The Flow Meter Method: $109,037 Energy Saved (in 1 Year)
Today I’m going to show you how Chris used the Flow Flow Meter Method to cut his energy bill by over $109,037.
In only one year.
But to prove that I’m not making this stuff up:
And in today’s post, you’ll learn:
The exact step-by-step process that Chris and his team used to save his business over 3,000 gallons of fuel every month month, define what flow measurement and flow meters are, how it all works, and much more.
Free Bonus: Get access to a free PDF version of this guide + a bonus checklist of all equations mentioned in this guide.
make TOC menu similar to: http://backlinko.com/ecommerce-seo#chapter-3-on-page-seo
Chapter 1: Case Study, Part 1 Chapter 2: Defining Flow Measurement Overview & Results Achieved & Why It Matters
Chaper 3: How Flow Measurement Works – Chapter 4: How Flow Measurement Works – Part 1 Part 2
Chapter 5: Flow Meter Types Chapter 6: Case Study, Part 2 & Engineering Principles How to Solve the Problem (Step by Step)
The Flow Meter Method: How Chris saved his business 6 FIGURES on its annual energy bill
A few years ago, Chris had a problem.
Chris manages a country club in upstate New York and his guests kept getting frustrated about the room temperature – they were making comments like:
“The air conditioning is not cool enough in the summer.”
“Would you mind turning the heat up? It’s really snowing hard outside and it’s cold!”
His system was not working at the specifications that it should have been (which I’ll get into later), and that was causing problems for customer satisfaction AND his bottom line.
For example, if he wanted to raise the room temperature from 62 °F to 68 °F, he’d have to crank his thermostat up to around 72 °F in order to actually make his room 68 °F.
(Spending an extra 4 °F’s worth of energy in the process).
He knew there was something wrong with his HVAC system, but he didn’t know what, where or why.
If he didn’t do something to fix the problem, his club would would keep wasting energy EVERY DAY.
Maybe there was a leak in the pipes…
…or a pump was malfunctioning…
…Or a valve was not tightened enough.
Who knew – but the only way to find out was to analyse his system.
Luckily, Chris did exactly that and hired an HVAC repair company (also known as balancing company) to root out the issue from the source.
Here’s what happened next:
X% increased energy efficiency (insert custom graph)…
Over 35,000 gallons of less fuel used/year.
Over $109,000 in energy savings according to New York State fuel data.
I’ll get into detailed step-by-step instructions of how you can do the same, later in this post.
But first, it’s important that you understand a little bit about the technology we’re talking about here to add some important context.
What is flow measurement and why does it matter?
Very simply: The purpose of flow measurement is to monitor the transportation of fluid, so you can make sure that fluid moves the way it should. This fluid can be fuel used to power an engine, water used to heat and cool your house, and more.
If your fluid is not moving properly, you can waste a lot of energy. You can use a flow meter to identify the problem, then take the necessary action to fix it.
So flow measurement is not in the business of fixing the problem, it’s in the business of analyzing the problem so you can understand WHY it’s occurring, and then fix the WHY.
A flow meter is simply the TOOL that does the flow measurement/analysis/measurement for you.
Businesses waste billions and billions of dollars every year on wasted energy, which drives up the prices of goods and services in the economy.
And you’d be AMAZED how ingrained fluid is in your day-to-day energy consumption, and how many places in every day life require precise fluid transportation.
– When you turn on the shower, you need to heat the water AND transport that water to your shower head. That’s two separate applications that require flow meters.
– When you fill up your car at the gas station, how much gas you plug into your car is measured.
– When you turn on your car, your engine sucks in a precise amount of fuel.
– Water treatment plants need to precisely measure liquid to sufficiently clean up your…business.
– Underground pipelines need to use an oil flow meter to make sure the oil is all accounted for.
– Even the production of beer requires measurement!
It’s actually kind of crazy to think of the chaos that would ensue if we didn’t have some way to systematically move liquid, monitor and distribution systems when errors occur (as they always do).
How does flow measurement work?
Free Bonus: Get access to an advanced equation checklist, with all the equations behind flow measurement with advanced explanations.
Part 1 – The Chemistry/Physics Behind Fluid
A fluid is defined as something that takes the shape of its container.
So it can be either liquid or gas, but not a solid.
The difference between gas and liquid, however, is that liquid is incompressible.
Because liquid is incompressible, you’d measure it completely different than you would a gas.
And because liquid is is incompressible, it makes measuring & predicting it MUCH easier.
If you filled up a balloon with gas and applied pressure on all sides, it would shrink, because it is compressible.
If you filled up a balloon with water and applied pressure on all sides, it would NOT shrink, no matter how much pressure you applied to it.
Liquid can change shape but its volume remains constant.
Because it’s incompressible, when you move a certain volume of liquid from one place to another, that volume remains constant no matter how much force you exert on it or how far you send it.
To gain a basic understanding of how this stuff all fits together, we’re going to assume we’re dealing with laminar flow, where there is no friction or viscosity. The opposite of which is turbulent flow.
Water = laminar flow.
Peanut butter = turbulent flow.
Obviously peanut butter is going to move down a pipe a little differently than water would 🙂
Part 2 – The Conservation of Energy
The Conservation of Energy, while it’s doesn’t sound very applicable to liquids, is at the cornerstone of fluid dynamics.
The Conservation of Energy states that the amount of energy you put in is equal to the amount of energy you put out. It also means that what you put in equals what you put out, and matter can’t be created or destroyed – only changed.
So when you send water down a pipe, that water isn’t just going to “poof” and disappear out of no where.
Knowing you get in what you get out will be a major principle behind caluclating the movement of fluids.
Another thing to take into account is that whenever dealing with these type of equations – those that are two-sided and equal each out – is that variables will always cancel out, leaving you with a set of interchangeable factors with an indirect relationship.
For example, if I take the equation:
(A1 = B1 x C1) = (A2 = B2 x C2)…
A1 and A2 are the input and output, so they cancel out.
And B and C are the interchangable variables with an indirect relationship.
If B increases, C must decrease. And vice versa.
Part 3 – The Work Equation
Work equals force multiplied by distance.
As BBC defines it, work is done whenever a force moves something.
Therefore, if liquid moves, that means work is being done.
It’s also true that Work in is equal to Work out via the Conservation of Energy.
Which means, the force x the distance you put into the system is the same as the force x the distance you put out of the system.
Now, let’s put it all together with an example:
Let’s say you apply the following to the left side of this pipe:
– A force of 30 Newtons
– A distance of 4 meters
The Work in is 120 Joules, which means the Work out is also 120 joules.
Right now because we have a lack of information, we’re not sure what the force and distance on the other end is.
But regardless of what each are, we know that when they are multipled they MUST equal 120 because of the Conservation of Energy.
But here are a couple questions:
1) How much water entered the pipe & how much water exited the pipe?
2) What distance did the water travel on the other end of the pipe, even if the other end of the pipe is larger?
Part 4 – The Volume Displaced Equation
Volume Displaced is the distance multipled by the area.
And since we’re dealing with two ends of a pipe, that means (you guessed it) the Conservation of Energy is at work:
Which simplifies to:
So to answer the first question – how much water entered and exited the pipe – is the same.
The second question: What distance did the water travel on the other end of the pipe, even if the other end of the pipe is larger?…
…requires a little more explanation.
Let’s say you have a pipe (oddly shaped I might add), and the right side is 3 times larger than the left.
The entrance to the pipe is “Area 1” and the exit to the pipe is “Area 2”.
The water within the pipe has an initial distance, which we’ll call “Distance 1”, and an end distance, which we’ll call distance 2.
How can we figure out distance 1 and 2?
We plug it into the formula below:
and we end up with:
From there, you just need to make both sides equal since input must equal output.
Distance in (Di) must be 3 times greater than Distance out (Do).
Here’s the next question: What was the pressure that went in and what was the pressure that went out?
Part 5 – The Pressure Equation
Pressure is equal to Force divided by Area.
What the conservation of energy states in the context of fluid dynamics, is that no matter how big the area is on one side, or how fast the water is traveling, the volume of liquid that goes in is equal to the amount of liquid that goes out.
Basically – your liquid doesn’t poof out of no where and appear/disapper.
Next, let’s look at what equations in particular are affected by the
So the hole on the left side we’ll call Area Input, and the hole on the right side we’ll call Area Output.
You’ve also got a Velocity In going into the pipe, and a Velocity Out going out of the pipe.
Next, you’ve got an initial distance traveled and an end distance traveled.
Finally: you have a Time in and you have a Time out – which is how long it takes the water to move a certain distance at the beginning of the pipe, and how long it takes the water to move a certain distance at the end of the pipe.
Since the pipe is bigger at one end, one of those other factors have to get smaller.
These are the principles behind understanding which factors to choose from:
First, understand that because of the Law of Conservation, Input equals Output:
This idea is super important, because it really sets the foundation for all the other equations.
Second, understand that Volume = Area x Velocity x Time.
And since we talked about how Input = Output, you get the following equation:
(Volume In = Area in x Velocity in x Time) = (Volume Out = Area Out x Velocity Out x Time):
Third, since Input equals Output and Time is a variable in both sides of the equation, Time cancels out on both sides of the equation.
In other words, Time is a constant.
As a result, Area and Velocity are the only two interchangeable variables left.
This is the essence of the Continuity Equation.
To re-iterate, variables have an indirect relationship:
- 1) If you increase area, velocity must decrease.
- 2) If you decrease area, velocity must increase.
- 3) If you increase velocity, area must decrease.
- 4) If you decrease velocity, area must increase.
Are you still with me?
Fourth, now that you understand what constitutes volume, you can understand change in volume, also known as flow rate.
Lastly – it’s important to understand that liquid is incompressible.
Or as Khan Academy puts it:
“Because liquids are incompressible, any portion of liquid flowing through a pipe could change shape, but it must maintain the same volume.
Liquids must maintain their volume as they flow in a pipe since they are nearly incompressible. This means that the volume of liquid that flows into a pipe in a given amount of time must equal the volume of liquid that flows out of a pipe in the same amount of time.”
So the amount of liquid transported per unit of time, also known as volumetric flow rate (Q) is the same in all pipes ; every part of your distribution system should have equal flow rate.
What does this all mean?
If there’s an area of your distribution system where the flow rate is not even with another area of your distribution system, that means you’ve got a problem.
So to put it all together, here’s what we’ve got:
Part 2 – How to Modify Flow (Left off here)
So now that you understand that fluid movement is dependent on Area and Velocity, you know the variables you’d need to change if you wanted to influence a fluid’s movement.
But you may be asking yourself:
“How do I alter THOSE factors?” (area and velocity).
Remember – these are interchangeable so you don’t have to change both, only one.
When it comes to area, you can always change the pipes but that’s just extremely inefficient.
Velocity, on the other hand, you can influence relatively easily thanks to Bernouli’s Equation, which states the following:
Now, you may be asking yourself: “I understand what drives fluid (velocity and area), but how do I influence THOSE variables?”
And I’ll answer that in a minute.
(Hint: It has to do with pressure).
But you may also be asking yourself: “Why the heck would would I need to change the speed of fluid? What’s the point?”
Well, here’s what happened to Chris:
Chris’ HVAC system was powered by a
Left off here
We’re going to start with the Law of Continuity and break it into 4 parts:
[VOLUME IN = input hole size x input velocity x time]
[VOLUME OUT = input hole size x input velocity x time]
First, understand that Volume in always equals Volume out.
OR input = output.
insert custom equation
So if you sent 5 quarts of water down a drain, 5 quarts of water come out ; no more or no less.
In other words, things don’t just poof and disappear out of no where.
Second, understand that Input/Output = area of entry way x velocity of fluid x time duration.
insert custom equation image
So to give an example, the volume of water you send into or out of a pipe depends on how big the hole is, how fast the water is moving, and how many seconds you’ve been sending down the pipe.
What does this mean?
Well since volume in and volume are constant, it means that area of entry way, velocity and time are all variable and can be substitutes for one another.
And since pipes are for the most part always cylindrical, it’s pretty simple to calculate their area since this is the universal formula used to measure the area of a circle:
A= π r^2
- If you make the pipe bigger at the end (increase), then either the velocity or the time duration must become smaller (decrease).
Third, understand that time cancels out. Meaning that you’re only left with velocity and area (also known as cross sectional area) as the only interchangeable variables left.
insert custom equation image
I’ll get into why this is in a minute.
But in in other words, you’re only left with the velocity and the area of the hole to change…If one increases the other MUST decrease, and vice versa.
If you increase pipe size, velocity decreases ; if you decrease pipe size, velocity increases.
So that’s pretty cool – you can speed things up or slow them down depending on the pipe size.
And that impacts flow rate, which is the volume of fluid moved per unit of time.
Flow. Flow rate. Flow measurement. Flow meter.
Is it starting to make sense how this all fits together?
Next up, we’ve got the Law of Continuity – which says that liquid can change shape, but it’s also incompressible.
And because it’s incompressible, liquids maintain its volume.
And since liquid maintains its volume, as Khan Academy puts it:
the volume of liquid that flows into a pipe in a given amount of time must equal the volume of liquid that flows out of a pipe in the same amount of time.
Now we have Bernouli’s equation, which adds an interesting addition to the Conservation of Energy we went over earlier.
Rather than using “Input = Output”, we’re going to use “Work Input = Work output”.
Here’s the equation for work:
Work = Force x Distance
This means that:
Force Input x Distance Input = Force Output x Distance Output
And again, we’re left with the fact that force and distance can be substitutes for one another as long as Work remains the same.
Left off here.
As I talked about earlier, a flow meter can help you measure whether or not a fluid is moving or not moving as well as it should be.
And once you know what to look for in your measurements, it tells you exactly where you’re having issues. From there, figuring out how to fix energy inefficiency problems is pretty simple.
But what do you look for?
Well, there’s a lot of other factors – like vibration – that I’d leave to the engineers to figure out…But in general, it mainly boils down to two factors according to Bernouli’s principle:
- 1) Pressure
And they have an inverse relationship, meaning that if one goes up then the other goes down. And vice versa.
And this is important to understand because if there is a
Well, each branch of his distribution system had to be equal – because water will follow the path of least resistance…
…fluid will always move to wherever the pressure is weakest.
So if one branch has more pressure than another, your whole system will be out of whack.
Unbalanced pressure =
Are you still with me?
Think about it like this:
Have you ever rolled down the window in your car and suddenly everything goes out the window?
Well, that’s Bernoulii’s Principle.
When you open the window, you create a vacuum ; The window pulls air at a greater speed, and pressure is reduced.
Same thing when you have a leak in the pipes:
When all that water is contained in pipes and all of the sudden there’s a hole in the pipe, water wants to flow out of the leak because there’s less pressure.
And that’s why having even pressure is so important – because without properly balanced pressure and speed, there cannot be optimal efficiency.
Is this starting to make sense?
When NAME understood this concept, he knew he was dealing with an issue of unbalanced pressure.
The bottom line: NAME had to figure out where that pressure mismatch was occurring, so that he could figure out why it was occurring, and then learn how to solve it.
And as you’ll find out, that’s what flow meter does: IDENTIFY the problem so you can find out WHERE it’s occurring.
(Which will give you the information you need to analyse and solve the problem).
What is a Flow Meter?
Very simply: A flow meter is a tool used for flow measurement, which is the analysis/measurement of bulk fluid movement.
Flow measurement can mean a lot of different things, but often times it measures flow rate, or the:
Transportation of liquid per unit of time.
The only difference with a hydraulic flow meter is that it is limited to liquid measurement. Not air, not solid… ONLY liquid.
(Fluid can mean either gas or liquid. Hydraulic means liquid only).
Some every day examples of where hydraulic flow meters are used:
– Your apartment building & utility company wants to measure how much hot water you use in the shower to determine how much to bill you.
– At the gas pump, the gas station uses a hydraulic flow meter to measure how much gas goes into your car.
– When you water your lawn with a hose, the city records how much water you use with a flow meter.
Are you still with me?
There are TONS of ways you can measure liquid, which means there are different types of hydraulic flow meters that work best for each application.
In other words, hydraulic flow meter is kind of a broad term and can encompass many things.
These visualizations from Universal Flow Monitors do an AMAZING job explaining each application and which technology is best for each:
Insert custom coded chart (Matt Kroll from IQS will do this in house)
But these are of less importance if you’re just starting to learn about flow measurement.
For now, just know that flow meters help you measure bulk fluid movement.
How do Fuel Flow Meters Work?
Again, there are different types of fuel flow meters that work and measure differently, but here’s the general idea:
Typically all fuel flow meters consist of a:
– A primary device
– A transducer
– A transmitter
A primary device is the medium through which a fluid moves through. Usually some sort of pipe.
A transducer interprets what’s happening within that medium.
A transmitter takes that interpretation and converts it into a quantifiable electrical signal that people can read and make assesments upon.
Think of it like this:
A transducer takes sign language and converts it into Spanish. Then a transmitter takes that Spanish and converts it into English. The classroom where all this translation is taking place is the primary device.
(Forgive me if that sounds weird – I’m working on my analogies 🙂 )
If you want to broaden your understanding beyond this analogy, you can always learn more about electrical engineering. You can find some inexpensive, fundamental knowledge by going to websites like Coursea, Lynda or Academia.edu. I prefer courses because they save time and the content is usually better, but you can always go to places like Youtube or even blog posts free… only problem is you have to be a little more intuitive that way since there is not as much structure and less systematic.
That aside, if you’re not going to install a flow meter yourself, you don’t need to have a huge breadth of knowledge anyways…There are plenty of engineers that can do it very well for you.
Now it’s time to show you step-by-step how NAME’s balancing engineers turned his country club into an efficiency powerhouse using this formula:
Step 0) Understand Your Application In Order to Choose the Right Technology
In order to know what flow meter technology to select, you first have to understand your application and its requirements ; you can’t provide a solution to a problem until you understand the problem.
Every fluid behaves differently when moving through a pipeline, because each has different physical traits.
Therefore, you want to understand the characteristics of the fluid you will be measuring well, before you pick a flow meter.
The main thing you want to consider is viscosity, or the thickness of the fluid and the amount of friction it causes.
Honey will have higher viscosity than water, and therefore honey would move through a pipe much slower than water would.
Just like gas would move much faster through a pipe than water would.
Viscosity –> How much the fluid will resit flow –> Determines the speed of fluid movement
First, determine fluid and flow characteristics:
Here are the main factors to consider:
Step) Select the Correct Flow Meter
Here’s something to understand:
There’s ALL KINDS of flow meters, and some work differently than others.
Many are inserted into the flowstream to measure flow, such as Turbines or Orifice.
Others simply clamp onto the existing pipe making the installation simple when flow measurement is required in locations not previously monitored.
Which is the best?
Well, it depends.
But when possible, I think it’s best to take the more simplified approach.
And assuming you want simplicity too – clamp-on flow meters are the easier way to go.
– You don’t have to cut the line, interrupt service, or drain the pipe.
– They also do not require the installation of bypass piping and valves for removal. Instead, it’s installed externally.
– Maintenance expense is minimized since they do not have moving parts; and, used outside the pipe, they do not require periodic cleaning.
– It was quick to install
– It was less expensive to install
– It was easy to install
– Less expensive to maintain
And that’s exactly what NAME did.
Step) Establish a Baseline so you can Identify Inefficiencies.
As I mentioned earlier in the post, a flow meter measures.
In other words, it doesn’t automatically just FIX the problem…
…but it gives you the information and feedback you need to identify whether there is a problem and where the problem is occuring.
With that in hand, you can inspect the area(s) where there seems to be inefficiencies occurring, and fix them.
But if you don’t have any data on how your system is supposed to work, it’s going to be hard to figure out where numbers aren’t adding up.
But here’s the deal:
Even if you didn’t have a flow meter set up from the very beginning, like NAME, you’re not completely out of luck.
Luckily, every distribution system should have specs – or technical standards the system should run at.
Without those specs, there’s no way to determine whether your system is running at full efficiency.
But even if you find yourself in the position of not having those specs, you can still use a flow meter to detect an imbalance of FLOW which can be an indicator of uneven pressure.
Sure, without comparitive data and/or specs you will be less informed about whether your system is optimized or not.
But with a flow meter alone, you will at least be able to identify where there is uneven pressure.
How to figure out a system’s specs? Instruction manual of some type?
How did name find his specs / historical data?
Step) Mount the flow meter so you can start solving the problem.
First, choose a location on the pipe that provides at least 10 diameters of straight pipe upstream, and 5 more downstream.
The more the better, though.
Step ) Compare Current Standards with Manufacturer’s Performance Standards (Specs) to Understand if Issues are Occurring and Where.
Step ) Inspect the Area and Fix the Problem (and save money)!
Usually, the issue falls under 3 (major) areas:
Left off here
Because the balancing company engineers found the issue lied within the ground water loops, they knew they needed some sort of flow measurement device to spot where the system inefficiencies were occurring.
They figured an externally installed, clamp-on ultrasonic flow meter was the best choice to spot the problem because it’s easy to install, which also reduces maintenance cost.