10 Gauge Specifications to Get the Right Gauge in the Right Place

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Gauges are used in a wide variety of applications in refining and manufacturing plants to help ensure systems and processes are operating within safe parameters. Many industrial operations involve process media that are highly alkali or acidic and must be carefully managed to avoid risks to plant safety and the environment. In fact, gauge specifications are largely determined based on the process media to ensure pressure and temperature instrumentation can withstand the conditions and provide accurate measurements.

Using the wrong kind of gauge for an application can have very serious results.  First, the lifetime of the gauge is likely to be significantly reduced, leading to higher maintenance costs. Second, faulty gauges often provide inaccurate information, leading to process deviations and very expensive downtime. Third, broken gauges can lead to escape of process media, which can result in accidents potentially leading to injuries or loss of life.

Taking the time to carefully consider each of these 10 factors will ensure that you have the right gauge for your applications.

1 - Know what is in the pipe.

Find out what is being measured in a pipe or tank so you can select gauge materials that are compatible with the process media. All wetted parts of a gauge, as well as the Bourdon tube and socket, should be made of materials that will not corrode when they come in contact with the process media.

2 - Know the temperature of the media.

If the process media being measured is very hot, for example, it will be unsafe to use a standard pressure gauge. A long pipe, siphon or diaphragm seal assembly is required to cool the media before it reaches the gauge internals. 

3 - Know the ambient conditions surrounding the gauge

Ambient conditions should also be considered when determining gauge materials. If a gauge is going to be used in a corrosive environment, the gauge specification should indicate that the instrument, including the case and window, is designed to handle those conditions. 

4 - Know the pressure range in the piping to be measured.

The best practice is to use a gauge that is designed for at least double the normal operating pressure. If, for example, normal pressure is 150 psi, the gauge should be 300 psi or greater. 

5 - Know the conditions that affect gauge wear.

Conditions that impact gauge wear could include mechanical vibration, temperature, pulsation, and pressure spikes. For instance, if there is significant vibration, a gauge with a liquid-filled case is recommended. If there is pulsation, the best practice is to use a throttle plug or restrictor accessory. 

6 - Select gauges designed for a particular service.

Process gauges are designed with heavy-duty Bourdon tubes and other compatible components. If a gauge is used in an application other than what it is designed for, the internal parts of the gauge are more likely to break down in a shorter period of time. 

7 - Select rugged gauges with appropriate safety features.

In some cases, if there is a rupture of the Bourdon tube, media can be released. This is a safety hazard because it is possible that workers will be sprayed by escaping media if it is released from the front of the gauge. Check the gauge specifications to make sure that you are using a gauge where any media leakage would occur from the back of the gauge. 

8 - Choose a gauge that provides the required accuracy.

Industrial processes require exact conditions for optimal outcomes. In many manufacturing and refining operations, +/-0.5% accuracy is the norm, and +/-1% is acceptable, so make sure to choose a gauge that can provide the accuracy required. 

9 - Select a gauge with a readable dial.

Readability is a key issue in receiving accurate information that allows you to operate safely and efficiently, but dial size is a gauge specification that is often overlooked. Process gauge dials typically should be at least four inches in diameter so they can be read from three to six feet away. 

10 - Mount the gauge correctly.

Last but not least, mounting the gauge the way it is designed will ensure an accurate reading. Most gauges are mounted by the stem, but some gauges are designed to be in a panel or against a flat surface.

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