Can Excel Handle Piping Pressure Drop Calcs? 

If you’ve ever found yourself grappling with the task of calculating pressure drops in piping systems, you’re in the right place. In this post, I’ll show you how to design a piping pressure drop calculator using Excel.

This tool will not only enhance your productivity but also improve the accuracy of your projects. Whether you’re dealing with pipe dimensions, fluid properties, or fittings, this guide will offer you a structured and efficient approach to manage these variables.

Setting Up Your Spreadsheet

Input Parameters

The first step in creating a piping pressure drop calculator in Excel involves setting up input parameters. These parameters typically include the internal diameter of the pipe, its length, roughness specifications, and details about the fluid and its flow rate. Additionally, you’ll need to account for fittings within the pipe system, as they significantly impact pressure drop.

To manage these inputs effectively, you can create a table in Excel, allowing you to enter dimensions, select units, and specify fluid flow rates. This setup provides a structured way to input the necessary data for calculations.

For fluid and flow rate, consider using Data Validation in Excel to create dropdown menus for fluid selection and unit conversion. Data Validation improves user experience by simplifying data entry and ensuring consistency.

Handling Units Conversion

Engineers often work with various unit systems, making unit conversion a critical aspect of any calculation tool. Excel’s CONVERT function comes in handy for this purpose. By using this function, you can seamlessly convert input units to a standard unit system (e.g., from inches to meters or gallons per minute to cubic meters per second) for consistent calculations.

For example, to convert diameter from inches to meters, you would use the formula below:

=CONVERT(D8, “in”, “m”)

This formula takes the value in cell D8 (diameter in inches) and converts it to meters.

Performing Calculations

Calculating Reynolds Number and Flow Type

The Reynolds number is a dimensionless quantity that helps classify the flow regime as laminar, transitional, or turbulent. It’s a necessary parameter for calculating the friction factor for the pipe. You can calculate the Reynolds number in Excel using the formula below:

= (Velocity * Diameter) / Kinematic_Viscosity

Based on the Reynolds number, you can use Excel’s IFS function to determine the flow type. This step is crucial as it influences the choice of formulas for subsequent calculations.

Fittings and Equivalent Length

Fittings in a piping system contribute to pressure drop, and it’s standard practice to express their impact as equivalent lengths of straight pipe. Excel can handle this by using the SUMPRODUCT function combined with specific length to diameter ratios from a lookup table. This approach aggregates the effects of various fittings in order to simplify the overall calculation.

For example, the formula to calculate the total equivalent length of fittings might look like this:

=SUMPRODUCT(Fitting_Quantities, Equivalent_Length_Ratios) * Diameter

This formula multiplies each fitting’s quantity by its equivalent length ratio, sums up these values, and then multiplies by the pipe’s diameter.

Calculating Pressure Drop

The core of the pressure drop calculator is the Darcy-Weisbach equation, which estimates the frictional pressure drop along the pipe. However, determining the friction factor—a key variable in this equation—can be complex due to its dependency on the flow regime and pipe roughness.

For turbulent flow regimes, where Colebrook’s equation is applicable, Excel alone is insufficient due to the equation’s implicit nature. Here, you will need to implement a solution using VBA to employ a root-finding method like the bisection method to solve for the friction factor iteratively.

While the VBA approach falls outside the scope of this post, it’s an example of extending Excel’s capabilities through programming to address more complex engineering challenges. Full details are provided inside EngineerExcel Academy.

Visualizing Results and Customizing Outputs

After setting up the calculations, it’s equally important to display the results in an easily understandable format. Excel offers various tools for visualizing data, including conditional formatting and charts. For instance, you could use conditional formatting to highlight different flow regimes in distinct colors based on the Reynolds number.

Moreover, allowing users to select output units offers additional flexibility. Here again, you can use the CONVERT function to convert results from the standard unit system back to the user’s preferred units.

Advanced Features and Automation

To further enhance the utility of your piping pressure drop calculator, consider incorporating advanced Excel features. For example, dynamic tables and dropdown menus can improve user interaction, while macros can automate repetitive tasks, saving time and reducing errors.

Additionally, integrating Excel’s Solver add-in could enable the optimization of certain parameters, such as minimizing pressure drop by adjusting pipe diameter or length. This level of sophistication transforms your calculator into a powerful tool for engineering design and analysis.

Elevate Your Engineering Skills

This blog post provides an overview of a new engineering spreadsheet and video workshop available inside EngineerExcel Academy, designed to make your pressure drop calculations more efficient and accurate.

As a member of the EngineerExcel Academy, you have free access to this tool, along with many others. To learn more and join our community of skilled engineers, visit Take this opportunity to enhance your Excel skills and bring precision to your engineering projects.

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By Charlie Young, P.E.

Take your engineering to the next level with advanced Excel skills.