Strainer Loss Coefficients and Their Impact on Fluid System Performance

In fluid systems, strainers are commonly used to remove debris and contaminants from the fluid. However, the presence of a strainer can cause a pressure drop in the system, which can negatively impact its performance. To quantify this pressure drop, engineers use a parameter called loss coefficients, which are determined based on the geometry and flow conditions of the strainer.

Strainer Loss Coefficient Explained

A hydraulic strainer, also known as a hydraulic filter, is a device used to remove debris and particulates from fluids in piping systems.

hydraulic strainer

Hydraulic systems use pressurized fluid to transmit power and control the movement of machinery and equipment. Contaminants in the hydraulic fluid, such as dirt, debris, metal particles, and other impurities, can cause damage to the system components, reduce efficiency, and lead to costly repairs. The primary function of a hydraulic strainer is to trap and filter out these contaminants, preventing them from circulating through the hydraulic system.

It typically consists of a housing with a filtering element or screen inside. As hydraulic fluid flows through the strainer, the filtering element captures particles and contaminants, allowing clean fluid to pass through and continue its journey through the hydraulic system. It can be found at various points within the hydraulic system, depending on the specific application and system requirements.

There are different types of hydraulic strainers available. The choice of strainer type and size depends on the application’s specific needs and the level of filtration required. The diagram below shows a wye type strainer.

Wye Type Strainer

Just like any other piping component, strainers introduce losses into the piping system. These losses can be quantified using the loss coefficient.

The loss coefficient is a dimensionless parameter that takes into account the change in pressure across a component in a hydraulic or pneumatic system. It is essential in evaluating and optimizing the overall performance of a fluid transport system. The general equation for loss coefficient can be expressed as:

 loss coefficient equation


  • ΔP = pressure loss [Pa]
  • KL = loss coefficient [unitless]
  • ρ = fluid density [kg/m3]
  • V = fluid velocity through the component [m/s]

The loss coefficient of a strainer signifies its energy loss due to friction and turbulence when the fluid passes through it. It is important to consider the strainer loss coefficient when designing a piping system to ensure efficient fluid flow and maintaining the desired pressure levels. By understanding the strainer loss coefficient, you can make better choices when selecting and installing appropriate strainers for your fluid transport systems.

Factors Affecting Strainer Loss Coefficient and Pressure Drop

Several factors can affect the strainer loss coefficient, including the type, design, and size of strainer, mesh size, flow rate, and fluid viscosity.

Type and Design of Strainer

The type of strainer used, such as Y-strainers or basket strainers, can affect the loss coefficient. Different designs have different flow paths and resistance characteristics.

Additionally, the material of construction and the surface roughness of the strainer elements can influence the loss coefficient. Smoother materials and surfaces create less turbulence and reduce resistance.

Strainer Size

The physical size of the strainer, including the diameter and length of the strainer body, can impact the loss coefficient. Larger strainers tend to have lower loss coefficients because they offer less resistance to flow.

Mesh Size

Mesh size is also a significant factor in determining the strainer loss coefficient. Smaller mesh sizes offer finer filtration but result in higher pressure drop due to increased resistance to fluid flow and particle trapping. Make sure to choose a mesh size that provides adequate filtration without causing excessive pressure drop in your hydraulic system.

Flow Rate

Another crucial factor is the flow rate, as higher flow rates generate greater velocity and turbulence in the fluid, increasing friction and resistance to flow. Ensure that the strainer you select can handle your system’s maximum flow rate to avoid excessive pressure drop.

Fluid Viscosity

Viscosity, which is a measure of how thick or thin the fluid is, also affects the loss coefficient of a strainer. As the viscosity increases, the loss coefficient also increases due to the greater internal friction and cohesion of the fluid, which makes it more difficult for the fluid to flow through the small openings of the strainer.

Determining Strainer Loss Coefficient

There are several methods that can be employed to determine the loss coefficient of hydraulic strainers.

One of the most reliable methods is through experimental testing. This approach involves setting up a controlled test system where the strainer is integrated, and the pressure drop across the strainer is measured for various flow rates. By plotting pressure drop versus flow rate data and fitting it to the Darcy-Weisbach equation, engineers can accurately determine the loss coefficient.

strainer loss coefficient

Another method is through Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)— a powerful numerical simulation tool used to analyze fluid flow in complex systems. Engineers can create a digital model of the hydraulic strainer and the surrounding fluid system, input boundary conditions, and simulate fluid flow.

CFD software can then calculate the pressure drop across the strainer, allowing for the determination of the loss coefficient. This method is particularly useful when dealing with intricate or non-standard strainer designs.

However, there are also engineering organizations and strainer manufacturers that provide manuals and data sheets that include loss coefficient values for their products under specified operating conditions. Engineers can use these values as a starting point for system design.

Basket Strainer Loss Coefficient

To give an example, the graph below shows the estimated loss coefficient of basket strainers with respect to diameter. This data has a ±50% variation.

Loss Coefficient of Basket Strainers

As shown in the graph above, the loss coefficient of a basket strainer decreases as the diameter increases. This is because a larger strainer poses less resistance to flow.

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