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5 differences between centrifugal pumps and positive displacement pumps

When trying to decide between a centrifugal pump and a positive displacement pump, it’s important to know the differences between them. We’ve chosen five ways these two pump types vary.

Fluid type

Centrifugal pumps are known for their versatility – they can handle both clean fluids and also those with a high solid content. However, they may have limitations when it comes to fluids with high viscosity, whereas positive displacement pumps may be better equipped to deal with such liquids, along with those containing entrained gases.


Centrifugal pumps generally have a narrow window for performing at best efficiency – this is due to frictional losses which occur when viscosity increases. Meanwhile, changes in viscosity and pressure tend not to affect positive displacement pumps.

Pressure head

Centrifugal pumps usually need to operate at high speeds in order to deliver high discharge pressure, but it’s possible to achieve great differential pressures via positive displacement.

Flow rate

Centrifugal pumps tend to be used for handling high flowrates, whereas positive displacement pumps are better suited to applications with low flow rates.

Flow type

Centrifugal pumps are known for producing a smooth flow, while certain positive displacement pumps (namely reciprocating pumps) deliver a pulsating flow which requires a damper at the pump discharge.

Here at Gibbons we supply high-performance Lowara pumps for a wide range of applications, including domestic water transfer, wastewater treatment and food and beverage production. When combined with a specially-selected ABB drive, these pumps provide the efficient and reliable performance you’d expect from such a leading brand.

For more information, call us on 01621 868138 or email

Variable-Speed Drives, Pumps & Controls

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