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Major loss in Ducts, Tubes and Pipes

Major loss - head loss or pressure loss - due to friction in ducts, pipes and tubes
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Pressure and Pressure Loss
According the Energy Equation for a fluid the total energy can be summarized as elevation energy, velocity energy and pressure energy. The Energy
Equation can then be expressed as:
p1 + v12 / 2 + g h1 = p2 + v22 / 2 + g h2 + ploss (1)
p = pressure in fluid (Pa (N/m 2), psi (lb/in2))
ploss = pressure loss (Pa (N/m 2), psi (lb/in2))
= density of the fluid (kg/m 3, slugs/ft3)
v = flow velocity (m/s, ft/s)
g = acceleration of gravity (m/s2, ft/s2)
h = elevation (m, ft)
For horizontal steady state flow v1 = v2 and h1 = h2, - (1) can be transformed to:
ploss = p1 - p2 (2)
The pressure loss is divided in
major loss due to friction and
minor loss due to change of velocity in bends, valves and similar.
The pressure loss in pipes and tubes depends on the flow velocity, pipe or duct length, pipe or duct diameter, and a friction factor based on the
roughness of the pipe or duct, and whether the flow us turbulent or laminar - the Reynolds Number of the flow. The pressure loss in a tube or duct due
to friction, major loss, can be expressed as:
ploss = (l / dh) ( v2 / 2) (3)
ploss = pressure loss (Pa, N/m 2)
= friction coefficient
l = length of duct or pipe (m)
dh = hydraulic diameter (m)
(3) is also called the D'Arcy-Weisbach Equation. (3) is valid for fully developed, steady, incompressible flow.

Head and Head Loss

The Energy equation can be expressed in terms of head and head loss by dividing each term by the specific weight of the fluid. The total head in a
fluid flow in a tube or a duct can be expressed as the sum of elevation head, velocity head and pressure head.
p1 / + v12 / 2 g + h1 = p2 / + v22 / 2 g + h2 + hloss (4)
hloss = head loss (m, ft)
= g = specific weight (N/m 3, lb/ft3)
For horizontal steady state flow v1 = v2 and p1 = p2, - (4) can be transformed to:

hloss = h1 - h2 (5)
h = p / = head (m, ft)
The head loss in a tube or duct due to friction, major loss, can be expressed as:
hloss = (l / dh) (v2 / 2 g) (6)
hloss = head loss (m, ft)

Friction Coefficient -
The friction coefficient depends on the flow - if it is
transient or
and the roughness of the tube or duct.
To determine the friction coefficient we first have to determine if the flow is laminar, transient or turbulent - then use the proper formula or diagram.
Friction Coefficient for Laminar Flow
For fully developed laminar flow the roughness of the duct or pipe can be neglected. The friction coefficient depends only the Reynolds Number - Re and can be expressed as:
= 64 / Re (7)
Re = the dimensionless Reynolds number
The flow is
laminar when Re < 2300
transient when 2300 < Re < 4000
turbulent when Re > 4000
Friction Coefficient for Transient Flow
If the flow is transient - 2300 < Re < 4000 - the flow varies between laminar and turbulent flow and the friction coefficient is not possible to determine.
Friction Coefficient for Turbulent Flow
For turbulent flow the friction coefficient depends on the Reynolds Number and the roughness of the duct or pipe wall. On functional form this can be
expressed as:
= f( Re, k / dh ) (8)
k = absolute roughness of tube or duct wall (mm, ft)
k / dh = the relative roughness - or roughness ratio
Roughness for materials are determined by experiments. Absolute roughness for some common materials are indicated in the table below


Absolute Roughness - k

10 (m)


Copper, Lead, Brass, Aluminum (new)

0.001 - 0.002

3.3 - 6.7 10-6

PVC and Plastic Pipes

0.0015 - 0.007

0.5 - 2.33 10-5

Epoxy, Vinyl Ester and Isophthalic pipe


1.7 10-5

Stainless steel


5 10-5

Steel commercial pipe

0.045 - 0.09

1.5 - 3 10-4

Stretched steel


5 10-5

Weld steel


1.5 10-4

Galvanized steel


5 10-4

Rusted steel (corrosion)

0.15 - 4

5 - 133 10-4

New cast iron

0.25 - 0.8

8 - 27 10-4

Worn cast iron

0.8 - 1.5

2.7 - 5 10-3

Rusty cast iron

1.5 - 2.5

5 - 8.3 10-3

Sheet or asphalted cast iron

0.01 - 0.015

3.33 - 5 10-5

Smoothed cement


1 10-3

Ordinary concrete

0.3 - 1

1 - 3.33 10-3

Coarse concrete

0.3 - 5

1 - 16.7 10-3

Well planed wood

0.18 - 0.9

6 - 30 10-4

Ordinary wood

16.7 10-3

The friction coefficient - - can be calculated by the Colebrooke Equation:

1 / 1/2 = -2,0 log10 [ (2,51 / (Re 1/2)) + (k / dh) / 3,72 ] (9)
Since the friction coefficient - - is on both sides of the equation, it must be solved by iteration. If we know the Reynolds number and the roughness the friction coefficient - - in the particular flow can be calculated.
A graphical representation of the Colebrooke Equation is the Moody Diagram:
The Moody Diagram - The Moody diagram in a printable format.
With the Moody diagram we can find the friction coefficient if we know the Reynolds Number - Re - and the
Relative Roughness Ratio - k / dh
In the diagram we can see how the friction coefficient depends on the Reynolds number for laminar flow - how the friction coefficient is undefined for
transient flow - and how the friction coefficient depends on the roughness ratio for turbulent flow.
For hydraulic smooth pipes - the roughness ratio limits zero - and the friction coefficient depends more or less on the Reynolds number only.
For a fully developed turbulent flow the friction coefficient depends on the roughness ratio only.

Example - Pressure Loss in Air Ducts

Air at 0 oC is flows in a 10 m galvanized duct - 315 mm diameter - with velocity 15 m/s.
Reynolds number are expressed as:
Re = dh v / (10)
Re = Reynolds number
v = velocity
= density
= dynamic or absolute viscosity
Reynolds number calculated:
Re = (15 m/s) (315 mm) (10-3 m/mm ) (1.23 kg/m 3) / (1.79 10-5 Ns/m 2)
= 324679 (kgm/s2)/N
= 324679 ~ Turbulent flow
Turbulent flow indicates that Colebrooks equation (9) must be used to determine the friction coefficient - -.
With roughness - - for galvanized steel 0.15 mm, the roughness ratio can be calculated:
Roughness Ratio = / dh
= (0.15 mm) / (315 mm)
= 4.76 10-4
Using the graphical representation of the Colebrooks equation - the Moody Diagram - the friction coefficient - - can be determined to:
= 0.017
The major loss for the 10 m duct can be calculated with the Darcy-Weisbach Equation (3) or (6):
ploss = ( l / dh ) ( v2 / 2 )
= 0.017 ((10 m) / (0.315 m)) ( (1.23 kg/m 3) (15 m/s)2 / 2 )
= 74 Pa (N/m 2)
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