without service! Now think about operating a pump for 15,000 hours. That could be 24/7 for two years between service stops. But if your use is more typical – say, less than 20 hours a week, 50 weeks a year – 15,000 hours is 15 years until first suggested service! Such pumps would be essentially service-free.

Vacuum pumps can be very reliable, indeed, if you choose the right technology, protect the pump while in use, and select a pump designed for extended service intervals.

If you need help selecting a vacuum pump for your lab or scale-up facility, try our Vacuum Pump Selection Guide, and get a recommendation after answering fewer than 5 questions. If you are building or renovating labs, and need to serve numerous users, consider opting for a local vacuum network over a house system. To learn more, or get help specifying a network, contact us today.