By Alan Parsons
Business Development Manager
I buy used cars. My frugal self just can’t part with the extra money it takes to get from “serves my needs well” to “two digits on the odometer”. I can research the history, the year, and model of the car to see how much maintenance they take compared to others. And, I can afford more car.
Can the same logic be used for pumps and other rotating equipment? Well, depends on what you are after. For pumps, in many cases, the answer is a very strong yes. The first few reasons are fairly obvious:
- Price should be lower than a new pump
- Lead time should be substantially shorter. Many large pumps have lead times of 40-50 weeks. Rebuilding a pump can have a near-new unit in your hands in 10 weeks. Lost time equals lost an opportunity and lost profits.
- There may be exact replacement pumps available in the used equipment market, meaning you can avoid messing with changing your piping, bases, foundations, etc. to fit a different model of pump. And then you can have your first pump rebuilt and ready as a spare.
Remember that you can also afford more pump. In the recent past, inexpensive multistage pumps have been produced that have seriously challenged any notion of long term reliability. If customers can be distracted by the nice curves, low price, and relatively fast delivery, they can overlook the pump’s expected lifespan. There are some customers who are fine with that. Replacements after 5 years could be an acceptable option for some.
That rubs me wrong. I buy the most durable car that fits my needs and I expect it to last more than 60,000 miles. Several times over. Same with pumps. By investing a similar amount of capital (probably just a bit more) into a heavy multistage horizontal split case pump rather than a quick and cheap pump, the future returns can far outweigh the incremental cost increase. I’d rather have a used Camry than a new Fiat.1
But aren’t new pumps better? Maybe, but there is a huge population of big, heavy pumps that have been running since the 1940s. That is proven reliability. And not much has changed in the intervening years. Rebuilding a surplus pump to restore the clearances, check for cracks, and reassemble with precision can deliver a high-quality product with lots of life left in them.
Remember that surplus and previously owned don’t necessarily mean used. The recent oil bust resulted in lots of projects being canceled after the pumps were delivered to the end user. The end user sells off those now homeless pumps and they usually wind up in the yard of a surplus pump dealer, unused and some still in the original packing crates. If your application matches, you can score brand new pump equipment at a fraction of its original price, with no lead time.
Another often overlooked benefit of considering used and surplus pumps is the companies who deal with them. Many of the used pump dealers have years of experience with all sorts of different brands and models and can give opinions about available options. Those companies are generally smaller and can be significantly easier to deal with than a large OEM. Ask for sample rebuild reports to check the standards of your potential supplier. Several of the surplus companies offer services beyond basic pump reconditioning: complete packages with drivers, baseplates, seal systems, lube systems, enclosures, instrumentation, and controls can be added to the pump to provide a complete one-stop solution. Customizing systems like this might be difficult or even impossible with a major OEM.
To calm nerves, request testing. Have a complete performance test run on your pump to prove it out before taking delivery. Nobody likes losing sleep worrying if the equipment is going to work properly once installed. Buying a motor or engine? Same standards. Ask for dyno results, Meggerr tests, surge tests, or whatever else you need to be sure you are satisfied with the equipment.
So, is there any equipment that should not be purchased surplus, used, or rebuilt? Here are things to consider:
- Well servicing pumps are notoriously abused. They are used for a range of high-pressure jobs and can wear out faster than other pumps. Have the dealer or your representative check it over VERY closely before investing in used well service pumps.
- Slurry pumps are designed for services that wear them out. Again, be sure the pump is relatively new as many of the major parts can have service lives of a few years, depending on how they are applied.
- Electric motors. Unlike the slight changes in pumps over the past years, motors have evolved. The efficiencies are up and the new motors are almost all compatible with VFDs. The hazardous area classifications may rule out many older motors, and the shaft seals standard on IEEE 841 motors are a great addition. Be sure the surplus motors are not too old, and consider what testing you need to avoid heartburn.
- Diesel engines – Like electric motors, the regulations for diesel engines are constantly evolving. The latest move to Tier 4 units may have some a bit taken aback at the new prices. Before purchasing an older engine, become familiar with the regulations. Rental units may be regulated differently than permanent installations.
1Based on Consumer Report reliability ratings