That doesn’t make sense. Mostly because pressure gauges are meant to measure pressure, not to act as a canary in a coal mine – only noticed when it’s dead.
Oh, and it’s not an early warning sign either.
This just shows you how terribly misunderstood pressure gauges are. Sure, we understand what 50 PSI is, but do your instrumentation techs and pump operators know how to use that information to increase efficiency and avoid downtime?
The problem is compounded by the continued use of analog, or dial, pressure gauges. In addition to being misunderstood, they also break easily and require constant human monitoring.
First, Understand How To Use Your Gauges
Pressure gauges are critical monitoring tools that can help you run your processes efficiently and with very little downtime. And they’re cheap. The most expensive pressure gauges are still only hundreds of dollars, not thousands.
But you have to know how to use one. In fact, I should say you have to know how to use two.
That’s right! Pressure gauges usually work in pairs. Most equipment that needs a gauge to report pressure really needs a pair of gauges to report differential pressure.
The energy lost or added through such equipment as pumps, compressors, valves, filters, strainers and even a length of pipe is a function of the differential pressure across the equipment. This is how you calculate efficiency and avoid downtime.
If you want to monitor the health and efficiency of a pump, you need two pressure gauges, one on the suction nozzle and one on the discharge nozzle. You need to keep the incoming pressure high enough, and make sure there is neither too much pressure nor too little on the discharge side. The differential pressure between the two will tell you how efficient your pump is performing, and will offer valuable clues as to what is causing problems.
The differential pressure will tell you if your filter is clogged, if you have an appropriate valve installed and how it’s performing.
If you’re handling fluids (liquids and gasses) then pressure gauges are globally applicable and incredibly useful.
Second, Use Gauges That Don’t Break
One of the biggest complaints you’ll ever hear about pressure gauges is that they break often and are constantly in need of calibration.
In the real world, many instrumentation technicians keep a handful of analog pressure gauges in their toolbox that they know are working properly. They only pull these gauges out when they suspect trouble, or during commissioning of new equipment.
They don’t leave gauges on equipment because they know that invariably they’ll fall out of spec and eventually break. The problem becomes too large to manage.
Investing in some high quality digital pressure gauges solves this problem. Digital pressure gauges are far better pieces of equipment than dial gauges, for a number of reasons:
- No Bourdon Tube to foul up
- More accurate
- Can be read accurately and easily (even on vibrating equipment)
- No moving parts to break
- Finally, and most importantly, they can have outputs (more on this later!)
If you can’t trust your gauges to do the job, 24/7/365, then why buy them? You’ll simply end up ignoring the broken gauges, or pulling them off the equipment entirely. You cannot keep your fluid handling system efficient and healthy if you ignore and remove your pressure gauges.
A high quality digital pressure gauge will be built to withstand vibration, pressure spikes, corrosion, and clogging. They’ll also have tight accuracy and drift specs to avoid constant recalibration.
Buy gauges that you can leave on the equipment at all times. If you want to avoid “unexplained” downtime and unscheduled repairs, you need to use your gauges properly and use them constantly.
By now, you may be wondering how you’re operators and technicians will ever have the time to monitor all this equipment so closely. The answer is simple, use outputs and automate.
Not all digital pressure gauges have outputs (4-20mA, RS-485, etc). We have built outputs and trip points into all of our gauges, but it’s not a universal feature for most digital gauge manufacturers. So make sure you double check when purchasing.
However, once you have gauges with outputs, you can automate alarms, valves, drives, and switches to control how your fluid handling equipment responds to a problem.
For example, you could install a pump that produces a little too much flow than it should, and then put a control valve on the discharge. Under normal operation, the control valve would remain about 40% closed to scale back the flow and hold the right differential pressure inside the pump. Your pump will operate perfectly well in these conditions, at maximum efficiency, and without component failure.
Then, as conditions change, the valve can open up or close even more, using the differential pressure reading as the guide. Keep the differential pressure right on the pump, and it will run for 10+ years without replacing a single bearing or seal.
The whole thing can be automated when your gauges have the right outputs and the control valve is capable.
When you accomplish so much without human intervention, you free up your valuable technicians and operators to look for the unexpected and to think critically about how to improve results. They stay safer and production increases. While they’ll still need to keep an eye on the gauges, most of the work is taken care of by using outputs.
You’ll find that your vibrations will calm down and your overheating problems disappear. Your maintenance department will finally catch up on their projects and will stay on budget for the first time ever.
You’ll also be free of leaks. The workplace will be safe again.
Food will taste better. You’ll run faster and jump higher. All of your wildest dreams will come true. (Okay, maybe not… It worked for Pedro.)
Learn how to use pressure gauges. Buy digital gauges that you can actually leave on equipment. And finally, take advantage of outputs and automate!
We can help you get there. Contact us if you have any questions.
Want a happy processing plant? Start by using the right pressure gauges! Learn why our digital pressure gauges are the key to getting it done: