You are on page 1of 7

Building Serv. Eng. Res. Technol. 29,4 (2008) pp.

341–347

Equivalent diameters of rectangular and oval ducts
P Koch BSc MSc MCIBSE
Université Joseph Fourier, IUT1, Grenoble, France

To help engineers predict the pressure drop of a fluid passing along ducts of non-circular
cross-section, the concept of ‘equivalent diameter’ of a circular duct has been extensively
used. This paper re-analyses two earlier sets of research data for non-circular ducts, such
an analysis being easier now than at the time of the original research, 1948 and 1975.
This new work reveals that equations for equivalent diameter of non-rectangular ducts
lifted from the two prime sources are totally inapplicable; in short they are myths which
should no longer be reiterated. In analysing the experimental results as constructively
as possible to extract a more appropriate and correct relationship, the author finds that
the experimental results are not sufficiently consistent to draw any reliable quantitative
conclusions. Thus the experimental work needs to be repeated to verify whether
hydraulic diameter may be used as an ‘equivalent diameter’ or whether an alternative
relationship can be found.
Practical application: In showing that there are no reliable practical results to guide
engineers in calculating pressure drop along non-circular ducts, the paper demonstrates
that further practical research is necessary. In showing that the relationships used in some
texts and reputedly emanating from practical research, are both invalid, the author hopes
that their future use will cease. Until a proven relationship for ‘equivalent diameter’ is
forthcoming, there is no other choice than to use the hydraulic diameter.

List of symbols deqx diameter of an equivalent circular duct to give
c mean fluid velocity the same pressure drop, for the same volume
d diameter of circular duct flow, determined experimentally
dec diameter of an equivalent circular duct to dh hydraulic mean diameter
give the same pressure drop, for the same h height of a rectangular or flat-oval duct
velocity k surface roughness of the duct surface
l length
decx diameter of an equivalent circular duct to
p pressure drop
give the same pressure drop, for the same
w width of a rectangular or flat-oval duct
velocity, determined experimentally
qv volume flow
deq diameter of an equivalent circular duct to
give the same pressure drop, for the same A cross-section area of duct
volume flow K a constant
P perimeter of a duct
Re Reynolds number
l friction factor
Address for correspondence: P Koch, 10, Grange Vieille, 38660
 dynamic viscosity
Le Touvet, Isere, France.
E-mail: peterkoch@orange.fr

ß The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers 2008 10.1177/0143624408094631

Downloaded from bse.sagepub.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on September 15, 2016

which can be written in the form: p 1 1 qv 2 2 Origin of two relationships for ¼l  ð2Þ l d2 A ‘equivalent diameter’ For ducts of non-circular cross section. This validity has pipe data was correlated by Moody1 in 1944 been of some doubt for ducts of cross section into a non-dimensional graphical form. 2016 .sagepub. He made no Downloaded from bse. and along with diameter in Equation (1). value for a ‘diameter’ characteristic of the non. and the constant 0.342 Equivalent diameters of rectangular and oval ducts 1 Introduction There is nothing empirical about Equation (4).845.845 ft2. Its validity rests solely on an Data for the pressure drop along the straight assumed validity of using hydraulic mean for circular ducts is plentiful. In the descriptive part of his paper. for which it might be safer to Equation (1). the use Huebscher conducted tests on rectangular of Equations (1) or (2) necessitates the use of a ducts. reported theoretical studies suggesting that the ness k/d. to ship for equivalent diameter to give the same give the same pressure drop for the same volume pressure drop for the same flow: flow. He had not. For any relative rough. Making a purely algebraic substitution When hydraulic diameter is used in con. a desired volume flow qv. defined by: Wright. a friction factor l can be obtained for for ducts of large aspect ratios. It is of no use today. per unit length and for the same volume flow. known having acute angles. not with the D’Arcy equation. he obtained the following relation- circular equivalent for a non-circular duct.23 min1. p 11 Such empirical data as is available from ¼ l c2 ð1Þ Huebscher2 (1948) and Heyt and Diaz3 (1975).wg in1. but he did not use in the D’Arcy-Weisbach equation: cite a reference. namely dh ¼ 4 A ð3Þ p 1  c 1:825 P ¼ 0:027 1:23 ð6Þ l d 1000 Since most design problems have as their where the variables have a mixed set of starting point. rewrite Equation (2) in the following form: Nevertheless. and Huebscher2 (1948) as the Moody diagram.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on September 15. the following equation is easily derived: A0:625 A0:6 deq ¼ 1:30 ð7Þ deq ¼ 1:453 0:2 P ð4Þ ð0:5PÞ0:25 Since this relationship was obtained using Such an equation is designed for use Equation (2) it may only be used with that with Equation (6).027 incor- most convenient form of equivalent diameter porates a constant value of l and has units of is that which will give the same pressure drop in. l d2 are reassessed below. and for any value of Reynolds number use of hydraulic diameter was inappropriate (cd/). but to a pre-Moody equation of has traditionally been used. using the hydraulic diameter (3) with this junction with Equation (2) to determine a equation. the imperial units. For this. reference is made. not to the Darcy equation circular duct. it appears to have been lifted p 16 1 1 2 out of context and republished as if ¼ 2 l 5 qv ð5Þ Huebscher had discovered this relationship l  d eq 2 experimentally. hydraulic mean diameter above (1).

for comparison with the Equation for use in Equation (5) are calculated from: (9) which is similar to the equation attributed " #0:2 to Huebscher and to Heyt and Diaz. Huebscher tested for a circular duct. Inevitably this numerical values are now only obtainable by led again to Equation (7) above. now greatly 1948 for rectangular ducts simplifies the analysis of the experimental results.sagepub. disguised by presenting it in the form: Some might consider the concept of an equivalent diameter to give the same pressure A0:625 drop for the same flow. the dimensions of   # 1 6:9 k=d 1:11 which were chosen so ensure that all three had pffiffiffi ¼ 1:8 log þ ð11Þ the same hydraulic diameter of around 202 mm.453 in Equation (4) if the   p=l use of hydraulic diameter is valid. In their preamble. 25 for the square duct and 18 for the rectan- Heyt and Diaz concerned themselves with gular duct. each is for 1=2c2 decx ¼ l ð12Þ application with Equation (8). Downloaded from bse. 2016 . they make SI units.2 curve-fit by Haaland4 (11). Empirical values of equivalent diameter deqx However. and diameter. He failed to emphasise that the value of choice but to use hydraulic diameter dh in deq obtained using Equation (7) would be for Equation (11) for both Re and k/d. The paper of Heyt and Diaz does not the same algebraic substitutions of hydraulic include as much basic information. as did Huebscher. The paper of Huebscher p 12:55 1  qv 1:825 fortunately includes the basic data for the ¼ 1:825 0:027 3:055 ð8Þ l  d 1000 many tests he took: 9 for the circular duct.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on September 15. deq. valent diameter can be calculated. Formerly values of l would have been obtained from the Moody chart but the 4 Assessment of data of Huebscher. to be an unne- deq ¼ 1:55 ð9Þ cessary deviation.05 mm. there being no direct evidence as to It is obvious that Equations (7) and (9) are whether the use of hydraulic mean diameter is identical. in using the concept of a circular equivalent. a factor 16 l 1=2  q2v K has also been calculated. but this was reading from a log–log graph. So values of decx for direct comparison as if one applied to rectangular ducts and the with dh are also calculated. square " duct and rectangular duct. yet they have been lifted by others valid. The use in: roughness k of the galvanised ductwork was taken as 0. If dec is found to be equal to the hydraulic diameter dh then there is no need to go further 3 Analysis of the experimental data and look at deq since Equation (9) for deq was merely obtained by algebraic substitution of dh. l Re 3:71 and therefore the same relative roughness. and one which in this paper P0:25 hides. and not with p=l Equation (5) as would be modern practice. there is no eter. which would be deqx ¼ 2 ð10Þ equal to the factor 1. Furthermore. using other to oval ducts. These are reproduced in Table 3 in flat-oval ducts. P Koch 343 attempt to use his experimental data to Since l is required before a value of equi- determine a relationship for equivalent diam.

01 204 204 204 away from the two long sides of the duct and not 100 mm away as the notion of hydraulic diameter would suggest. his any consistency for the circular duct.010 mm. and that all the lines were parallel and straight. dec and deq must have identical values. de ¼ 1. is practical pressure drop readings were all lower k ¼ 0. Knowledge of its value a range of aspect ratios w/h from 2. 0. the mainstream of the flow is of duct surface roughness k equidistant from the duct surface in all K (mm) dh (mm) decx (mm) deqx (mm) directions.01 mm for the circular duct. Downloaded from bse.344 Equivalent diameters of rectangular and oval ducts Even this last concept is debatable. which in turn was more than that k 0. for show that the pressure drop incurred by the differing values of duct surface roughness k. and thus in Heyt and Diaz tested a range of flat-oval the evaluation of the experimental values of spirally-wound ducts of 6 sizes and having decx [Equation (12)]. Huebscher’s results. dec and deq must have identical  For the square duct. values air velocity used was between 10 and 60 m/s.2. These results are shown in Table 3. Both decx. Table 1 shows imental readings would be smaller. The author carried out a check on the However. ducts. but the being a wide scatter at low Re.0 to 4. h/w ¼ 8.05 204 220 207 most of the centreline flow is a mere 50 mm 0. dh. this value is used for the sub- than our modern predictions would be. To illustrate this. 0. he unwittingly provides the necessary  For the rectangular duct. de ¼ data to establish a value for the roughness k. Huebscher’s practical values of variation of decx with Reynolds Number. For a Table 1 Comparison of values of experimentally determined values of decx and deqx. there this.02 204 208 205 0. and deqx are affected. The is therefore essential. h/w ¼ 1. rather of decx were calculated for all three ducts at begging the question as the validity of using each of three different values of roughness.05 mm. Even assuming that See Table 2. rather smoother than our modern data would normally suggest. Although the newly rectangular (dh ¼ 202 mm) 204 196 193 calculated values of Reynolds Number agree with those of Huebscher.sagepub. Table 2 Comparison of values of experimentally determined He produced several log–log graphs to values of decx (in mm). for differing values circular duct. where exper- effect on decx is more obvious. The rectangular rectangular duct was more than that for the duct has an aspect ratio h/w ¼ 8 square duct. but pressure drop are 10% too low to give found there was no discernable trend.955 dh of the duct. he used the smoothest of galvanised ductwork Since the only roughness which can give having a roughness of only k ¼ 0. sequent analysis of the square and rectangular For the circular duct.02 mm 0. such as the one tested having an aspect ratio w/h of 8. from the author’s analysis give:- ducted so many tests for the circular duct and because d.035 dh values. with those using Equation (11). it is inevitable that d. For a rectangular duct. the hydraulic diameter. It would appear that Huebscher obtained his values of l by use of Equation (1). the values of l do not.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on September 15. through the evaluation of l [Equation (11)].3 Relative roughness k/d plays a part in the 1975 for flat-oval ducts analysis of the practical results. This value turns out to be 0.05 mm 0. dh. In summary. 5 Assessment of data of Heyt and Diaz.01 mm. Since Huebscher con. A certain element circular (dh ¼ 204 mm) 220 208 204 square (dh ¼ 200 mm) 230 213 207 of reliability is implied. the values obtained. 2016 . see Table 1. for the circular duct.

01 mm Density (kg/m3) pv (Pa) p/l (Pa/m) c (m/s) decx (mm) deqx (mm) decx (mm) deqx (mm) K 1.462 1.693 12.5 12.9 1.150 244.6 mm.47 206.110 236.181 1.8 221.9 1.3 26.5 1.03 203.4 199.454 1.73 20.9 1.79 15.56 43.9 1.3 5.6 222.4 57.153 634.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on September 15.01 mm. dh ¼ 201.6 203.118 69.9 1.447 1.3 204.89 26.1 204.46 15.007 11.45 204.9 1.53 38.6 2.463 1.03 196.7 203.463 1.115 211.256 6.6 205.18C.126 131.9 222.7 mm Experimental data k ¼ 0.63 203.7 221.9 221.6 221.1 mm.147 9. 200 mm.57 17.030 4.0 222.3 321.108 642.452 1.4 209.115 856.3 206.7 82.63 20.743 8.7 221.975 7.58 25.4 mm  113.8 203.137 33.88 21.453 B.05 209.4 205.0 202.69 209.8 17.80 209.197 10. P Koch 345 2 Table 3 Data of Huebscher for round square and rectangular ducts using air.1 1.8 221.131 2.3 222.463 1.129 40.6 221.29 227.63 208.11 220.92 9.449 1.48 207.714 201. 2016 .108 563.446 1.462 1.523 184.064 193.8 207. 200.134 301.8 6.4 320.5 1.8 41.4 1.32 202.6 203. dh ¼ 200.4 205.901 194.116 137.4 320.20 204.1 18.0 221.8 1.01 mm.0 222.67 213.2 1.137 25. d ¼ 203.44 43.3 42.8 1.8 203.18C.443 1.8 1.428 1. Hydraulic mean diameter ¼ c. k ¼ 0.5 1.454 1.443 1.446 1.5 10.70 0.073 375.0 221.7 209. 914.447 1.956 4.3 1.5 1.0 222.1 1.155 255.10 19.460 1.8 1.63 192.97 207.3 1.84 211.5 1.37 6. Circular duct.466 1.9 320.505 193.49 217.3 52.112 1046.4 1.0 219.2 1.467 1.440 1.3 21.9 220.4 2.604 3.15 194.2 206.3 1.447 (Continued) Downloaded from bse.459 1.139 17.5 1.0 202.115 846.116 784.275 197.3 321.48 231.99 33.6 221.113 356. The seams were longitudinal A.112 1000.2 53.2 208.8 13.192 196.453 1.8 221.42 206.463 C.106 209.7 327.463 1.39 206.55 206.08 29.467 dh ¼ 200.1 3.7 1.3 0.61 21.5 202.112 1242.7 222.5 6.95 42.2 203.31 38.914 9.9 1.120 206.05 204.102 1.67 17.2 18.6 221.134 47.7 42.4 203.457 1.45 39.6 1.115 609.3 mm.66 219.1 65. Square duct.2 1.140 8.124 1055 70.3 320.5 1.0 25.1 1.469 1.115 9.1 mm.3 200.4 4.123 164.131 55. Density (kg/m3) pv (Pa) p/l (Pa/m) c (m/s) decx (mm) deqx (mm) K 1.2 321.456 1.131 81.51 33.62 47. 21.463 1.8 1.463 1.118 73.460 1.1 34.5 6.3 0.05 mm k ¼ 0.452 1.456 mean ¼ 220.16 206.1 mm mean ¼ 206.2 0.3 203.2 320. Density (kg/m3) pv (Pa) p/l (Pa/m) c (m/s) decx (mm) deqx (mm) K 1.6 1.2 37.145 869.80 211.113 795.6 10.05 11.8 1.441 1.112 265.84 31.4 1.4 1.19 196.99 34.4 221.55 37.2 1.7 1.40 27.465 1.4 1.4 1.442 1.8 210. 21.5 222.132 62.5 1. k ¼ 0.5 2.0 1.sagepub.443 1.458 1.148 436 30.8 3. Rectangular duct.28 233.9 203.123 500.5 1.153 25.351 2.466 1.90 23.07 206.2 319.9 1.4 222.6 68.6 221.667 5.29 194.460 1.4 56.9 1.88 211.1 16.4 19.144 177.36 37.128 5.84 209.9 206.2 204.842 3.470 1.5 57.7 221.467 1.469 1.463 1.9 203.0 1.97 206.7 1.9 1.9 0.1 205.

for spirally wound duct.141 4.435 1.157 40.58C) Tables 5 and 6. but the 483 150 3.437 1. In order to It has to be remembered that Huebscher’s test the validity of using hydraulic diameter paper (1948) was written very soon after as a circular equivalent dec.05 mm.145 67.590 experimental results. See roughness of 0.00 353 381 383 1.257 190. only the values of Moody had co-ordinated and rationalised all decx need to be considered.2 1.04 mm.4 1. The data has been different values of absolute roughness for each obtained from the extremities of straight lines on a log–log plot duct tested.5 319.08 1.5 0.17 241 221 279 1.90 6.88 189.476 737 254 2.3 318.2 319.17 5.4 3.08 1. w (mm) h (mm) w/h dh (mm) decx (mm) deqx (mm) K 300 150 2. for flat-oval ducts.515 Although values of deq were derived from the 1041 254 4.3 30. 50.10 7.17 254 291 331 1.7 1.40 27.12 195. ranging from 0.98 difficulties in reading data from log–log plots. I 50.00 5.6 mm mean ¼ 192.849 8.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on September 15.8 27.7 so extreme values at either end of the straight 152 683 lines were read so as to minimise errors.8 6.3 64. 152 275 tudinal seams.55 Heyt and Diaz did not reproduce as much 50. 300 150 2.431 1. To show the sensitivity by which the results are affected by the assumed value of roughness k.428 6 Discussion 635 150 4.0 320.7 318. 15.10 423 662 583 1. (density of air presumed to be 1. these were only calcu- lated for comparison with the thinking of Huebscher and Heyt and Diaz.6 1.82 roughness.00 0.15 40.363 186.039 10.1 1.436 1.82 50.118 912.2 2.444 1.8 81. the paper gives as results.4 317.346 Equivalent diameters of rectangular and oval ducts Table 3 Continued Density (kg/m3) pv (Pa) p/l (Pa/m) c (m/s) decx (mm) deqx (mm) K 1.841 190.140 mm.05 mm and k ¼ 0. There were 147 817 635 150 4.00 5.134 1.42 0.sagepub.8 106 them. converted to SI units.9 320. 50.8 107 147 817 of their basic data as Huebscher.8 42.676 189.493 508 254 2.9 1.81 the above results for a rectangular duct.113 409.132 22.90 393 485 473 1.9 1.210 kg/m3). 508 254 2. 2016 .8 1.8 Table 4 gives this data.614 194.444 dh ¼ 201.8 54.08 0.6 319. which. results were produced Table 5 Comparison of values of experimentally determined values of decx and deqx.23 author has nevertheless tried to re-analyse 50. No explanation of this was given w (mm) h (mm) w/h c (m/s) p/l (Pa/m) and it was not the purpose of the investigation.455 483 150 3.194 1.440 Somehow. very Table 4 Data of Heyt and Diaz4 for flat-oval ducts using air. (Assuming a surface for both k ¼ 0.437 1.157 13.198 6.17 5.33 0. that their work be not lost.8 1.00 211 212 226 1. 152 487 In order to make some comparison with 737 254 2.6 would be larger than for duct with longi.858 3. pipe and duct data in conjunction with the Downloaded from bse.004 mm to 0.442 1.1 320.137 7.40 194.7 1.7 0.3 152 357 have had to assume a value of surface 1041 254 4.

Huebscher (rectangular) and by Heyt and 4 Haaland SE. the comparison of the experimentally determined dec with hydraulic References diameter would suggest that there is no con- 1 Moody LF. nection between equivalent diameter and dh. Not too surprisingly. 2016 . 737 254 2. They are both invalid. values of decx and deqx. Diaz MJ. h/w ¼ 8. better relationship between equivalent diam- ematics as Huebscher.10 423 669 584 1.420 635 150 4. using dh. is very significant.593 rectangular duct is 4.486 with Reynolds Number.035 dh w (mm) h (mm) w/h dh (mm) decx (mm) deqx (mm) K  For the rectangular duct.955 dh 483 150 3. edly resulting from experimental work by 81(2): 221–232.5% smaller than the hydraulic mean diameter. rectangular duct (of aspect ratio ¼ 8) give The data for the pressure drop along flat- dec4dh for the square duct which is not oval ducts is not consistent enough for any necessarily inconsistent as the real area is confidence to be placed in them. (Assuming a surface roughness of 0. ASHRAE Transactions 1975. reput.04 mm. Trans ASME 1944.90 393 472 470 1. There is rather less sympathy for Heyt and More experimental work is required if a Diaz in 1972 aping the same obsolete math. 15.17 254 284 329 1. ASME are identical.com at PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIV on September 15. 2 Huebscher RG. eter and hydraulic mean diameter is to be The results for a square duct and for a found. 66: 671. P Koch 347 Table 6 Comparison of values of experimentally determined For rectangular ducts. Friction equivalents for round square and rectangular ducts. for flat-oval ducts. Simple and explicit formulas for Diaz (flat-oval) are nothing of the sort and the friction factor in turbulent flow.00 353 372 381 1. He may perhaps be for.486 These relationships were found not to vary 508 254 2.58C)  For the square duct. dec ¼ 1.sagepub.17 241 215 277 1. For the rectangle of aspect ratio 8. greater than the area of a circle of diameter dh. probing questions which led to the investigation the author’s analysis of the results does not detailed in this paper. h/w ¼ 1. Downloaded from bse. Friction factors for pipe flow. 54: 101–118. as the pressure drop for the same volume flow D’Arcy equation. would be 26% more than estimates obtained given for not basing his pre-amble on this. succeed in finding consistency. If the results are to be believed. Journal of Fluids Engineering 1983. Pressure drop in flat oval The equations for equivalent diameter. dec5dh. dec ¼ 300 150 2. 3 Heyt JW.447 0. 105(3): 89–90. spiral air duct.00 211 207 225 1. so it is impossible to ascertain what value of surface I am grateful to Ken Butcher (CIBSE) for his roughness should apply.508 That the equivalent diameter for the 1041 254 4. ASHVE 7 Conclusions Transactions 1948. For oval ducts Heyt and Diaz did not test Acknowledgement a similar spirally wound circular duct.