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Technical Bulletin


Catalogued fan performance is based on
laboratory tests performed under ideal
conditions that almost never occur at the
fan inlet. This deviation from the ideal
produces fan losses which reduce, often
seriously, catalogued performance data.

There are three basic causes, or various
combinations of the three for the fan
inlet losses:

(a) Nonuniform flow into suction of fan
(b) Swirl or vorticity
(c) Flow blockage or inlet restrictions.

Due to the infinite variety of inlet
conditions at each fan installation, it is
difficult to assign specific loss values to
these basic causes of fan inlet losses.
However, some general guidelines will
be useful in reducing them. While bad
inlet conditions adversely affect the
performance of axial fans, centrifugal
fans are extremely susceptible to these
conditions. For this reason, most of the
ensuing discussion on inlet conditions
pertains to centrifugal fans only.

NonUniform Flow Into Suction Of Fan

Nonuniform flow into the suction of a
fan is typically cause by an elbow
installed too close to the fan inlet. This
will not allow the air to enter the
impeller uniformly but result in turbulent
and uneven flow distribution at the fan
impeller. The effects of various inlet
connections are shown Fig 1.
Swirl Or Vorticity

Inlet swirl, or vorticity, is a frequent
cause of reduction in fan performance.
If the spin is imparted in the direction of
wheel rotation, a situation correspon-
ding to the use of inlet vanes arises: the
fan volume, pressure, and power are
lower than expected. If the air spin is
counter to wheel rotation, the volume
and static pressure will be greater than
expected and the brake horsepower will
also be greater. In either case, spin
always reduces efficiency. These
conditions are readily overcome by
installing vanes and a splitter at the fan
inlet, as is graphically shown in Fig. 2.

Fig. 1 Non-uniform flow into a fan inlet
induced by a 90
round section
elbow - no turning vane.


Technical Bulletin - TBN010.0/1998

Fig. 2 Fan inlet swirl
(a) Inertia of air tends to crowd it to
bottom of inlet, setting up swirl
(b) With two unequally sized inlets to plenum
chamber, imbalance is set up, causing swirl
at fan inlet.

(c) Effect of inlet swirl on fan performance
(d) Vanes and splitter prevent swirl
in inlet box
(e) A splitter overcomes the imbalance that
is due to unequal inlets.


Flow Blockage Or Inlet Restrictions

Fan inlet blockage or restrictions may be
encountered because of field installation
conditions. In these cases, a loss in static
pressure will result. This will require an
increase in fan speed, with a
corresponding increase in brake power,
to correct this situation.

Under some conditions, a fan may have
a relatively short straight inlet duct
starting in a plenum, through a wall, or
in a flanged pipe. In some cases, the
duct ends abruptly (See Fig.3). Where
the duct terminates in a plenum, through
a wall, or flanged pipe, there is a
pressure loss of 1/2 the inlet duct
velocity head. Where the duct ends
abruptly, the pressure loss is 9/10 of the
inlet duct velocity head. In all these
cases, a bell-mouth inlet would reduce
the inlet loss to 1/20 of the inlet duct
velocity head.

In some applications, fan are installed in
plenum chambers, with open inlets.
Occasionally, the wall of the plenum
may be close enough to the fan inlet as
to restrict its flow. Walls or similar
obstructions should be kept at a
minimum distance, A of 1/2 a fan wheel
diameter. (See Fig. 4). A spacing of 1/3
wheel diameter will reduce pressure and
flow about 10%.

Fan installations employing variable inlet
guide vanes frequently result in an
additional resistance to flow which
decreases catalogued performance.
There is an increasing fan industry trend
to mount variable inlet guide vanes in
the inlet bell of the fan, as contrasted
with the practice of mounting an
accessory set of vanes just upstream of
the fan inlet in a larger diameter, lower
velocity flow field. The vanes in the inlet
bell often have their actuating
mechanism at the center and this
Technical Bulletin - TBN010.0/1998

Fig. 3 Straight Inlet Duct Losses
Fig. 4 Effect Of Space On Fan


partially obstructs the flow as do the
blades themselves. This blockage is
percentage-wise more on smaller fans so
the performance loss is proportionally
greater (See Fig. 5). For example, a 300
mm diameter fan must run at 4% higher
rpm to meet catalogue rating with a
corresponding increase in HP of about

Single inlet (SI) fans are often tested for
rating purposes in an arrangement
without any inlet bearing; hence, the
performance of SI fans with an inlet
bearing will be slightly less than the
catalogued value. The performance
reduction will be proportionately greater
for smaller fans than for larger fans due
to the relatively greater blockage area.
The reduction will be greater for higher-
pressure fans than for low-pressure fans
due to the larger bearing and bearing

Double inlet (DI) fans are often rated
using an extension drive shaft. This
eliminates the blockage effect of the
drive pulley and belts. Catalogued
performance is slightly reduced by
normal belt drives. This reduction is
greater on higher-pressure fans due to
the wider belts and pulley. The comment
about the effects of bearing support for SI
fans applies here as well. Consult a fan
supplier for specific correction factors for
SI, DI, and drive effects on performance.
These effects are usually less than 4% on
speed or flow and 12% on hp.

Technical Bulletin - TBN010.0/1998

In addition to belt and drive blockage,
additional horsepower is required when
heavy-duty bearings, heavy-duty grease,
and belt drives are used. Belt losses are
a function of belt tension, number of
belts, and the type of belt. Typical belt
drive losses are from 2 to 6% and can
be significantly greater with small fans
at slow speeds. When selecting a motor
at or near its nameplate rating, this
should be taken into account.

Fig. 5 Inlet Guide Vane Restriction