Engineering ToolBox - Resources, Tools and Basic Information for Engineering and Design of Technical Applications!

This is an AMP page - Open full page! for all features.

Pumps - Suction Specific Speed

Sponsored Links

Suction Specific Speed - Nss - can be useful when evaluating the operating conditions on the suction side of pumps. Suction Specific Speed is used to determine what pump geometry - radial, mixed flow or axial - to select for a stable and reliable operation with max efficiency without cavitation. Nss can also be used to estimate safe operating ranges.

Suction Specific Speed is a dimensionless value and can be calculated as

Nss = ω q1/2 / NPSHr3/4                                (1)


Nss = Suction Specific Speed

ω = pump shaft rotational speed (rpm)

q = flow rate capacity (m3/h, l/s, m3/min, US gpm, British gpm) - for the pump at Best Efficiency Point (BEP)

NPSHr = Required Net Positive Suction Head - for the pump at BEP (m, ft)

Suction Specific Speed can be compared with Specific Speed but instead of using the total head for the pump the Required Net Positive Suction Head (NPSHr) is used.

Nss have the same value for geometrically similar pumps. As a rule of thumb the Specific Suction Speed should be below 9000 (calculated with US gpm) to avoid cavitation and unstable and unreliable operations. Empirical studies indicates that safe operating ranges from Best Efficiency Points (BEP) are more narrow at higher Suction Specific Speeds.

Specific Suction Speed - Nss - Pump Calculator

This calculator can be used to calculate the Suction Specific Speed for a pump.

Note! When comparing pumps and their documentation - be aware of the units used.

Convert between Imperial units (gpm) and Metric units (m3/h, l/s)

  • Nss (US gpm) = 1.63 Nss (metric l/s) = 0.86 Nss (metric m3/h)
  • Nss (Metric l/s) = 0.614 Nss (US gpm)
  • Nss (Metric l/s) = 0.67 Nss (British gpm)

Example - Actual NPSHa vs Required NPSHr

For a pump with flow 1000 gpm, head 500 ft, speed 3000 rpm and a maximum acceptable Suction Specific Speed 9000 - the Required Net Positive Suction Head can be calculated by modifying (1) as

NPSHr = (ω q1/2 / Nss)4/3

          = ((3000 rpm) (1000 gpm)1/2 / (9000))4/3

          = 23 ft

The calculated Required Net Positive Suction Head - NPSHr - is the minimum head required for proper operation. It is common to add a safety margin when calculating the Actual Net Positive Suction Head - NPSHa - for the installation.

NPSHa = NPSHr Sr                             (2)


Sr = safety ratio 

For the example above we assume the safety ratio Sr to be 1.5 (50%). Actual NPSHa with the safety margin can then be calculated to

      NPSHa = (23 ft) (1.5)

                = 34.5 ft

Note that if the head at the suction side of the pump is lower than the required NPSHa - the head can be increased by

  • increasing the dimensions on the suction pipes
  • shorten the suction pipes
  • remove or reduce the number of components like valves or filters in the suction pipes
  • increase the static pressure in the system
  • lower the pump (increasing the static pressure in the pump)   

Example - Suction Specific Speed

For a pump the actual Net Positive Suction Head - NPSHa - available in the process line is determined to 20 ft. For a pump with rotational speed 1750 rpm and flow rate 500 US gpm - the operating Suction Specific Speed with this NPSHa can be estimated to

Nss = (1750 rpm) (500 gpm)1/2 / (20 ft)3/4

       = 4138

  • well below the limit 9000 to avoid cavitation

We can use the same safety margin as in the example above and calculate NPSHr by modifying (2) to

 NPSHr = NPSHa / Sr    

           = (20 ft) / (1.5)

           = 13.3 ft

Double Suction Type Pumps

For a double suction pump the flow at the inlet is divided by two. Using a double suction pump is one way of meeting system NPSH and obtaining a higher head.

Sponsored Links

Related Topics


Piping systems and pumps - centrifugal pumps, displacement pumps - cavitation, viscosity, head and pressure, power consumption and more.

Related Documents

BEP - the Best Efficiency Point of a Pump

BEP is where the pump is most efficient.

Boiling Fluids - Max Suction Flow Velocities

Recommended max suction flow velocity when pumping boiling fluids.


Cavitation occurs in fluid flow systems where the local static pressures are below the fluids vapor pressure.

Centrifugal Pumps

An introduction to Centrifugal Pumps.

Efficiency in Pumps or Fans

The overall pump and fan efficiency is the ratio power gained by the fluid to the shaft power supplied.

Fuel Oil Pumps - Suction Capacities

Single stage and double stage fuel oil pumps and their suction capacities.

Light Oil Pumping - Flow Velocities

Recommended max. flow velocities on the delivery side when pumping light oils.

Light Oil Suction - Flow Velocities

Recommended max. suction flow velocities when pumping light oils.

Positive Displacement Pumps

Introduction tutorial to positive displacement pumps basic operating principles.

Power Gained by Fluid from Pump or Fan

Calculate the power gained by fluid from an operating pump or fan.

Pumps - Affinity Laws

Turbo machines affinity laws can be used to calculate volume capacity, head or power consumption in centrifugal pumps when changing speed or wheel diameters.

Pumps - NPSH (Net Positive Suction Head)

An introduction to pumps and the Net Positive Suction Head (NPSH).

Pumps - Specific Speed

Characterizing of impeller types in pumps in a unique and coherent manner.

Pumps - Suction Head vs. Altitude

The suction head of a water pump is affected by its operating altitude.

Pumps - Suction Specific Speed

Suction Specific Speed can be used to determine stable and reliable operations for pumps with max efficiency without cavitation.

Pumps - Suction Specific Speed

Suction Specific Speed can be used to determine stable and reliable operations for pumps with max efficiency without cavitation.

Turbo Machines - Specific Work done by Pumps, Compressors or Fans

Calculate specific work done by pumps, fans, compressors or turbines.

Viscous Liquids - Max. Suction Flow Velocities

Recommended max. pump suction flow velocity for viscous fluids.

Water - Max. Suction Flow Velocities vs. Pipe Size

Recommended max. water flow velocities on suction sides of pumps.

Sponsored Links

Search Engineering ToolBox

  • the most efficient way to navigate the Engineering ToolBox!

SketchUp Extension - Online 3D modeling!

Add standard and customized parametric components - like flange beams, lumbers, piping, stairs and more - to your Sketchup model with the Engineering ToolBox - SketchUp Extension - enabled for use with the amazing, fun and free SketchUp Make and SketchUp Pro . Add the Engineering ToolBox extension to your SketchUp from the Sketchup Extension Warehouse!


We don't collect information from our users. Only emails and answers are saved in our archive. Cookies are only used in the browser to improve user experience.

Some of our calculators and applications let you save application data to your local computer. These applications will - due to browser restrictions - send data between your browser and our server. We don't save this data.

Google use cookies for serving our ads and handling visitor statistics. Please read Google Privacy & Terms for more information about how you can control adserving and the information collected.

AddThis use cookies for handling links to social media. Please read AddThis Privacy for more information.