Hand Pumps and Foot Pumps Information



Hand pump from U.S. Plastic CorporationHand pumps and foot pumps are manually operated pumps driven by hand or foot via a handle or lever. This manual external force actuates an internal mechanism, which increases pressure for moving fluids such as gas, chemicals, or water. Hand lever and foot pedals are pushed up or down to begin the pump cycle, often requiring one stroke to draw the fluid and another stroke to discharge it, as is typical in many displacement pumps.




All hand pumps and foot pumps operate on a positive displacement principle. Positive displacement pumps use expanding and contracting cavities to move fluids. Hand pumps and foot pumps can use a reciprocating or rotary mechanism. Most rotary types use a drive rather than a lever or crank. In reciprocating type hand pumps, a hydraulic or pneumatic piston is used to create the pressure needed to move the media.


Hydraulic pumps - pumps which operate using hydraulic power. Hydraulic hand pumps and foot pumps are used to manually pressurize a hydraulic system and for instrument calibration.


Pneumatic pumps - pumps whic operate using pneumatic power. Pneumatic hand pumps and foot pumps are designed for testing and instrument calibration.


Diaphragm pumps - displacement pumps that use a rubber disk to alternate air or fluid. The diaphragm is actuated by the pressures or vacuums created during the pump cycle. Diaphragm hand pumps and foot pumps are used in marine applications where seawater is pumped from the bilge.


A fluid reservoir is generally supplied with hydraulic and pneumatic hand pumps as an integral part of the pump or an independent part. It holds a quantity of fluid for the pump to use to power hydraulic or pneumatic cylinders. 


This video shows the operation of a simple PVC hand pump:



Video Credit: approtechie /  CC BY-SA 4.0



The primary specifications to consider when selecting hand pumps and foot pumps are flowrate, pump head, pressure, and outlet diameter. In depth analysis of these specifications can be found on the Pump Flow page on Engineering360.




The base material of a hand pump or foot pump is important to consider, as it affects the type of media that can be handled effectively. System fluids may be abrasive, acidic, caustic, tacky, very hot, very cold, or otherwise hazardous. Base materials such as cast iron, plastic, and stainless steel possess different advantages for handling these various characteristics.


  • Plastics are inexpensive and provide resistance to corrosion and a broad range of chemicals.
  • Steel and stainless steel alloysprovide protection against chemical and rust corrosion, and have higher pressure ratings than most plastics.
  • Cast iron provides strength, durability, and abrasion resistance, with high pressure ratings.

More information on materials and other pump features can be found on Engineering360's Pump Features page.




Hand pump from EnerpacHand pumps and foot pumps may also be called drum pumps, which will require handles, levers, and plungers to begin dispensing the fluid from a pail, drum, or tank.  Drum pumps may mount manually or with a clamp. Although the actual hand pumps may be portable and lighter in weight, it may be preferable to keep the pail, drum or barrel stationary due to the properties of the fluid and the pumping environment. 


Hand pumps and foot pumps are portable and field operable where electric drives may not be available. A gage is often attached to hand pumps to measure pressure. Calibration hand pumps can be sold as a kit or will require calibration instruments, indicators, gages, and other instrumentation. 


An overview of pump types designed for specific applications can be found on the Pump Applications page on Engineering360.


Image Credit:

U.S. Plastic Corporation | Grainger Industrial Supply


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