How to Reduce Friction Loss in Pipe Systems


When fluid flows through your industrial piping systems, productivity and efficiency are vital. Energy is pushing that fluid in the desired direction, but things may not always work as intended. A condition known as friction loss can impede that energy, place a strain on your system, and even lead to costly damage. 

What Is Friction Loss?

Friction loss in fluid flow refers to the energy a pipe system loses because the fluids flowing through the pipes are encountering resistance. Fluids traveling through a pipe are propelled by energy. When there is any resistance to the flow rate, energy will escape, and fluid can be diverted. This results in friction loss in the piping system

How Friction Loss Impacts Your Piping System

Friction loss is something your organization should try to avoid because it can cost you efficiency, time, and money. Here are just a few of the ways this condition can impact your piping system

1. Energy Loss

By definition, friction loss happens because you are experiencing energy loss in the pipes. Your piping system has to fight more resistance to push fluids in the right direction, burning even more energy. The more energy you use, the more it costs your business. 

2. Worn Fittings and Pipes

When fluids have to work their way around various barriers, they bounce off the walls of your pipes more. This action can wear and damage your fittings and pipes. Without a steady flow of fluid through your pipes, you’re likely stressing the systems and causing unnecessary wear. 

3. Unintended Pipe Movement

When fluid sloshes against the sides of your pipes, it can cause those pipes to move in unintended ways. This action can cause corrosion, wear, and even a rupture of one of your pipes. 

4. Damaged Pumps

Too much friction loss will probably require that your pumps work harder to move fluid from Point A to Point B. This additional effort can overwork and damage your pumps. 

How to Calculate Friction Loss

The generally accepted formula for calculating friction loss in piping systems is the Darcy-Weisbach formula. While the calculation can be done by hand, it is generally accomplished with computers. Here is the formula and the different variables used:

hf = f (L/D) x (v^2/2g)


hf = head loss (ft)

f = friction factor

L = length of pipe work (ft)

d = diameter of pipe work (ft)

v = viscosity of fluid (ft/s)

g = acceleration due to gravity (ft/s2)

Common Causes of Friction Loss

Many different things can lead to friction loss. But some common occurrences tend to be most associated with reducing the flow of material through your industrial pipes. These include:

1. Viscosity

When you move a fluid through a pipe, the fluid’s viscosity can lead to friction loss. This refers to the thickness of the fluid. So a higher viscosity fluid is thicker and more likely to meet resistance than a thinner, lower-viscosity one. For example, oil is much more viscous than water and is more likely to meet resistance in a pipe. 

2. Changes in Pipe Slope

If the slope of the pipe changes, your fluid might end up working against gravity and losing energy as it fights its way against an increase in elevation. Sagging or uneven piping systems can easily pull energy away from where it is needed. 

3. Internal Pipe Diameter

There is generally more friction loss in pipes with a smaller internal diameter. This is because there is a lower chance of friction loss if there is less of a surface of the pipes to run over. 

4. Internal Pipe Roughness

Fluids will need to work harder to slide over and around rough surfaces. That’s why internal buildup and corrosion in your pipes can lead to friction loss and resistance. 

5. Fittings and Valves

Similar to internal pipe roughness, specific fittings and valves can lead to fluid resistance inside the pipe and friction loss. 

6. Pipe Length

Fluids will need to work harder the longer they have to travel. There is a higher potential for friction loss in longer pipe runs than in shorter ones. 

How to Reduce Friction Loss in Your Pipe Systems

Now that you have a thorough understanding of friction loss, how can you reduce it in your pipes and increase their efficiency? Here are several easy to boost your pipe flow by reducing friction loss:

Increase Pipe Diameter

When you widen the diameter of your pipes, you ensure that materials don’t have to work as hard to move through them. This allows you to reduce any resistance and get rid of friction loss. If you use bigger pipes, just make sure you use sufficient support mechanisms. 

Reduce Interior Pipe Roughness

When you smooth out the interior surfaces of your pipes, there is a more straightforward pathway for liquids to slide through. This involves keeping your pipes clean and free of corrosion and debris. Corroded pipes will get rough, so you should proactively maintain your pipes to prevent this from happening. 

Lessen Pipe Turns

You can create a more straightforward pathway for the liquid in your pipes to flow by straightening your pipes. There will be less friction loss when you remove sharp turns, fittings, and tees whenever possible. 

Optimizing Your Piping System for Industrial Use

If you want to enhance your piping system’s performance and reduce the friction loss in the system, you don’t have to approach this complex project on your own. C&B Equipment can help. 

We offer installation, troubleshooting, repair, and maintenance services for a comprehensive range of industrial systems. Our services can reduce the friction loss in your piping system so that you will have fewer damaged pipes and a more efficient system. 

C&B provides services throughout Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, and the Texas Panhandle. Our team of experts serves a wide variety of industries, including oil and gas, manufacturing, meatpacking, biodiesel, dairy production, and more. Contact us today to learn more about how our services can optimize your piping systems!

Comments for this post are closed.