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What is the Difference Between a Plunger Pump and a Piston Pump?

Find out more about the differences between piston and plunger pumps, including their pressure capabilities, materials, durability, maintenance and costs!


What is the Difference Between a Plunger Pump and a Piston Pump?

Compare Piston and plunger pumps

Plunger and piston pumps are both positive displacement pumps, which are a type of pump that moves a fixed volume of fluid through the pump for each cycle or rotation. These types of pumps work by taking in a certain amount of fluid and then forcing it through the pump's discharge outlet.

They are particularly suitable for pumping viscous or abrasive fluids, as they can handle these materials without damaging the pump. In fact, positive displacement pumps, such as piston and plunger pumps, are used in a wide range of industries, including oil and gas, chemical processing, food and beverage and pharmaceuticals.

However, piston pumps and plunger pumps differ in subtle ways that affect applications, price and pump life, all of which are important factors in the choice of application. Let us examine these aspects in detail.


Piston pump: all characteristics

Piston pumps have unique characteristics that affect their pressure capabilities, materials, durability, maintenance and pump costs.

  • Piston pumps pressure capabilities
    They have a lower pressure output than plunger pumps due to the friction that occurs between the piston and its seal. As the piston moves forward, the friction pushes back against the seal, making it harder to achieve high pressure.

  • Materials and durability
    The material composition of a piston pump's cylinder, piston and seal will affect its durability. Piston pumps typically have a shorter life than plunger pumps due to the constant sliding action between the piston and its seal, resulting in increased wear and tear. Common materials used in piston pumps include anodised aluminium, brass and stainless steel.

  • Maintenance of piston pumps
    Piston pumps require more maintenance than plunger pumps due to the added complexity of their design. Many piston pumps require an oil bath that needs to be refilled and maintained regularly. In addition, the piston seal requires regular lubrication to ensure proper operation.

  • Pump Cost
    Piston pumps tend to be more expensive than plunger pumps due to their more complex design and higher maintenance requirements. Moreover, piston pumps may have a shorter life than plunger pumps due to increased wear and tear.


Plunger pump: applications and characteristics

Because of their high pressure capabilities and durability, plunger pumps are commonly used for high-pressure water jetting, well stimulation in oil and gas production, agricultural applications, food and beverage cleaning and sanitizing, car-wash systems, pharmaceutical manufacturing and mining operations. They are a versatile and reliable pumping technology used in various industries.

  • Plunger Pump Pressure Capabilities
    Plunger pumps have higher pressure capabilities than piston pumps due to the stationary nature of their seals, which creates less friction and allows for greater pressure output. The smooth sliding action of the plunger also helps to reduce friction, resulting in less wear and tear on the pump.

  • Plunger Pump Materials and Durability
    Plunger pumps tend to be more durable than piston pumps due to their simpler design and fewer moving parts. The plunger is the primary wear component, and it can be made of hard materials such as ceramics to resist wear and tear. The housing of plunger pumps is usually made of anodized aluminum or stainless steel, which are also durable and resistant to corrosion.

  • Plunger pump Maintenance
    Plunger pumps require less maintenance than reciprocating piston pumps contain oil in a sealed chamber, eliminating the need to drain or refill oil reservoirs.

  • Plunger Pump Costs
    Plunger pumps tend to be less expensive than piston pumps due to their simpler design and lower maintenance requirements. They also have a longer life due to their durable materials and simpler design.


Piston pump or plunger pump? Which one is the best?

In summary, plunger pumps have higher pressure capabilities, lower maintenance requirements and lower costs than piston pumps. They are also more durable due to their simpler design and use of durable materials. It's important to consider these factors when selecting a pump for your specific application.

At Emiletec, we offer a range of high-quality and high pressure plunger pumps that are designed to meet the needs of various industries. Our plunger pumps are renowned for their durability, high pressure capabilities and low maintenance requirements.

At Emiltec, we pride ourselves on delivering exceptional customer service and support. Contact us! We are always available to answer any questions you may have and to provide ongoing support for your pumps.