Pressure Gauges and How They Work

Pressure gauges are devices that monitor performance parameters in terms of internal pressure. In a water system or tank, for instance, the water and air that runs through them is pressurized, and a pressure gauge measures the force of the pressure in the water or air to ensure that it is working within the proper parameters. Pressure that is too high or too low can indicate a serious mechanical issue in the device or system, and if left unchecked can cause serious damage.

Pressure gauges are used in a wide variety of applications. A simple pressure gauge is used to measure the air pressure in automobile tires to ensure they’re properly filled, and, in a storage tank or water system to make sure the pump is turned on and working properly. They’re a critical part of an aircraft’s instruments for measuring things like speed and elevation.

While there are many different types of pressure gauges, for this blog we will focus on three of the most common and important. The first is the manometer-style pressure gauge. Manometer gauges contain a U-shaped tube with liquid inside them. When pressure is applied to either side of the gauge, the water in the tube rises in the opposite direction, allowing the user to determine how pressurized the system is working.

Another commonly used type of gauge is the bourdon tube. A bourdon tube-style gauge contains a small, curved, and sealed tube on the inside of the device, and when pressurized liquid or water enters the gauge, the tube begins to straighten out. As this tube straightens, it interacts with gears on the inside to move a needle on a readable dial to indicate what pressure it is experiencing. Bourdon gauges are pre-set to measure a certain range of pressures, so there is no need to calibrate it beforehand.

A commonly-used pressure gauge in the aviation industry is the pitot-static system. Pitot pressure is measured inside a pitot tube, an open-facing tube positioned along the axis of the aircraft. The pressure measured in the tube is a combination of static pressure and pressure coming from the aircraft’s forward movement. Pitot pressure differs from static pressure in that static pressure is measured through a number of vents as opposed to a tube. These vents that measure static pressure are positioned at aerodynamically neutral parts of the aircraft. The pitot-static system compares the difference in pitot and static pressure to determine the aircraft’s airspeed.


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