Manual pump buying guide

Manual pump buying guide

Jeremy, construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Guide written by:

Jeremy, construction site supervisor, Cardiff

134 guides

Looking for a simple, cheap and quick to install solution for pumping, transferring, draining or watering? Look no further, the manual pump is the tool for you! Plastic, cast iron, levered, rotary or semi-rotary... The important thing is to make the right choice for your needs!

Important features

  • Rotary
  • Pendulum / lever
  • Use
  • Flow
  • Pressure
  • Suction height
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First of all, bear in mind that whatever the type,  hand pumps can't be used to suck from more than 8m deep! For deeper water sources (wells etc), you'll need a surface or submersible pump.There are two main families of hand pumps:

  • Rotary pumps operate on the rotor-stator principle. When the crank is turned, the shape of the rotor being driven creates a vacuum in the stator which sucks in water and pressurizes it in order to transport it. The body and moving parts of the pump can be made of plastics or various metals - for instance, stainless steel for the more heavy-duty models. Depending on the liquid being pumped, maintenance requirements will vary - seals will need replacing regularly if the pump is used for acid or fuel. Pump outlet flow rate varies from 0.25 to 1 l per crank turn.
  • Pendulum or lever pumps function according to the conventional cylinder-piston system. A piston is operated by means of a lever (or rocker) which is activated from top to bottom or left to right (for semi-rotary pumps). The piston, in its sealed chamber, creates a vacuum which sucks the liquid. You can get dual chamber pumps, which in addition to sucking the water under the action of a vacuum, also repressurize it.

This type of pump requires little maintenance due to its robust design. They are reliable and highly durable. Pump bodies are generally made of cast iron if for external fixed use, or plastics for portable models - barrel pumps for use in the workshop, for example. However, output flow is limited to about 50 liters per minute, even for the larger models.

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To make the right choice of hand pump, it's important to carefully evaluate your needs. To give you a helping hand, start with the following criteria:

  • Fixed or portable use: it's obvious why this should be the first thing to consider. Barrel pumps, for instance, need to be moved continually. In this case, you'll want to choose a rotary or semi-rotary pump, with a plastic body and a 2" universal adaptor (so it can be fixed directly in place of the barrel cap). To water your garden on the other hand, go for a traditional cast iron hand pump, perhaps mounted on a column with tasteful decoration.
  • Flow: key criterion, expressed in l/min (liters per minute). Flow translates as the volume of liquid pumped per time spent pumping. If you're looking at fuel pumps, choose a high-speed rotary model (around 1 l per crank turn). On the other hand, if your garden only needs one or two bucketfuls a week, a cast iron pump giving 15-35 l/min is quite sufficient.
  • Suction height: as we have seen, hand pumps aren't useful for pumping from depths over 8m, so if this is what you need, you'll want to look at other types of water pump. Determine your maximum suction height (in the case of a well, for example), and make sure that the pump model you're looking at will cut it!
  • Pressure: an important factor if you need to drive the liquid some height above the level of the pump. In fact, outlet pressure (expressed in bars, B) gives an indication of the allowable discharge height in metres (1 B = 10 m).
  • Aesthetics: to add a decorative touch to your garden, terrace or your driveway, choose a traditional cast iron pump to your taste and harmonize with your outdoor space. For the workshop, why not choose a brightly coloured pump for visibility?

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Hand pump

Whatever type of liquid you need to transport, always ensure that the pump model you've selected is suitable before you buy. The risks are many when pumping hydrocarbons and other chemicals, so stay aware of them!

For pump use in a fixed location, ensure that the floor around your pump stays dry. Be on the lookout for the slightest leak!

Last but not least: set up a cut-off / purge valve for harsh winters.

To find out more about household water installations, follow our editors' advice and check out their other guides:

How to choose your rainwater collector?How to choose your submersible pump?How to choose your surface pump?How to choose your booster pump?How to choose your lifting station?How to choose your heat pump?How to choose your garden hose?How to choose your garden hose fittings?How to choose your water pump?How to choose your watering controller and timer?How to control your water pressure?How to choose your water shut-off valve?

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Guide written by:

Jeremy, construction site supervisor, Cardiff, 134 guides

Jeremy, construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Electrician by trade, I first worked in industrial estates where I installed, wired and fixed a large number of electrical installations. After this, I managed a team of electricians for this type of work. 10 years or so ago, I turned to building and construction. From the modest family home, to gyms and theatres; I have been able to coordinate, audit and organise all sorts of construction sites. for 4 years now, I am restaoring and bulding an extrension to a bungalow in the heart of the welsh countyside. My experience in manual work and my knowledge means I am proud to be of service. Terraces, interior design, roofing, plumbing, electricty, anything goes! We have, my wife, daughter and I, built almost everything we have from scratch! So to answer all of your questions, and to orientate and advise you on coosing your tools? Easy!

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