# A Guide to

Air Flow Measurement

Accurate. Reliable. Every Time.

4.1. Flow from ceiling diffusers 13 6. Preferred units – Sl 4 2. Flow in ducts 12 6. Pitot static tubes 7 3. Pressure transducers 10 5.10. Flow rate in large airways 13 6. Anemometers 5 3. Flow at grilles 13 6.5. Conversion factors 4 3 Instruments for measuring velocity 5 3. Calculating volume flow rate 8 4. Dial gauges 10 5. volume and pressure 4 2.3.3. Checking for leakage 14 6.3. Maintenance and calibration 11 6 On site 12 6.3.5. Accessories 14 7 Glossary of terms 15 www.2.4.1. Specialised instruments 7 4 Measuring volume flow rate 8 4. Accuracy 2 1.11.8.7. The need for measurement 2 1. Flow from slot diffusers 14 6.6. Precision manometers 10 5. Measuring volume flow rate directly 8 5 Instruments for measuring pressure 9 5.1.2.2.9. Industrial manometers 9 5.3.airflowinstruments. Static pressure 14 6.uk .2. Draughts 14 6.6. U tube manometers 9 5. Balancing systems 14 6. Fundamental principles 2 2 Units of measurement 4 2. Airflow Instruments History 2 1.1.co.1. Definitions of velocity. Contents 1 Introduction 2 1.2.2. Fan performance 14 6.1.4.

airflowinstruments.56 m/s – a difference of 7.ps. When using formulae. Part of the range of Airflow Instruments More commonly. a difference of 8. It is important to stress that site conditions varying from standard can make significant differences to results. equivalent velocities are 15. the velocity (or dynamic) pressure may be measured directly by connecting up a pitot static tube as in fig 2 to give a differential reading of pt .3 m/s at 16OC. For instance.Fig 1. Formulae for these calculations are shown in section 3.2.43 m/s velocity whereas the same velocity pressure at 1500m altitude indicates 15. Fig 2. 125Pa velocity pressure at sea level indicates 14. The effects of these changes on determination of air velocity from a pitot static tube are taken into account in the formulae shown in section 3.co.8%.2%. for air at 125 Pa velocity pressure. adjustments should be made taking into account temperature and barometric pressure. As a further example.61 m/s at 65OC and 14.uk 3 .2. Measuring velocity pressure with a pitot static tube www.

3 below. stable and without swirl.airflowinstruments. volume and pressure second (m/s).1 Definitions of velocity. It is seldom Pressure p measured in Pascals (Pa) or uniform and in a duct there will normally be higher kilopascals (kPa).6 km/h The volume flow rate is obtained by multiplying the average velocity (v) by the cross sectional area (A) Volume flow rate 3 3 3 where the velocity is measured.3 Conversion factors character dramatically when there are obstructions such as bends or dampers in the system close to and Approximate conversions from other units of upstream of the measuring plane. 1 in wg = 249.2 Units of Measurement Velocity v measure in metres per 2. Typical velocity profiles across a duct with a sudden change in cross-section www.447 m/s 1 m/s = 2. Volume flowrate qv measure in cubic metres per Air velocity (v) second (m3/s) or litres per Air velocity is the speed at which air passes a specified second (litre/s).2 Preferred units – Sl Sl (Système International) is the preferred system of Length units of measurement. sometimes referred to as mercury 2 Newtons per square metre (N/m ). 2 Temperature O 5 O O O T F = /9 (t – 32) C t C = 1. There are however other systems 1 inch = 25.472 litres/s 3 3 3 3 qv = v x A 1 ft /min = 1.000472 m /s = 0. It is measured in metres/second.00508 m/s 1 m/s = 196. It is expressed in cubic 1 ft /min (cfm) 1 m /s = 2120 ft /min 3 3 metres/second (m /s). velocities near the center and much lower velocities near Area of cross measure in square metres 2 the walls.3048 m/s 1 m/s = 3.uk 4 . point. Plotting the velocities measured across a duct section A (m ). 1 Pa = 1 N/m .07 Pa 1 kPa = 10. will produce a velocity profile and examples of this are Temperature t measured in degrees O shown in fig 3.197cm H2O 5 Air pressure 1 in mercury = 3388 Pa 10 Pa = 1000 mbar Pressure is the force acting on a unit area. Celsius ( C). It is =29. = 0.1 Pa 1 kPa = 4.8t + 32 F 2.8 ft/min symmetrical. 1 ft/sec = 0.237 mile/hr Air volume flow rate (qv) 1 km/h = 0.281 ft/sec 1 mile/hr = 0.co.014 in wg 1 cmH2O = 98. This profile will become biased at corners and change its 2. measurement: For this reason any measurements of velocity in a duct Velocity should be made where the velocity profile is fairly 1 ft/min = 0.588 ft /min The importance of obtaining accurate values for average Pressure velocity and effective area at the plane of measurement 1 N/m2 = 1 Pa 1 kPa = 1000 Pa must be stressed. Fig 3.278 m/s 1 m/s = 3.4 mm 1 mm = 0.70 m /h 1 m /h = 0.0394 in still in use and conversions to Sl units are given in 2.52 in measured in Pascals (Pa).

by the air stream. These anemometers record the linear signal produced by the instruments is in predictable movement of air past the instrument in metres or feet for relationship to the air velocity and can be measured and as long as it is held in the air stream. In recent anemometers the rotating vane forms part of an Anemometers are not fundamental instruments and. is enclosed in a hand- held instrument connected by short flexible pipes to a probe. require calibration against recognized standards. measured by the displacement of the plate from the vertical. (Fig. Flow and Fig 4.co. By noting the time displayed. the multipointer dial arrangement by a low friction digital The vane type has a hinged vane. The controls. Thermal anemometers use the cooling effect with a stop watch the velocity in m/s or ft/min can be of air passing at tiny heated element to indicate air determined. The probe is inserted into the duct and allows air to enter through an upstream facing hole. Rotating vane anemometers In later anemometers the vane was made to rotate like a windmill. which is deflected counter and combined much greater ease of reading with when placed in the air stream. which measure air speed.3 Instruments for Measuring Velocity 3.airflowinstruments.uk 5 . which displays the measured velocity directly and instantaneously without Swinging vane anemometers any need for external timing. the velocity being and the LCA501.1 Anemometers Anemometers are instruments. 4) simple flat plate hinged at the top. The Airflow AM 5000. with delicate clockwork gearing recording the number of revolutions of the vane on a multi-pointer dial. the signal is fed into electronic such. velocity. replaced Fig 5. are still available. as electronic transducer. or a ring of vanes. Developments of this approach. or very conveniently placed ‘start’. An example of this type of Very early designs of vane anemometers consisted of a instrument is the Airflow Instruments LCA301. first introduced in 1968. controlled by a hair spring. generally referred to as tethered vane anemometers. which is caused to rotate. LCA301 Anemometer Temperature Logger www. In one of the more recent versions the hinged vane. pass through the instrument and return through a downstream facing hole. (Fig. circuitry with its own time base. 5). ‘stop’ and ‘re-set’ cups. LCA501 Air velocity.

giving two capabilities in one instrument.As a transducer the rotating vane offers little resistance Thermal anemometers offer an effective low-cost method to flow and trends to give a good average reading over of measuring velocity in air. in that the passage of air takes heat away ambient. This element is mounted at the end of a probe.airflowinstruments. The velocity sensor is heated to Thermal anemometers an elevated temperature (relative to the surrounding air) A wet finger in the air will detect the direction of the wind by means of control electronics. only a point velocity reading and a traverse is needed to obtain an average reading. Because it is a operation for constant temperature thermal thermal device. from a heated element at a rate dependent upon the velocity. sensors: an air velocity sensor and a temperature compensation sensor. delivers more power to maintain the constant “overheat. handle extension rods are available.uk 6 . Their principal disadvantage is that they take flow (e. the power small length of thin wire.” Thus. This is the basic principle of determine the quality of the instrument. more power is The method of heating the element (which can be a required to maintain the “overheat. Airflow Instruments TA460 Thermal Anemometer www. In the Airflow Instruments TA range. To avoid the blockage problem when measuring in large airways. The temperature sensor because a drop in temperature is felt on the surface senses the ambient air temperature and forces the facing into the wind. They are particularly the area swept by the vanes. electronics immediately direct and instantaneous.” As more air flows past the sensor. there are two reach points. a simple thermocouple or an needed to maintain the constant “overheat” is directly electronic component) and the read-out technique related to the velocity. Thermal anemometers act in a velocity sensor to stay at a constant “overheat” above the similar way. swirl) inaccuracies will result. variations in ambient temperature. Air flowing past the velocity sensor tends to cool the which can be inserted into the airstream.co. As this happens. Readout is sensor. it is important to compensate for anemometers. and also to achieve access to normally out-of. Fig 6. Thermal anemometers are also available with a temperature measuring facility.g. pressure and composition of the gas/air being measured. Its main weaknesses are appropriate for use at low velocities where a vane that it is not easy to insert into any but the largest of anemometer or pitot static tube would not be sensitive ducts and that if there is an angular component in the enough.

2 Pitot static tubes The shape of the head and the arrangement of static A small diameter tube facing into the air stream will holes determine the characteristics of the pitot static sense total pressure. Where v = air velocity in m/s For the measurement of very low velocities some Airflow T = absolute temperature in degrees Kelvin Instruments products give a digital readout from as low O (=t C + 273 where t is airstream temperature) as 0. Specialised Instruments √ 3 5 10 T 10 ___ x ____ x ______ x pd Most of the instruments referred to above are portable V = 1.291 5 and designed to be easily carried around. The difference between which has a factor of almost unity and good yaw the two pressures gives the dynamic or velocity pressure characteristics. Levels can be pre-set and an output connection can be used for remote signaling. 3.airflowinstruments.uk 7 .291 √Pd Used in conjunction with a precision manometer. It does not need an individual calibration (Pd). TSI Instruments Ltd manufacture the UK National will sense static pressure. Velocity (m/s) = 1. and a permanently installed instrument is required. Holes at right angles to the flow Tube. only requiring small access holes for each traverse.3. Pitot Static Tubes www.4 pa (10 + ps) failure of flow.co. degree of precision increasing rapidly as the velocity standard conditions. A more precise formula taking increases.25m/s pa = atmospheric pressure in Pascals (1 millibar = 100 Pascals) pd = dynamic or velocity pressure in Pascals ps = duct static pressure in Pascals Fig 7. In some pa 289 10 + ps situations it is critical to know if an air supply is operating. Airflow Instruments can provide special monitoring √ T x pd 5 systems which give a fail-safe signal in the event of = 759. velocities from 2. curve.3.5 m/s upwards can be measured with a This is an adequate formula for standard or near. The pitot static tube is particularly well suited account of temperature and barometric pressure is: for taking velocity pressure readings in a duct. These two features are Physical Laboratory’s modified ellipsoidal nose design combined in a pitot static tube.

the Wilson Flow Grid gives If the average velocity in a duct or airway can be extremely good results even when placed fairly close to a measured with either pitot static tube or anemometer. flow rate results calculated. Wilson Flow Grid www.co. It consists of an arrangement then by multiplying this by the area of the duct or airway of tubes with upstream and downstream holes.6m by 0.84 m /s 4. 3 rate is 0. This may be translated into volume.2 Measuring volume flow rate directly Almost any departure from a straight duct or intrusion It is possible to build orifice plates and venturi tubes into into the duct will create a pressure drop. give volume.airflowinstruments.uk 8 . at the plane of measurement the volume flow rate can be with very little loss.8m is 8 m/s. clause 21. example is the British Standard conical inlet – see BS 848: Part 1: 1980. For example. if the mean velocity in a comparable in accuracy to those obtained by a full pitot rectangular duct 0. which. To conform with be established by site testing for by application of BS 1042 it is necessary to have long straight approaches accepted formulae for standard configurations.8 x 8 = 3. flow rate. Recognising this problem Airflow Instruments developed a device called the Wilson Flow Grid.1 Calculating volume flow rate permanent installation.6 x 0.4 Measuring Volume Flow Rate 4. which can a predictable relationship to volume flow rate. A good and these are not always practical. bend or other obstruction. Designed for Fig 8. the volume flow static traverse. which will have ductwork systems to provide pressure signals.

difference in height of the two columns of liquid and the calculable amount. and a pressure is applied to one of the limbs. www.5 Instruments for Measuring Pressure 5. The weight of liquid so displaced increasing the surface area. As the reservoir causes the level of fluid to move by a small. A pressure applied to this will be proportional to the pressure applied.1 U tube manometers 5. The manometer fluid may be plain water but problems can arise from algae growth in the tube causing the density of the fluid to alter.airflowinstruments. the simple U tube manometer has much to overcome and other advantages incorporated in Airflow commend it. to improve the resolution further. the freedom from tube staining and the expanded scales due to the low O relative density of 0.co. say water. the In the Airflow Instruments design one of the limbs of the other being open to atmosphere. Alternatively with zero taken at the center point the scale length is halved with subsequent loss of resolution.2 Industrial manometers Although probably the oldest method of measuring low The disadvantages of the simple U-tube manometer are pressures. In Fig 10. Instruments’ range of single limb industrial manometers in which it is only necessary to read one liquid level. For very low pressures the manometer limb is inclined. Airflow Instruments’ manometers are filled with a special blend of paraffin dyed red for ease of reading.784 at 20 C. the pressure can be calculated.5 single limb manometer some designs a double scale is employed and the pressure value obtained mathematically from the readings of the two levels. a U-tube manometer for vertical instruments and gives much greater magnification when the limb is inclined. the liquid will move to U-tube is replaced by a reservoir. If a U shaped glass tube is half filled with liquid. FL1. Each in the glass limb reduces a considerable change in the millimeter height difference of water column represents level. The advantages of this fluid are the free moving meniscus. The same volume of fluid displaced density are known. Principle of U-tube manometer A disadvantage of the U-tube is that the scale has to be constantly moved to line up with the moving zero.uk 9 . Fig 9. thus substantially balance the pressure. This nearly doubles the resolution compared with approximately 10 Pascals. as mentioned above.

complete with a pitot static tube. Once set up fundamental. Due to short scale length industrial manometers. At very low pressures they tend to Fig 11. Other electronic storage or control equipment. connecting flexible tube.5 Pressure transducers Pa to 0-5000 Pa. 5.4 Dial gauges Dial pressure gauges are primarily employed for reading high pressures. In the Airflow Instruments PVM610 and PVM620 a The close fitting of the scale to the glass tube minimizes protected precision diaphragm moving between fixed parallax and the choice of manometer fluid ensures a electrodes causes capacitance changes proportional to a crisp meniscus for accurate reading. spare fluid and a manometer balancing valve which A pressure transducer-based instrument allows isolates the pressure signal to allow zero checking continuous monitoring using a recorder or input to without disconnecting the pressure lines.airflowinstruments. in conjunction with other pressure sensing devices such as the Wilson Flow Grid. and can be used accessories are also included as appropriate to each kit. Precision portable manometer set www. metal bellows system which allows fine settings of the These eliminate the use of fluids and. electronic pressure transducer based Each manometer has a reservoir tank with a built-in instruments are available for laboratory or site use. differential pressure. exhibit an acceptable level of accuracy the instrument panel is accurately leveled with a three ideal for normal ventilating and related air movement point rapid leveling system using a precision compound measurement. As an alternative to the fundamental liquid-filled portable manometer.co. They static pressure measurements.3 Precision manometers exhibit unacceptable hysteresis errors unless they are Employing the same fundamental principles as the very high quality instruments. built-in spirit level. incorporate one or two adjustable-range single-limb manometers providing wide choice of ranges from 0-125 5. although not fluid level without changing the calibration. the instruments can Each instrument is individually calibrated and comes read velocity directly. this range of precision portable the resolution is not generally suitable for other than manometers are built into complete test sets.uk 10 .5. Used with a Pitot Static tube (at standard temperature and pressure).

instruments with typical heating and ventilating use should be serviced and have the calibration checked once a year.6 Maintenance and calibration If instruments in regular use are to retain their designed accuracy. Airflow Instruments produce an open jet wind tunnel for use by organizations which find it economic to do their own calibration of anemometers. many not be compatible with the instrument or have the necessary fluidic characteristics. even of the same relative density. With manometers it is critical to accuracy that the correct manometer fluid is used. they should be regularly serviced. and also immediately after any abnormal use or abuse such as dropping. As a guide. It is difficult to give firm guidance due to the differing amount of use to which instruments are put and the varying conditions in which they operate.5.airflowinstruments. Alternative fluids. Precision instruments need specialist equipment to check the calibration.uk 11 . Fig 12. PVM620 Micromanometer with Pitot tube www.co.

Velocity readings are required at the prescribed points as shown in figs 13 and 14. Flow in ducts The most commonly used method of accurately establishing the air flow rate in a duct is by traversing the duct with a pitot static tube connected to a sensitive pressure transducer such as an inclined manometer or electronic pressure transducer. Fig 14. Measuring points in rectangular ducts.1.6 On Site 6. Log Where continuous monitoring is necessary an Airflow linear rule for traverse points on 3 diameters. can be connected either to a sensitive manometer for visual indication or an electronic pressure transducer where an electrical signal as well as a visual display is needed. A conveniently accessible part of the duct should be selected. Measuring points for circular ducts.uk 12 . the square root taken and the resulting figures averaged. However if no single velocity pressure reading is more than twice any other. a simple average of velocity pressures is unlikely to introduce an error of more than 1 or 2%. Instruments Wilson Flow Grid will give a pressure signal Readings on two diameters may be used proportional to the square of the velocity. www.airflowinstruments. It is convenient to set the marker clops on the pitot static tube to the insertion depth to ensure conformity with the traversing pattern. Log Tchebycheff rule. The velocity pressure readings are noted. Fig 13.co. preferably where there are straight parallel- sided sections upstream and downstream of not less than six duct diameters or widths each. Holes should be drilled in the duct of a sufficient size to give a free fit to the pitot static tube. It is obviously desirable that the flow rate is held steady for the duration of the tests. This output where access is limited.