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June 20 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

Physical Principles that Affect the Design, Operation and Maintenance of Steam and Hydronic Systems

2 PDH Credits Available

Presented by Bill Armstrong, PE


Course Description and Objective

We are often told, “Be sure to do (or don’t do) this or that” in the design or operation of our hydronic and steam systems. We may not fully understand why.  This course attempts to explain some of the physical principles behind some of the dos and don’ts.  Course instructor, Bill Armstrong, feels that his 50+ years’ industry experience has taught him some “interesting lessons” (at some considerable expense to himself or others)….lessons that might have been avoided with a better understanding of certain physical principles.

This course discusses some of the lessons learned, and is supported by “Mr. Wizard”-type demonstrations wherever possible, plus the actual stories behind the lessons, all in the interest of general enlightenment (and perhaps keeping attendees out of future trouble!).

Among the topics discussed (and in most cases demonstrated):

Thermodynamics of Steam, the Saturation Principle

  • The role of the saturation curve and its impact on both hydronic and steam system design, its role in NPSH considerations, pump cavitation, and pump selection.
  • Why steam exiting a PRV is superheated to the point that it can cause system issues
  • The issue of flash steam exiting steam heat exchangers and traps
  • Included will discussion of common problems caused by lack of understanding associated with the above, AND solutions through proper system design. Includes proper equipment selection, piping design, the role of steam desuperheater and steam conditioning valves, safety factors in steam heat exchanger selection, and design of steam heat transfer systems to avoid or take advantage of flash steam.

Henry’s Law and Boyle’s Laws

These two important gas laws impact pump selection, suction piping design in open (cooling tower) systems, and air separator selection/application.

Free Vortex Formation

Avoiding vortex formation is particularly important in open systems, most specifically when designing tanks and sumps for cooling towers.  Why vortices form, different types, how to avoid them, what happens if they do form?

Air Entrainment Velocity, Density, Nucleation, Coalescence, Buoyancy

How these principles are used in modern air separators and why they are important.

Point of Zero Pressure Change

Guess what?  The pressure DOES change. A discussion of how this much-misunderstood principle affects hydronic system design.


Inverse Solubility

Chemical compounds are typically thought to be more soluble in hot water than cold.  Interestingly, not all compounds! How inverse solubility affects the design, operation, and maintenance of HVAC systems.


Contrary to popular thought, bladders and diaphragms in today’s expansion tanks are not completely impermeable.  Discussion of how this adversely affects system operation over time, proper maintenance procedures, plus ideas for piping the expansion tank to allow proper testing, routine maintenance and trouble shooting.


The concept of viscosity.  How it affects piping and pump selections. To what degree temperature is an issue.  Where we need to be especially aware of viscosity in our designs.

Retention Time

The principle of using air retention time in open water systems (particularly cooling tower systems), to ensure that entrained air does not adversely affect pump and piping systems.

The Kinetic Energy Equation (KE = ½ mv2)

How the equation predicts the pump laws and pump performance/selection.


June 20
10:00 am - 12:00 pm


Fluid Handling
W140N9061 Lilly Rd
Menomonee Falls, WI 53051 United States
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(414) 358-2646
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