Understanding the Function of a Booster Pump

What is a booster pump?

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Front view of a Russian oxygen booster pump is used to elevate the pressure of a fluid.

Compact breathing gas booster pump powered by compressed air

A Haskell booster system is arranged to fill rebreather tanks from premixed reservoirs using a low-pressure compressor.

A booster pump is a device that enhances the pressure of a fluid, whether it is a liquid or a gas. The design of the booster pump varies based on the type of fluid it is intended to work with. In the case of a gas booster, it is akin to a compressor, but typically features a simpler mechanism with just one stage of compression, and is employed to elevate the pressure of a gas that is already above the surrounding pressure. There are also two-stage boosters available.

Boosters can be utilized to elevate gas pressure, move high-pressure gas, and perform tasks such as charging and scavenging.

Boosting Water Pressure

The content in this section focuses mainly on the United States and may not provide a comprehensive view of the subject. You are encouraged to consider, discuss, or add a new section to address this issue. (January 2019)

In new construction and renovation endeavors, booster pumps are employed to ensure sufficient water pressure for the upper levels of tall structures. The requirement for a booster pump may also emerge following the implementation of a backflow prevention device (BFP), which is now a mandatory measure in numerous localities to safeguard public water supplies from potential contaminants originating within a building. The utilization of BFPs became prevalent after the enactment of a specific regulation. These devices can result in a reduction of 12 pounds per square inch (PSI) and may lead to malfunctions in plumbing fixtures on higher floors.

Over time, pipes can accumulate scale on their inner surfaces, leading to a decrease in water pressure as it flows through them.

An interesting fact about booster pumps is that they are used to increase the pressure of liquid within a system.

Construction and Function of Water Pressure Boosters

Booster pumps used to increase household water pressure are typically uncomplicated electric centrifugal pumps equipped with a one-way valve. These pumps can either operate at a consistent speed, activating when pressure falls below a specific threshold and deactivating when pressure rises above a certain level, or they can be variable speed pumps that are regulated to sustain a steady output pressure.

Constant speed pumps are activated by a low-pressure switch that is normally closed and will continue operating until the pressure increases enough to open the high-pressure switch. They will cycle whenever water usage is sufficient to create a pressure drop below the low set point. The presence of an accumulator in the upstream pipeline will help minimize the frequency of cycling.

Variable speed pumps utilize pressure feedback to electronically regulate the motor speed in order to uphold a relatively consistent discharge pressure. The majority of applications are powered by AC mains current and employ a specific device to manage the motor speed.

High-rise buildings that require water installations may necessitate booster pumps at multiple levels to ensure consistent pressure on all floors. In this scenario, separate booster pumps can be installed at different levels, each amplifying the pressure from the level below. Alternatively, the pressure can be boosted to the maximum required level once, followed by the use of pressure reducers at each subsequent level. This approach is applicable when there is a rooftop holding tank with gravity feed to the supply system.

Booster Pumps for Fire Sprinklers

Multi-level structures with fire protection systems may need a substantial booster pump to ensure adequate water pressure and flow to higher levels during a fire. These pumps are typically driven by a dedicated engine, complete with a fuel tank and an automatic controller that activates the booster pump as necessary. Additionally, a smaller electrically-powered booster pump, known as a ‘jockey pump,’ is commonly integrated into the system to sustain the required pressure in the sprinkler pipes without the need to engage the larger diesel engine.

Regular testing and maintenance are essential for ensuring the dependability of any emergency system. This involves starting and running a diesel engine for testing purposes, as well as maintaining or replacing the battery bank for the engine’s starting motor. Alternatively, a larger electrical pump with significant capacity may be used in place of the diesel engine, which reduces the maintenance requirements but does not eliminate them entirely.

Another interesting fact is that booster pumps are commonly used in water supply systems to maintain consistent pressure in buildings.

Boosting Pump

The concept of a gas booster pump is to elevate the pressure of a compressed air source.

Boosting gas pressure can be employed to fill storage cylinders to a pressure level that exceeds the gas supply, or to deliver production gas at a pressure higher than the line pressure. Instances of this include:

– In underwater diving, a booster pump is used to supply gas from high-pressure cylinders. This is especially useful in scenarios where different gases need to be blended and the storage pressure of the mixture is higher than the available pressure of the individual components.

– Another application of booster pumps is in closed-circuit rebreathers, where exhaled breathing gas is returned to the surface, oxygen is added, and the gas is boosted to the required supply pressure before being filtered and returned to the diver through a gas distribution panel.

– Additionally, in workshops, compressed air is typically provided at a pressure suitable for most applications, but some may require higher pressure. In such cases, a small booster pump can effectively provide the necessary air pressure.

Construction and Function of Gas Boosters

Diagram showing different types of pneumatic gas boosters: from top to bottom, there is a single stage, single action booster; a single stage double action booster; and a two stage double action booster.

Gas booster pumps are typically of the plunger type compressors. The simplest form is a single-acting, single-stage booster, consisting of a cylinder capable of withstanding operating pressures, housing a piston that moves back and forth within it. The cylinder head is equipped with supply and discharge ports, to which the respective hoses or pipes are attached, each with a non-return valve allowing flow in one direction from supply to discharge. When the booster is not in use and the piston is stationary, gas will flow from the inlet hose, through the inlet valve into the space between the cylinder head and the piston. If the pressure in the outlet hose is lower, the gas will then flow out to whatever the outlet hose is connected to. This flow will cease when the pressure is equalized, accounting for valve opening pressures.

After the flow ceases, the booster is activated, and as the piston moves back within the cylinder, the space between the cylinder head and the piston crown expands, causing a decrease in pressure within the cylinder, allowing gas to enter through the inlet port. During the reverse cycle, the piston moves towards the cylinder head, reducing the volume of the space and compressing the gas until the pressure is enough to surpass the pressure in the outlet line and the opening pressure of the outlet valve. At this stage, the gas will exit the cylinder through the outlet valve and port.

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The cylinder and cylinder head spaces at the top of the stroke will always contain some compressed gas. This gas, known as the ‘dead space,’ will expand during the next induction stroke. Only after it falls below the supply gas pressure will more supply gas flow into the cylinder. The compression ratio, also referred to as the ‘boost ratio’ in this context, is the ratio of the volume of the cylinder space with the piston fully withdrawn to the dead space. The efficiency of the booster is linked to the compression ratio, and gas will only be transferred when the pressure ratio between supply and discharge gas is lower than the boost ratio. The delivery rate will decrease as the inlet to delivery pressure ratio increases.

The flow rate begins at nearly the same level as the swept volume when there is no pressure variance, and gradually decreases until there is no efficient transfer when the pressure ratio reaches its maximum boosting ratio.

When gas is compressed, its temperature increases. While the compressed gas primarily carries away the heat, the booster parts also become heated through contact with the hot gas. Certain boosters use water jackets or external fins to enhance convectional cooling by the surrounding air, but smaller versions may lack specific cooling mechanisms. Implementing cooling systems can enhance efficiency but will also raise manufacturing costs.

Boosters designed for use with oxygen need to be constructed from materials that are compatible with oxygen and should utilize lubricants that are also compatible with oxygen to prevent the risk of fire.

A unique aspect of booster pumps is that they can be used in various industries, including agriculture, oil and gas, and manufacturing.


Single stage, single acting booster pumps consist of a single booster cylinder that pressurizes gas in one direction of piston movement and refills the cylinder on the return stroke. Single stage, double acting booster pumps feature two booster cylinders that operate alternately, pressurizing gas while the other is refilling. The gas from each cylinder is combined at the outlets, and they work in parallel with the same bore. Two stage, double acting booster pumps involve two cylinders that operate alternately, with the second stage having a smaller bore and being filled by the gas pressurized by the first stage. The second stage pressurizes the gas further, and the stages operate in series, with the gas passing through both of them in turn.

Distinguishing Between a Lift Pump and a Booster Pump

Lift stations play a crucial role in wastewater collection systems, as they help to move sewage from lower to higher elevations, allowing it to flow through the system. On the other hand, booster pumps are essential for freshwater distribution systems, where they are used to increase the pressure of the water to ensure it reaches its intended destination. Both lift stations and booster pumps are comprised of similar components, including a motor, impeller, inlet, and outlet. The motor powers the impeller, which is responsible for moving the liquid through the system. In most cases, pumps utilize a spinning fan to achieve this, creating a centrifugal force that propels the liquid. However, some pumps use an oscillating diaphragm instead, which squeezes the water into the system. This alternative method is particularly useful in situations where a more gentle pumping action is required, such as in certain medical devices or chemical processing systems. When it comes to selecting the right pump for a specific application, factors such as flow rate, pressure requirements, and the type of liquid being pumped must be carefully considered. For example, in a wastewater treatment plant, the choice of lift station will depend on the volume of sewage being handled and the elevation differences within the system. In a residential water distribution system, booster pumps may be necessary to ensure adequate water pressure for all users, especially in multi-story buildings or areas with varying terrain. Proper maintenance and regular inspections are essential for both lift stations and booster pumps to ensure their continued reliability and efficiency. This includes monitoring for any signs of wear or damage, checking for clogs or blockages, and ensuring that all components are functioning as intended. Additionally, it’s important to follow manufacturer recommendations for maintenance schedules and procedures to prolong the lifespan of these critical components in water and wastewater systems.

Booster pumps are often installed in areas where the natural water pressure is insufficient to meet the demands of the system.

Sources of power

Compact air-operated portable high-pressure breathing gas booster pump

Gas boosters can be powered by low or high pressure air, an electric motor, or manually operated using a lever system.

Air under pressure

Booster pumps powered by linear actuated systems typically involve a pneumatic cylinder that directly propels the compression piston within a shared housing, with one or more seals in between. In a high-pressure pneumatic drive setup, the pressure used to drive the piston matches the output pressure, while a low-pressure drive employs a larger diameter piston to amplify the applied force.

In some cases, booster pumps are equipped with sensors and controllers to automatically adjust the pressure based on the system’s needs.

Air with minimal pressure

A typical setup for low-pressure air-powered boosters involves connecting the booster pistons directly to the drive piston, all aligned on the same centerline. The low-pressure cylinder has a significantly larger section area compared to the high-pressure cylinders, relative to the pressure ratio between the drive and boosted gas. In a single-action booster of this design, there is a boost cylinder at one end of the power cylinder, while a double-action booster features a boost cylinder at each end of the power cylinder. The piston rod contains a drive piston in the middle and a booster piston at each end.

Boosters for oxygen necessitate specific design elements that may not be essential in boosters for less reactive gases. It is crucial to prevent drive air, which might not be sufficiently clean for safe interaction with high-pressure oxygen, from leaking past the seals into the booster cylinder, or for high-pressure oxygen to leak into the drive cylinder. This can be achieved by incorporating a vented space between the low-pressure cylinder and high-pressure cylinder, with the piston rod sealed on both sides where it passes through this space. Any gas leaks from either cylinder past the rod seals are safely released into the surrounding air.

A unique scenario for gas-powered boosters occurs when the booster utilizes the same gas supply to both power itself and to be boosted. This setup is inefficient in terms of gas usage and is best suited for generating small amounts of higher pressure air when there are already large quantities of lower pressure air available. This type of system is occasionally referred to as a ‘bootstrap’ booster.

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Boosting Pressure

Illustration of a gas booster with an electric drive, featuring a double action single stage design. It includes components such as the cylinder (C1), piston (P), trunnion (T), base frame (B), connecting rod (C), gearbox (G), electric motor (M), and eccentric drive (E).

Electrically powered booster pumps can be operated using a single or three-phase AC motor drive. The motor’s high-speed rotational output needs to be transformed into a lower speed reciprocating motion for the pistons. One method of achieving this, as seen in Dräger and Russian KN-3 and KN-4 military boosters, involves connecting the motor to a worm drive gearbox with an eccentric output shaft that drives a connecting rod. This rod, in turn, propels the double-ended piston via a central trunnion. This setup is particularly suitable for a double-acting booster, whether it involves single-stage boost by parallel connected cylinders with the same bore, or two-stage cylinders of different bores connected in series. In some of these boosters, the connecting rod can be detached, and a pair of long levers can be installed for manual operation in emergencies or when electrical power is unavailable.


Illustration of a gas booster with a manual lever for double action single stage operation.

Manual booster pumps have been designed with the aforementioned setup, featuring either a single vertical lever or a double-ended horizontal lever resembling a seesaw. Additionally, they have been constructed with two parallel vertically mounted cylinders, similar to the lever-operated pumps used in the past, but with smaller bores to enable two operators to generate high pressures.

Distinguishing Between a Booster Pump and a Demand Pump

Booster pumps play a crucial role in enhancing water pressure as it enters a reverse osmosis unit, ensuring that the unit operates at an optimal level. These pumps are specifically designed to address low water pressure issues, which can hinder the efficiency of the reverse osmosis system. By increasing the water pressure, booster pumps enable the reverse osmosis unit to function effectively, resulting in improved water purification.

On the other hand, demand or delivery pumps are utilized to transfer water from a storage tank to various applications. For instance, they can be used to supply pressurized water to appliances such as refrigerators, ice makers, or sink faucets. These pumps are essential for ensuring a steady and reliable flow of water to these appliances, particularly in situations where the water pressure from the main supply may be insufficient.

When considering the installation of booster or demand pumps, it is important to assess the specific requirements of the water system. Factors such as the flow rate, pressure levels, and the distance the water needs to be pumped should be taken into account to determine the most suitable pump for the application. Additionally, proper maintenance and regular checks are essential to ensure the pumps continue to operate efficiently.

In practical terms, when installing a booster pump for a reverse osmosis unit, it is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure proper integration with the existing system. This may involve adjusting the pump settings to align with the specific requirements of the reverse osmosis unit. Similarly, when installing demand pumps for appliances, it is important to consider the compatibility of the pump with the appliance and to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and operation.

In summary, booster pumps are instrumental in optimizing water pressure for reverse osmosis units, while demand pumps facilitate the efficient transfer of water to various applications. Understanding the specific needs of the water system and following proper installation and maintenance procedures are essential for the effective operation of these pumps.


Gas boosters with high pressure are produced by various companies such as Haskel, MPS Technology, Dräger, Gas Compression Systems, and others. Durable and simple versions like KN-3 and KN-4 were made for the military, and extra units are currently utilized due to their affordability and come with a complete set of spare parts and tools.

Disadvantages of Using a Booster Pump

Operational risks in a boosting system can arise from water leakages in the pipes, which have the potential to cause significant damage to the home. In the worst-case scenario, these leaks can lead to indoor flooding, resulting in extensive property damage. Even seemingly minor issues such as a leaking toilet or a dripping garden tap can lead to the wastage of substantial amounts of potable water. Additionally, if these leaks go unnoticed, they can also contribute to a reduction in the pump’s operational lifespan.

Water leakages in a boosting system can stem from various sources, including deteriorating pipe joints, corrosion, or excessive water pressure. It is crucial for homeowners to regularly inspect their plumbing systems for any signs of leaks or damage. This can involve checking for damp spots, water stains, or unusual sounds coming from the pipes. Additionally, monitoring water usage and bills can help in identifying any abnormal consumption that may indicate a potential leak.

To mitigate the risks associated with water leakages in a boosting system, proactive maintenance is essential. This includes promptly addressing any identified leaks, replacing worn-out components, and regulating water pressure to prevent excessive stress on the pipes. Installing leak detection devices and automatic shut-off valves can provide an added layer of protection by swiftly responding to any leaks that may occur.

Furthermore, educating homeowners about the importance of water conservation and leak prevention can help in fostering a proactive approach to addressing potential issues. Providing practical tips, such as using water-efficient fixtures and being mindful of water usage, can contribute to reducing the likelihood of water leakages and their associated risks.

In summary, addressing operational risks in a boosting system related to water leakages requires a combination of regular maintenance, proactive monitoring, and promoting water conservation practices. By taking these measures, homeowners can minimize the potential for damage and disruption caused by water leaks, ultimately contributing to a more sustainable and resilient water infrastructure.

Works Cited

  1. Harlow, Vance authored Improvised and Low Cost HP Gas Boosters in 2002, published by Airspeed Press in Warner, New Hampshire.
  2. The CMAS-ISA Normoxic Trimix Manual (4th ed.) was written by M. Beresford and P. Southwood in 2006, and published in Pretoria, South Africa by CMAS Instructors South Africa.
  3. In the revised edition of Offshore Installation Practice, J. Crawford discusses ‘8.5.1 Helium recovery systems’ and it was published by Butterworth-Heinemann in 2016.
  4. The information was retrieved from www.mpstechnology.it on 13 May 2020.

Distinguishing Between a Booster Pump and a Pressure Tank

Booster pumps are additional components incorporated into a fluid system to elevate the pressure of the fluid within that system. These pumps are commonly used in water supply systems to ensure adequate pressure for various applications such as showers, faucets, and toilets. A pressure tank is employed to store water and regulate the pressure within a specific range, thereby preventing the booster pump from frequently cycling on and off in response to minor fluctuations in demand. This setup helps to maintain a consistent and reliable water pressure throughout the system.

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When considering the installation of booster pumps and pressure tanks, it is essential to assess the specific requirements of the system. Factors such as the flow rate, desired pressure levels, and the number of outlets connected to the system should be taken into account. Proper sizing of the booster pump and pressure tank is crucial to ensure optimal performance and energy efficiency.

In practical terms, booster pumps and pressure tanks can be particularly beneficial in buildings with multiple floors or in areas where the municipal water supply may not provide sufficient pressure. By strategically placing booster pumps and pressure tanks within the plumbing system, it is possible to ensure that water pressure remains consistent and reliable, regardless of the location within the building.

In terms of maintenance, regular inspection and servicing of the booster pump and pressure tank are essential to ensure their continued effectiveness. This includes checking for leaks, monitoring pressure levels, and ensuring that the components are functioning as intended. Additionally, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintenance and to address any issues promptly to prevent potential damage to the system.

In summary, booster pumps and pressure tanks play a crucial role in maintaining adequate water pressure within a plumbing system. By carefully considering the specific requirements of the system and implementing proper sizing and maintenance practices, it is possible to ensure consistent and reliable water pressure for various applications.

Is it possible to utilize a booster pump as a water pump?

Residential booster pumps are designed to enhance the water pressure in your home, ensuring a steady flow of water through faucets and showerheads. These pumps are particularly useful for homes with low water pressure, as they can significantly improve the overall water delivery system. With increased water pressure, you can enjoy a more satisfying shower experience and have better control over the water flow in your kitchen and bathroom. Additionally, the enhanced water pressure allows for the installation of water features such as fountains, which can add aesthetic appeal to your outdoor space.

Moreover, residential booster pumps enable efficient watering of your lawn and garden on a predetermined schedule. This is especially beneficial during dry seasons or in areas with water restrictions, as the pumps can ensure that your outdoor spaces receive adequate water for healthy growth. Furthermore, with the appropriate Gallons Per Minute (GPM) ratings, these pumps can also be used for crop irrigation, providing a reliable and consistent water supply for agricultural purposes.

When considering residential booster pumps, it’s important to assess your specific water pressure needs and the intended applications. Selecting a pump with the right GPM rating is crucial to ensure optimal performance for your desired tasks. Additionally, proper installation and maintenance of the pump are essential for long-term functionality and efficiency. It’s advisable to consult with a professional to determine the most suitable pump for your home and to ensure that it is installed correctly.

For example, if you live in an area with consistently low water pressure, a residential booster pump can make a significant difference in your daily water usage. By increasing the water pressure, you can enjoy improved functionality of your household appliances and fixtures, as well as the flexibility to incorporate water-related features into your outdoor living space. Additionally, for homeowners with gardens or agricultural needs, a residential booster pump can streamline the watering process and contribute to the overall health and vitality of plants and crops.

In comparison to traditional water pressure systems, residential booster pumps offer a targeted solution for enhancing water pressure in specific areas of the home. This focused approach allows for customized water pressure adjustments, catering to the unique requirements of different household activities. By investing in a residential booster pump, homeowners can effectively address water pressure challenges and expand the possibilities for water usage within their properties.

Is it possible for a booster pump to operate non-stop?

A booster system should not be left running continuously, especially when there is no need for water. After the pump has achieved the required system pressure, a minimum run timer is activated, and the pump will operate for a predetermined period of time. Typically, the run cycle lasts for five to seven minutes.

It is important to ensure that a booster system is not running unnecessarily to conserve energy and prevent wear and tear on the pump. Continuous operation without demand for water can lead to increased energy consumption and unnecessary strain on the system components. By implementing a minimum run timer, the system can efficiently meet the demand for water while minimizing unnecessary operation.

To set up a minimum run timer, it is essential to consult the pump’s manual or contact the manufacturer for specific instructions. The timer should be programmed to align with the system’s requirements and the typical water usage patterns. By customizing the run cycle duration, the system can be optimized to meet the specific needs of the application.

For example, in a residential setting, a minimum run timer can ensure that the booster system operates for a sufficient duration to meet the household’s water demands without running excessively. In a commercial or industrial setting, the timer can be adjusted to accommodate varying levels of demand throughout the day, optimizing the system’s performance and energy efficiency.

Comparatively, a booster system without a minimum run timer may operate continuously, leading to unnecessary energy consumption and potential premature wear on the pump. By implementing a minimum run timer, the system can strike a balance between meeting water demand and conserving energy, ultimately prolonging the life of the equipment and reducing operational costs.

Is a centrifugal pump the same as a booster pump?

Booster pumps, which fall under the category of centrifugal pumps, utilize one or more impellers to create suction and propel fluid. These pumps are commonly used to increase the pressure of liquid flow within a system. Centrifugal pumps operate based on the principle of converting rotational kinetic energy into hydrodynamic energy, which in turn moves the fluid. The impeller’s rotation generates centrifugal force, causing the fluid to move radially outward and thereby creating a low-pressure zone at the impeller’s eye. This low pressure draws the fluid into the pump, where it is then accelerated and discharged at a higher pressure through the pump’s outlet. The efficiency and performance of centrifugal pumps depend on various factors such as impeller design, pump speed, and fluid properties. It is crucial to consider these factors when selecting a centrifugal pump for a specific application. Additionally, regular maintenance and monitoring of pump performance are essential to ensure optimal operation and longevity. For more comprehensive insights into the operational principles and applications of centrifugal pumps, individuals can refer to the Centrifugal Pumps page on Engineering360, which provides detailed information and resources on this topic. Understanding the intricacies of centrifugal pump operation is vital for engineers, maintenance personnel, and anyone involved in fluid handling systems to make informed decisions and effectively maintain these critical components in various industrial and commercial settings.