How to Choose the Ideal Pressure Gauge

Digital or mechanical? This is the first question, but many factors contribute to the purchase of the most suitable pressure gauge for your needs. Wika offers a quick tutorial to explain how to choose the ideal solution step by step

Selecting a pressure gauge is a lot like buying a car. The marketplace is filled with manufacturers, each offering various makes and models with different features. When deciding on a vehicle, buyers look at factors such as the seats and storage space needed, primary driving conditions, transmission type and fuel. Cost, of course, is another important consideration. When choosing a pressure gauge, buyers go through a similar process but with different priorities. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to select a pressure gauge.

The CPG1500 digital pressure gauge by Wika.
The CPG1500 digital pressure gauge by Wika.

Digital or mechanical pressure gauge?

In the world of pressure measurement, the equivalent of a supercar is a digital gauge. With an accuracy of up to ±0.025% of span, this instrument is so precise and high-performance that it can be used for calibration. Top-of-the-line digital gauges like the CPG1500 also communicate wirelessly, a necessity for remote monitoring and industrial IoT. Understandably, digital gauges are expensive. Most industrial processes do not require that level of accuracy or number of features. A mechanical, or analog, pressure gauge is sufficient. Now let’s see the steps for selecting a mechanical gauge.

Choosing the right size

Mechanical pressure gauges come in a variety of nominal sizes, and the one you choose depends on your requirements for readability, space, and precision. The larger the dial face, the more gradations it will have for more exact readings, and the easier it can be seen from a distance – an important consideration if technicians cannot get close to the gauge. However, some applications don’t have room for a large pressure gauge. Wika gauges range from 1.5” to 10”. Another factor to keep in mind is that the size of the end connection will determine what sizes of gauge are available. Regardless of the gauge size, low-light situations make it difficult to read a dial. At Wika, many of gauge dial faces come with the option of InSight™, a retro-reflective material, or InSight Glow™, which is the first option with the addition of photo luminescence for visibility during power outages.

Ambient and media temperature

Both the ambient temperature and media temperature will determine the material of the wetted parts, and whether it will have a dry case or be liquid-filled. The lower the ambient temperature, the more likely it is that a liquid-filled gauge is the right choice. Gauges in extremely cold environments, like the oil fields around the Arctic Circle, are filled with a special low-temperature silicone oil to prevent the internal parts from icing. If the media temperature will reach 140°F or higher, use a stainless steel gauge. This is because brass gauges are soldered, and solder begins to break down at that temperature.

Bourdon spring pressure gauge in stainless steel, for applications with pressures up to 6,000 bar, robust version.
Bourdon spring pressure gauge in stainless steel, for applications with pressures up to 6,000 bar, robust version.

In what sector will the gauge be used?

For reliability and long service life in high-vibration applications, use a liquid-filled gauge to dampen movement and protect the instrument’s internal mechanism. Note that in high-pressure cycles (pulsation), liquid fill should be used in conjunction with a restrictor or a snubber. Some common questions have to do with these accessories. What’s the difference between a restrictor and snubber? Besides dimensional restraints, when would a snubber be the better choice? Restrictors are a less expensive option for gauges in applications with dynamic pulsation. However, they are limited based on the orifice size, and they are prone to clogging in debris-filled media such as wastewater. Snubbers mitigate dynamic pulsations and pressure spikes much like restrictors, but they come in a wider range of sizes and are not as prone to clogging.
Snubbers are also more adjustable in the field with the use of interchangeable pistons or external adjustment screws, and this flexibility reduces downtime.

The importance of media

The media that the pressure gauge, especially its wetted parts, comes in contact with will determine the gauge material. In other words, what’s in the pipeline? A brass (copper alloy) gauge is suitable for water, air, or other non-aggressive liquids or gases. But sour gas (hydrogen sulfide), ammonia, creosote, and other harsh chemicals require corrosion-resistant materials such as stainless steel or a nickel-copper alloy like Monel®. For media that can clog gauge mechanisms, opt for the addition of a diaphragm seal, which provides a physical barrier between the fluid and the pressure instrument. The media also affects the type of case filling used. Glycerin is the standard fill fluid for non-oxidizing environments, while highly reactive media call for an inert oil like Halocarbon or Fluorolube®.

910.12.300 snubber with adjustment screw.
910.12.300 snubber with adjustment screw.

Pressure type and scale

This question encompasses several aspects. First, what type of pressure do you need to measure – gauge pressure (working pressure), absolute pressure, or differential pressure? Second, what is the operating range of the application? In general, select a gauge whose range is 2X the optimal operating pressure, as this ensures the best performance. Standard pressure gauges can handle up to 20,000 psi, with specialty products like the PG23HP-P going as high as 87,000 psi. For low pressure measurements, use a capsule gauge to detect small pressure differences in units such as millibar (mbar), inches of water column (inH2O), or ounces per square inch (oz/in2). Finally, what is the desired pressure scale? Gauges come in a variety of measurement units – e.g., psi, bar, kPa, inH2O. All Wika gauges can be customized, such as dual scale, triple scale, or custom scales, based on application needs.

Process connections

What “ends”, or process connections, do you need? The most common type in the U.S. and Canada is NPT, while other countries tend to use G (metric) connections. Then for each type there’s the question of connection size, such as ⅛, ¼, and ½. And finally, the location of the process connection; the two most common connection locations to choose from are lower (bottom) mount or back (rear) mount.