Pressure/Flow Loss in Pipe Bends: Better to Go Long or Bend?

The other day I ran across a useful table in a very old and rare book on Air Conditioner design of all things. You may never have thought about it, but air conditioner ducts need to be relatively well flowing as well to minimize the size of the blower needed to get adequate cooling to the final location and in most cases the runs of ducting are VERY long relative to intake or charge piping for a turbo system.

There are several things that add pressure loss (restriction) to any pipe system, for the purposes of this article we'll focus on length and bends. It turns out that bends have the same effect as adding additional length. In other words, if I have two intake ducts that are 5' long but one is straight and the other has a 90 degree bend in it, the one with a 90 degree bend will flow as poorly as a straight pipe with a longer length.

In summary, it's better to run a longer pipe than to bend it, especially if the bend is very sharp. In the table available to TU Premium subscribers, you'll see exactly how many feet of pipe a bend effectively adds so you can see to what degree a bend might be impeding flow.

This is particularly useful when trying to route intercooler ducting or redesigning an intake or exhaust system as it will allow you to see if that convenient bend is worth it, or if it's really not that big of a deal.

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