Flow technology offers a range of solutions for monitoring the flow rate of liquids and gases. Different types of flow meters are used in a variety of industrial applications, from water treatment and irrigation to energy management and chemical processing. Companies use them to optimize an application's flow rate, pinpoint leaks and identify drops in pressure (among many other uses).

The challenge is choosing a flow meter that meets the unique needs of the organization. Several factors need to be considered, and some may be less than obvious. Below, we'll go through the most important factors to help you evaluate the best choice given the conditions of your application. We'll start off with an overview of the different types of flow meters available.

Different Flow Meters For Different Purposes

Rotameters are one of the most common type of flowmeters because they're versatile, easy to read and relatively inexpensive.

Mass gas flowmeters use heat conduction or differential pressure to measure the flow rate of gas.

Turbine meters are used in applications for which precise accuracy of flow measurement is needed.

Paddlewheel sensors are primarily used to measure the flow rate of water. They can be used to measure other substances, but should be tested for compatibility beforehand.

Ultrasonic doppler flow meters are the gauge of choice for applications that involve dirty, water-based fluids, such as waste water.

The most important thing to remember is that there are many different designs available. Each is intended to accomplish certain measurement goals.

Questions To Ask Before Selecting A Flow Meter

Choosing the right design is easier if you ask yourself a number of specific questions related to the intended application. For example, what type of fluid do you need to measure? If you're measuring the flow of air - for example, through pipes or ducts - consider an anemometer. If you're measuring the flow, temperature and pressure of water, a paddlewheel sensor is a good option.

If you're measuring a fluid, ask yourself whether it's clean or dirty. We mentioned earlier that ultrasonic doppler flowmeters are commonly used when dealing with dirty fluids.

Depending on the application, you'll likely need to consider minimum and maximum temperature, pressure, and flow rate figures. Some flowmeters have larger turndown ratios than others. (The turndown ratio reflects the range over which the device can provide an accurate reading.)

The size of the pipeline through which the fluid flows is also important. Turbine meters and paddlewheel sensors typically require a minimum pipe diameter to provide accurate readings.

Also, consider whether you would like the device to send measurement figures electronically to a remote location. The alternative is to read the figures locally on the device itself. If your plant personnel is always present, the latter option may suffice.

Intangible Considerations To Take Into Account

In addition to device accuracy, application need, and the type of fluid you're measuring, there are a number of less-overt factors to consider. For example, think about whether the employees who will be tasked with monitoring flow, pressure and temperature figures will have the training and experience to read these items accurately. They'll also need to make small adjustments in calibration over time. Will they know how to do so?

Also, no flow meter is impervious to time. Small parts will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Will your plant employees be able to order and install replacement parts, when necessary?

It's also advisable to find out how long the flowmeter you're considering typically lasts. Ask the supplier about the device's failure rate over time for the type of application you need it for.

How Important Is The Cost Of The Flow Meter?

You shouldn't ignore your company's budget constraints. Your selection of a flow meter will be influenced by its price. Having said that, it's a bad idea to allow price alone to dictate your decision. A cheap device may offer upfront savings, but could lead to higher costs in the future.

You want a flowmeter that is reliable, accurate and simple to use. It should also come with a reasonable price. But don't let short-term savings sway you toward choosing a device that is poorly-suited for its intended application.

Flow meter selection can be a complicated issue without the help of an experienced, solutions-oriented, customer-focused supplier. Let Applied Engineering help you choose the right solution given your current flow rate measurement needs.

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