Vacuum sealing


Vacuum is any pressure less than atmospheric pressure, and vacuum sealing falls into two sealing categories:

Normal vacuum. This vacuum is usually measured in inches or millimeters of mercury.

  • This is the vacuum found in condensers, evaporators and at the suction side of the pump every time you use a centrifugal pump to lift liquid.
  • Hydraulic balanced seal designs can handle this vacuum because vacuum only means one atmosphere of pressure (15 psi. or one bar) coming from the other side of the seal.
  • O-rings are preferred for the elastomer design. Continuous O-rings can seal either vacuum or pressure. They also have the ability to flex and roll to compensate for shaft movement.
  • Carbon metal composite seal faces are satisfactory as long as the carbon is sealed at the inside diameter to prevent the pressure from penetrating behind the carbon, upsetting the hydraulic face balance and possible blowing the carbon out of its holder.

Hard vacuum. This vacuum is normally measured in microns, micro inches, or portions of a millimeter of mercury (Torr).

  • Elastomers are not acceptable for hard vacuums. The vacuum will cause the elastomer to “out gas” increasing the elastomer’s density and reducing the volume to a point where leakage is possible. Metal bellows seal designs will probably be your first choice.
  • Seal face density and self-lubrication can be a real problem in hard vacuum applications because of the lack of moisture to release the graphite from the carbon-graphite compound. Conventional seal designs are seldom satisfactory in these applications. A great many materials exist that can solve the problem, so you will want to contact your seal supplier for the availability of higher density and self-lubricating carbons for these special hard vacuum applications.

Most seal companies recommend tandem seals with a higher pressure lubricating barrier fluid and two-way hydraulic balance for the inner seal, as the most common solution to hard vacuum sealing.

The following applications can cause a vacuum to be present in the pump stuffing box.

  • Pumps that lift liquid.
  • Heater drain pumps.
  • Pumping from an evaporator.
  • Pumping from the hot well of a condenser.
  • Pumps that prime other pumps.
  • The open impeller was adjusted in the wrong direction and the impeller pump-out vanes are causing the vacuum in the stuffing box.


  • On February 17, 2018