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Proper pump sizing is important for a few reasons. We need to know the
resistance the pump will encounter and size the pump large enough to over
come the resistance and move the proper amount of water. The amount of flow
will determine how efficiently we will heat. If the flow is right we will get the
maximum heat output from the system and help eliminate air from the system.
Most systems except the newer radiant heat systems will normally heat with
3/4" pipe. This pipe can carry about 40,000 btu/h at a flow of 4 gpm at 27" per
second. If the flow is too slow, we will reduce the heat output. If the flow is too
great it will also reduce the heat output and create a noisy operation. See a chart
for the proper flow rates and amount of heat carried.

Although proper pump sizing can be a little time consuming but not hard to do
and it is imperative that we do it. We must have the proper flow for the amount
of resistance the water will encounter. We have to gather some pertinent
information first. We must determine the equivalent feet of pipe (see chart for
EFP). Everything the water passes through creates a resistance. We measure all
the piping and note the pipe size. Next count all the fittings. We need to know
how many elbows there are, the number of tees and if the flow is straight
through the tee or, if the flow turns and exits the branch of the tee. How many
valves and the type of valves we have. The pressure drop of the heat exchanger
and indirect water heater coil if applicable. Include any other system
components the water passes through like zone valves, flow control valves, air
separators, differential pressure bypass valves, ESBE valves, 3 or 4 way valves
Once we know the resistance of flow we can determine the Feet of Head which
will help us size the circulator. Next we must know the gpm flow rate. Once we
know the feet of head and gpm flow rate we can look at a manufacturers pump
curve and choose the proper circulator.

Step 1 - Measure all the pipe from the boiler all the way through the system and
back to the boiler. We normally are only interested in the longest loop. If a
circulator will move enough water through the longest loop in theory it will move
water through the shorter loops.
Step 2 - Make note of all the fittings the water passes through. Calculate all the
resistance to get EFP.
Step 3 - Determine flow rate required. This will normally require multiple
calculations. If we pipe an indirect with primary/secondary (p/s) off the primary
loop and have three (3) heating zones we need to size the boiler circulator, the
indirect circulator and the longest heating zone. We need to do three (3)

Let's look at an example;

View the piping diagram below for the piping to an indirect hot water tank piped
off of a cast iron boiler. To keep it simple the boiler flow rate required is 6 gpm
and the flow rate through the indirect coil is 6 gpm. The pressure drop through
the indirect coil is 9 ft head and the pressure drop through the boiler heat
exchanger is 1 ft head. So far we have a flow of 6 gpm with a resistance of 10 ft
head. Now we need to figure our EFP in all of the fittings and other devices.
Let's assume the boiler is piped in 1-1/4" copper pipe and the indirect is piped in
1" copper pipe.
The water leaves the boiler and goes through some elbows, into a tee and exits
the branch. Then the water passes through some 1" copper fittings, valves, tank
coil, purge valves and into the branch of a tee. It now flows through 1-1/4" pipe
back to the boiler, through the boiler and back out again. Once you know the EFP
multiply that times 0.04 to convert to resistance or Ft of head. Here is a list of
fittings the water will pass through on a call for domestic hot water tank. Let's
count the fittings:

2 - 1-1/4" Ball Valves

2 - 1-1/4" Unions
1 - 1-1/4" Tee (straight through)
2 - 1-1/4" Tee's out branch
8 - 1" elbows
1 - 1" swing check
and we will assume the piping equals
1-1/4" pipe 15'
1" pipe equals 25'
1" pipe 25'

2 - 1-1/4" Ball Valves 7 x 2 = 14 EFP

2 - 1-1/4" Unions .5 x 2 = 1 EFP
1 - 1-1/4" Tee (straight through) .6 x 1 = .6 EFP
2 - 1-1/4" Tee's out branch 5.5 x 2 = 11 EFP
8 - 1" elbows 2.5 x 8 = 20 EFP
1 - 1" swing check 4.5 x 1 = 4.5 EFP
and we will assume the piping length is as follows
1-1/4" pipe equals 15' x .042 = .63
1" pipe equals 25' x .042 = 1.05
Total 52.7 EFP (x 0.04)
2.21 Ft Head

plus 9 ft of head for DHW tank and 1 ft of head for boiler 10 ft


12.21 ft head @ 6
GPM Required flow for indirect

This would be a 0010 Circulator

This is not as accurate as the actual pump sizing formula but, is a good way to
get an idea of what circulator you need.
If you want a more accurate formula, See below

Now let's look at the same scenario except the boiler is a modulating/condensing
(mod/con) boiler. The pressure drop through the boiler heat exchanger is 15.5
and the boiler flow is 15 gpm. This changes our piping. We can no longer pipe
the indirect water heater through the boiler due to two different flows. The
indirect must now be piped off the primary loop. See the different piping
diagrams. We still size the circulators the same.
Let's figure this out to include a boiler circulator and and an indirect circulator.

The piping would change from this this
Indirect Tank Flow would have to be close to boiler flow requirement
Flow in Indirect tank is less than boiler flow to be piped off the boiler
loop. therefore the indirect is piped off
primary pipe so is not affected by boiler flow
This is a calculation which gets you close to circulator sizing.
There is a more accurate way of sizing circulators which is
using this formula.

HL=k x c x L x (f1.75)

Where HL is head loss

k = Tubing size - the size tubing being used

c = Correction factor for fluid type - what type of fluid you are using

l = Equivalent length of piping including all the valves, fittings are separator,
zone valves etc. converted to Equivalent length of pipe.

f(1.75) = Flow rate through pipe raised to the power of

1.75 Flow Rate Factor (f)

Raised to
Flow Rate
0.5 0.297
1 1.000
1.5 2.033
2 3.364
2.5 4.970
3 6.839
3.5 8.956
4 11.314
4.5 13.903
5 16.719
6 23.002
7 30.125
8 38.055
9 46.765
10 56.234
12 77.369
14 101.327
16 128.000
18 157.229
20 189.148
25 279.508
30 384.558

Flow Pipe Size Value of k

1.0 2.0 3/8" Copper 0.0484
1.6 3.2 1/2" Copper 0.0159
3.2 6.5 3/4" Copper 0.00295
5.5 10.9 1" Copper 0.000845
8.2 16.3 1-1/4" Copper 0.000324
11.4 22.9 1-1/2" Copper 0.000146
19.8 39.6 2" Copper 0.0000397
30.5 61.1 2-1/2" Copper 0.0000142
43.6 87.1 2" Copper 0.0000061
"c" Correction Factor for Fluid Temperature
Average Fluid
100º f 140ºf 180ºf
Water 1.095 1.000 0.933
30% Propylene Glycol 1.353 1.187 1.088
50% Propylene Glycol 1.582 1.349 1.225

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