How Do I Get a Blower to Perform Properly for a Given Application?

Engineers selecting a blower for a given installation must have detailed knowledge (or at least estimates) of the application’s operating point as well as a plot of the system’s resistance curve; the prospective blower performance in response to speed changes; static and velocity pressure; and required blower life. Consider the first parameter. A blower-system operating point is defined as the intersection of the blower’s performance curve with the installation resistance curve — both plotted on pressure-CFM chart. Therefore, the operating point of a blower depends on two factors:

1) Required CFM flow rate

2) A pressure-change value called head loss or backpressure that’s associated with overall system resistance to flow — thanks to system ductwork, filters, and other obstructions that impose resistance.

graph showing the blower operating point
Manufacturers publish blower performance curves that define blower models’ maximum performance at full speed and constant input voltage. Such performance curves express a blower’s ability to deliver flow rate against backpressure all the way from open flow (with zero backpressure) to completely blocked flow —situations in which the treated environment is completely sealed.

Consider one special case — how some manufacturers of BLDC blowers only sell these with adjustable speed control. This ensures that any of one of these blowers can deliver output at any operating point beneath its published performance curve. With knowledge of the target operating point, blower selection is then as simple as browsing a catalog to identify blowers with performance curves that exceed the application’s target operating point.

Sounds simple, right? It is — though as mentioned before, OEMs must consider four other parameters besides operating point when integrating a blower into a system:

The system resistance curve

The system expresses pressure drop for a given flow rate — has (depending on the setup) a mostly linear to second-order relationship to flow rate. Recall that the blower delivers a pressure rise that offsets the pressure loss of system resistance. If target operating point for the blower is known, then the associated system curve is defined by pressure drop P = Q· C, where Q is flow rate and C is the system constant. This curve superimposed on a candidate blower’s performance curve indicates the operating point of that blower in that application at the intersection of the two curves. Tip: Quick check on whether a blower can satisfy an application by superimposing the curves. Typically, an array of blowers could make a design operate, but only a few will be able to do so efficiently.

Blower performance versus speed changes

Blowers respond to speed changes in predictable ways. Refer to the fan laws related to blower speed for how the two relate. Note that results from fan-law calculations do include (usually negligible) error related to how much motor efficiency varies at different operating points.

Static and velocity pressure

Fluid energy in the form of static pressure is force per unit area exerted by a fluid…independent of its motion. This pressure (if monitored) would be that measured by a pressure sensor ported normal to flow. Dividing this pressure by fluid density yields a pressure-head value — an energy term per unit mass. In contrast, velocity pressure is a fluid’s kinetic energy — the pressure value of what it would take to slow the stream to zero velocity and expressed P = 0.5 · V2 · ρ. Static plus velocity pressure is total pressure. One caveat related to blower installation: Though elevation changes contribute to the stream’s energy, they’re usually small enough to ignore — so blower-performance curves are often plotted as static pressure (or vacuum) rise versus flow rate. Another caveat: Velocity pressure isn’t a useful energy for overcoming flow resistance, because usually resistance results in static-pressure (not velocity-pressure) loss. Addition of diverging nozzles in theory convert velocity pressure to static pressure (as a way to boost blower flow against backpressure) but this isn’t common practice.
Graphic showing static versus velocity pressure

Blower life

Blower life depends on a wide array of design factors including operating point, exposure to contamination (especially at the bearing), temperature, exposure to mechanical shock, and blower-motor type. For the latter, options abound and include switched reluctance (SR), brushed ac and dc, universal and permanent-magnet (brushless) motors. Because brushless motors are electronically commutated and have no brushes, they usually deliver the longest life for blower applications — and it’s usually the bearings that ultimately limit brushless-blower life.

photo of the laws relating to speed and fluid density
At AMETEK Dynamic Fluid Solutions, we understand you’re looking for more than just an off-the-shelf part or one-time solution. You need a true technology partner who understands your engineering challenge that is focused on you, providing customized, collaborative solutions. We’ll also provide you with excellent customer service for a great total experience.
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