The use of ultrasonic flow meters has grown significantly over the past several years. They have many benefits over the older technologies, including in many cases accuracy, cost of installation, ease of installation in tight areas, etc.
Flow meters have a great many applications in the water industry, building services and energy management, and process industries. They are used to monitor and measure the flow of liquids to ensure optimal use of the materials in the pipes and conduits. This may be monitoring the supply of water to a community, checking the flow of waste from a process, controlling the inflow andflow of liquids used in heating buildings, and any other need for measuring the flow of liquids.
Older technologies had to be installed by breaking into the pipes and the liquid to move through the metering equipment. This is still done with some installations. An issue with these installations is the substantial costs of downtime for the process and the direct costs of the installation itself. When there are multiple points where measurements must be taken, costs can grow considerably.
Ultrasonic flow meters can get around those costs simply because there are models available that can be clamped onto the outside of a pipe. There is little or no loss of accuracy, and since they are non-invasive, cost of installation is minimal. They can also be installed while the fluids are coursing through the pipes, so there is no loss due to downtime.
Another great advantage to the technology is the portability of some models. There are times when flow must be measures in emerging places, such as at the end of a pipe carrying waste to a far-off disposal area. Some measurement can be necessary at the top of a tower, where power is not readily available. A vital measurement point may simply be in a tight and awkward place. Portable ultrasonic flow meters can very often solve those problems. As they can be clamped onto the outside of a conduit without breaking into the flow, and being battery-powered and can be hand-held, they provide generous flexibility.
Where periodic measurements will not suffice (such as those requirements for on-going and consistent monitoring of a continuous process), permanent, fixed ultrasonic flow meters will be needed. These can also be clamped on for ease of installation and cost reduction. For some uses, though, there may be some long-term benefit to an inline model.
The technology has been used in a large-scale pollution control plant using coal-fired boilers. Commissioning time and direct installation costs were significantly lower than they would have been with older technologies. The same has been true of several water treatment plants for various applications.
It has also been used in food processing plants to monitor inflows of ingredients going into a process, and outflows of finished food and beverage products to monitor efficiencies. Waste flow is also measured, providing the process engineers valuable data used to create ever-greater efficiencies.
The use of ultrasonic flow measurement technologies also extends into the management of energy usage. Monitoring the flow of heating fluids and their temperatures at various points in the system allows for making changes at various times or dependent on outside conditions to optimize the use of energy. They have been utilized in many environments such as nuclear facilities, airport terminals (such as Heathrow Terminal 5), and sports stadiums. In fact, one stadium achieved a 50% reduction in heating, water, and water management costs.
The flexibility and multi-use characteristics of ultrasonic flow meters make them an important technology to be considered in any project in which the measurement of fluid flow is important. They allow for spot checks, constant measurement and recording, and importantly, management of immediate and on-going costs.