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HVAC Duct Friction Equations Page 1 of 6
William A. Greco w2gre@verizon.net Trident3
June 7, 2009
Executive Summary
As air flows through any conduit there is an associated pressure drop. The Carrier
System Design Manual, Air Disribution Part 2 describes an equation for calculating
the pressure drop. The only variable that is solved for is the pressure drop. This
report works out all the other variables that are involved in the equation. All ductalator’s
and other hand held ductwork calculators are based on this equation.
The basic Equation:
Found in The Carrier System Design Manual, Air Disribution Part 2, 10
th
Printing
1974, page 231 is the following equation:
Solving for L (length) :
If we solve strictly for galvanized duct then we can eliminate the first variable f
0.9 x 0.03 = 0.027.
The equation now looks like this:
Next:
And :
1.82
1.22
L V
P = 0.03 f
1000 d
where:
P = friction loss (inches water gage)
f = interior surface roughness (0.9 for galvanized duct)
L = length of duct (feet)
d = duct diameter (inches), equivalen
  
A
 
\ .\ .
A
t diameter for rectangular ductwork
V = air velocity (feet per minute)
1.82
1.22
L V
P = 0.027
1000 d
  
A
 
\ .\ .
1.82
1000 = 288403
1.82
1.22
0.027 V L
P = (equationA)
288403 d
A
HVAC Duct Friction Equations Page 2 of 6
William A. Greco w2gre@verizon.net Trident3
June 7, 2009
Solving for L (length) : (Continued)
Solving for d (diameter):
The same equationA is used as solving for L :
( )
( ) ( )
( )
1.22
1.82
1.22 1.22
1.22
1.22 1.82
Multiply both sides by : 288403 d
0.027 V L
P 288403 d = 288403 d
288403 d
P 288403 d = 0.027 V L
/
A
/ / / / / / /
A
( )
( )
1.82
1.22
1.82
1.82 1.82
1.22
1.82
Divide both sides by 0.027 V
P 288403 d
0.027 V L
=
0.027 V 0.027 V
P 288403 d
L =
0.027 V
A
A
( )
( )
1.22
1.82
P 288403 d
L = (equation1)
0.03 f V
or
A
( )
( ) ( )
( )
( ) ( )
( )
1.82
1.22
1.22
1.82 1.22
1.22
1.22
1.22 1.82
0.027 V L
P = (equationA)
288403 d
Multiply both sides by 288403 d
0.027 V L 288403 d
P 288403 d =
288403 d
P 288403 d = 0.027 V L
Divide both sides by 288403 P
P
A
A
A
A
A
( ) ( )
( ) ( )
( ) ( )
1.22
1.82
1
1 1.82 1.82 1.22
1.22 N
N
288403 d
0.027 V L
=
P 288403 P 288403
0.027 V L 0.027 V L
d = and A = B then A = B d = (equation2)
P 288403 P 288403
A A
 


A A
\ .
HVAC Duct Friction Equations Page 3 of 6
William A. Greco w2gre@verizon.net Trident3
June 7, 2009
Solving for V (velocity):
(equation3)
It must be remembered that this equation for Velocity represents a velocity
dependant on the pressure drop and length of duct and is not an instantaneous
velocity calculation where CFM is simply divided by the duct cross section.
Example1:
A galvanized duct with an equvilant length of 79 feet is required by design have a
pressure drop of 0.125 inches water gage static friction, the duct velocity is 980 feet per
minute.
Find the exact required equivalent diameter of the duct.
( )
( ) ( )
( )
1.82
1.22
1.22
1.82 1.22
1.22
1.22
1.82
0.027 V L
P = (equationA)
288403 d
Multiply both sides by 288403 d
0.027 V L 288403 d
P 288403 d =
288403 d
Divide both sides by 0.027L:
P 288403 d
0.027 V L
=
0.027 L
A
A
A
( ) ( )
( ) ( ) ( ) ( )
1.22
1
1.22 1.22 1.82
1
1.82 N
N
0.027L
P 288403 d P 288403 d
V = and A = B then A = B V =
0.027L 0.027L
 
A A


\ .
( )
( )
( )
1
1.82
1.22
see equation2
1
1.82
1.22
0.027 V L
equation2 will be used to solve this problem d =
P 288403
0.027 980 79
d = = 9.927" (inches diameter) to check the cf
0.125 288403
 
÷÷÷÷÷÷


A
\ .
 
 C

\ .
( )
2
2
2
m =
9.927
feet 2
= square feet of area = = 0.537 feet 980 = 526.3 CFM
144 144 min
r
 

  \ .

\ .
HVAC Duct Friction Equations Page 4 of 6
William A. Greco w2gre@verizon.net Trident3
June 7, 2009
A circular duct does not have 90 degree square corners, which cause vortices.
A recatngular duct of the same cross section area as a round duct will have a
higher friction loss and will be able to handle less capacity in cfm (cubic feet per minute)
than a round duct. That is the reason all ductwork is sized by equivalent diameter from
the following equation found in The “Carrier System Design Manual”, Air Disribution
Part 2, 10
th
Printing 1974, page 234:
Example2:
Using the 9.927 inch diameter round duct from example1, find a square duct
which is equivalent. (Note: it is mathematically impossible to solve for a or b
from equation4, therefore either side a or b must be known or assumed after which the
problem becomes an interative process.)
The square duct equivalent for a 9.927 inch diameter duct is:
A different way of finding an equivalent square duct size corresponding to
an equivalent round duct is to produce a table and develope a constant
from equation4 as found on page5.
( )
( )
0.625
e
0.25
e
ab
d = 1.3 (equation4)
a + b
where:
a = side a of a rectangular duct
b = side b of a rectangular duct
d = equivalent diameter of the rectangular duct
( ) ( )
( )
0.625
e
0.25
9.075 9.075
d = 1.3 = 9.92 inch diameter
9.075 + 9.075
a 9.075 inch square duct is equivalent to a 9.92 inch diameter duct
HVAC Duct Friction Equations Page 5 of 6
William A. Greco w2gre@verizon.net Trident3
June 7, 2009
Circular Equivalent Table Of Square Ducts Based on equation4 (in inches)
Side a Side b Circular Equivalent d
e
10 10 10.932 Dia.
11 11 12.025 Dia.
12 12 13.118 Dia.
13 13 14.211 Dia.
14 14 15.304 Dia.
15 15 16.397 Dia.
16 16 17.491 Dia.
17 17 18.584 Dia.
Note that with each additional inch of square duct the circular equivalent is an
additional 1.093 inches of diameter. 1.093 is a constant.
To get a circular equivalent of 10 x 10 duct simply multiply
1.093 x 10 = 10.93 inches in equivalent diameter.
A 14 x 14 square duct equivalent diameter would be =
14 x 1.093 =15.304 inches in equivalent diameter.
Example3:
A mechanic has a duct passing through a firewall and finds that his air flow is lower than
normal, he suspects that a fire damper is partially closed but cannot prove it. He measures
off a straight section of the 22 x 10 duct of 20 feet and then takes a velocity measurement
of 400 fpm. The mechanic now takes a static pressure reading of both ends of his 20 foot
duct. The recorded readings are +2.17 inwg on the upstream side and +2.16 inwg on
the downstream side yielding o (2.17 2.16) .01 inwg pressure drop in 20 ft.
Find the length of duct from the readings that have been taken.
(see page 6 of 6 for the solution)
For rectangular ducts where a b, tables, duct calculation devices or equation4 must be used. =
HVAC Duct Friction Equations Page 6 of 6
William A. Greco w2gre@verizon.net Trident3
June 7, 2009
Example –3 (continued):
From the calculation, 57.4 ft. > 20ft., it seems that a fire damper is probably partially
closed or something is blocking the duct.
Example4:
An air to air heat exchanger manufacturer requires a velocity above 1,200 fpm to
calibrate a new piece of equipment. The engineering department has determined that a
velocity below 1,200 fpm will result in laminar flow causing the test to be of no value.
The test equipment has a 12 x 12 inch 55 foot long duct that has a measured pressure
drop of 0.1 inwg, using equation3 what is the calculated velocity.
William A. Greco
2404 Greensward N.
Warrington, Pa. 18976
Reference:
Carrier System Design Manual, Air Disribution Part 2, 1974
( ) ( )
( )
( )
( )
0.625
e 0.25
1.22
1.82
Solution:
First find the equivalent diameter by using equation4:
22 10
d = 1.3 = 15.91 inch diameter
22 + 10
0.01 288403 15.91
Using equation1 L = = 57.4 feet (e
0.03 0.9 400
quation1)
( )
( ) ( )
( )
1
1.22 1.82
12 1.093 = 13.116 inches diameter
0.1 288403 13.116
V = = 1,275 fpm
0.027 55
The velocity is above the 1,200 fpm.
 


\ .