Don’t Fall Victim To Undersized Piping

Pressure drops, incorrect plumbing, undersized piping, insufficient flow; if you hear these terms from tech support of your point of use compressed air products or from your maintenance staff when explaining why a process isn’t working then you may be a victim of improper compressed air piping selection.
Often time this is due to a continued expansion of an existing system that was designed around a decade old plan. It could also come from a simple misunderstanding of what size of piping is needed and so to save some costs, smaller was used. Nonetheless, if you can understand a small number of variables and what your system is going to be used for, you can ensure the correct piping is used. The variables that you will want to consider when selecting a piping size that will suit your need and give the ability to expand if needed are shown below.

  • Minimum Operating Pressure Allowed (psig) – Lowest pressure permitted by any demand side point of use product.
  • System Pressure (psig) – Safe operating pressure that will account for pressure drops.
  • Flow Rate (SCFM) of demand side (products needing the supplied compressed air)
  • Total Length of Piping System (feet)
  • Piping Cost ($)
  • Installation Cost ($)
  • Operational Hours ( hr.)
  • Electical Costs ($/kwh)
  • Project Life (years) – Is there a planned expansion?

An equation can be used to calculate the diameter of pipe required for a known flow rate and allowable pressure drop. The equation is shown below.

A = (144 x Q x Pa) / (V x 60 x (Pd + Pa)
Where:
A = Cross-Sectional are of the pipe bore. (sq. in.).
Q = Flow rate (cubic ft. / min of free air)
Pa = Prevailing atmospheric absolute pressure (psia)
Pd  = Compressor discharge gauge pressure (psig)
V = Design pipe velocity ( ft/sec)

If all of these variables are not known, there are also reference charts which will eliminate the variables needed to total flow rate required for the system, as well as the total length of the piping. The chart shown below was taken from EXAIR’s Knowledge Base.

Once the piping size is selected to meet the needs of the system the future potential of expansion should be taken into account and anticipated for. If no expansion is planned, simply take your length of pipe and start looking at your cost per foot and installation costs. If expansions are planned and known, consider supplying the equipment now and accounting for it if the additional capital expenditure is acceptable at this point.

The benefits to having properly sized compressed air lines for the entire facility and for the long-term expansion goals makes life easier. When production is increased, or when new machinery is added there is not a need to re-engineer the entire system in order to get enough capacity to that last machine. If the main compressed air system is undersized then optimal performance for the facility will never be achieved. By not taking the above variables into consideration or just using what is cheapest is simply setting the system up for failure and inefficiencies. All of these considerations lead to an optimized compressed air system which leads to a sustainable utility.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

Video Blog: Laminar and Turbulent Flows

I have written blogs about laminar and turbulent flows as related to the Reynold’s number.  Now, let’s demonstrate the difference between the two flows and the advantages of laminar flow from EXAIR’s engineered air nozzles; as demonstrated by our VariBlast Safety Air Gun.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Tools Of The Trade: The Rotameter

EXAIR’s Free Efficiency Lab

One of the free services we offer to customers here at EXAIR is our Efficiency Lab. In case you are not familiar here is a brief synopsis. Speak with an Application Engineer about your existing compressed air blowoff/point of use product and that you would like to know how much air it consumes. Fill out the brief survey and send the product you use in to our facility. Let us perform tests on calibrated test equipment to determine the force, flow, and noise level. We will then issue you a report that states what the EXAIR model would best be suited (if applicable) as well as how much compressed air you will be able to save. Order the recommendation and start saving money.

To do these evaluations, we have to have calibrated equipment that is reliable and capable of handling vast range of products we may receive in. For this, we could use a Digital Flowmeter, in some cases that is what has to be done due to large flow rates. For the majority of these though we go old school. We utilize a piece of equipment called a rotameter.

A rotameter pairs nicely with a calibrated pressure gauge as well.

The float can be seen with graduated marks for readings. The taper of the chamber is not easily seen with the naked eye.

This is a device that is designed to measure the flow rate of a fluid within a closed tube. The inside diameter of the tube is varied which causes the float within the meter to raise or lower.  They are calibrated for a specific gas at a given pressure and temperature, most are calibrated for atmospheric conditions, 14.7 psi (1.014 Bar). The meter must be mounted vertically and this is not always best suited for industrial environments.

When testing products the compressed air within the meter is pressurized which means we have to correct the reading for the given pressure, if the temperature is outside of the calibration temp then we must also perform that correction. We do this using a table provided by the manufacturer of the meter or by using the calculations shown to get exact values that may be in between the pressures in the table.

Pressure Correction Table

 

This will allow us to then multiply the Correction Factor by the meter reading and calculate our corrected flow for the point of use device at a given operating pressure and temperature.

Temperature correction table

Knowing where the values that are measured and calculated come from add validity to the reports and understanding all of the variables that go into reading like this helps to better validate the cost savings that can be seen.

In a pinch, for a field estimation, we can also use these Correction Factors and determine an approximate consumption rate of a device that has been measured at a pressure such as our cataloged 80 psig (5.5 Bar). This can often be done on the fly to help determine the flowrates currently on a system. This can be helpful when troubleshooting, giving estimated simple ROIs, and help justify results and reasons for future purchases of engineered solutions.

If you want to discuss the Efficiency Lab or any of the math behind our calculations, contact any Application Engineer, we can all help out.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

Laminar Flow and Digital Flowmeters: An Explanation On How To Achieve Laminar Flow

When I see turbulent flow vs. laminar flow I vaguely remember my fluid dynamics class at the University of Cincinnati.  A lot of times when one thinks about the flow of a liquid or compressed gas within a pipe they want to believe that it is always going to be laminar flow. This, however, is not true and there is quite a bit of science that goes into this.  Rather than me start with Reynolds number and go through flow within pipes I have found this amazing video from a Mechanical Engineering Professor in California. Luckily for us, they bookmarked some of the major sections. Watch from around the 12:00 mark until around the 20:00 mark. This is the good stuff.

The difference between entrance flow, turbulent flow and laminar flow is shown ideally at around the 20:00 mark.  This length of piping that is required in order to achieve laminar flow is one of the main reasons our Digital Flowmeters are required to be installed within a rigid straight section of pipe that has no fittings or bends for 30 diameters in length of the pipe upstream with 5 diameters of pipe in length downstream.

This is so the meter is able to measure the flow of compressed air at the most accurate location due to the fully developed laminar flow. As long as the pipe is straight and does not change diameter, temperature, or have fittings within it then the mass, velocity, Q value all stay the same.  The only variable that will change is the pressure over the length of the pipe when it is given a considerable length.

Another great visualization of laminar vs. turbulent flow, check out this great video.

 

If you would like to discuss the laminar and turbulent flow please contact an Application Engineer.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

1 -Fluid Mechanics: Viscous Flow in Pipes, Laminar Pipe Flow Characteristics (16 of 34) – CPPMechEngTutorials – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQcZIcEa960

2 – Why Laminar Flow is AWESOME – Smarter Every Day 208 – SmarterEveryDay – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7Hyc3MRKno