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Paddle Wheel Flow Meters

What is the Difference Between Paddle Wheel Flow Meters, Sensors, Transmitters, and Indicators?

Paddle wheel flow meters and other paddle wheel flow monitoring and measuring instruments are a widely used class of flow meter technology. The simple principle of operation and simple manufacturing process delivers economical flow products. Paddle wheel “flow sensors” is a general term that can be used for any paddle wheel flow product as all of them “sense” flow.

Paddle wheel flow meters and paddle wheel flow transmitters provide flow rate and other critical flow measurements and capabilities. Paddle wheel flow indicators could offer visual indication that flow is occurring by use of a transparent housing that allows the end user to see whether the paddle wheel is rotating. Although they do not provide any quantified visual flow measurement, the general speed of the paddle wheel rotation can indicate whether the flow is slow or fast.

Depending on the build material wetted parts, paddle wheel flow instruments are compatible with a wide variety of media, such as plastic models for aggressive chemicals.

Paddle Wheel Flow Products

How Do Paddle Wheel Flow Meters Work?

The working principle behind paddle wheel flow meters is relatively easy to understand. A wheel with paddles is fixed into the flow stream in the flow body through an axis point that allows it to rotate freely when flow is present. The faster the flow, the faster the paddle wheel spins. The speed of rotation is detected through different means and turned into a flow rate signal.

Paddle Wheel Flow Meter Working Principle

What is the Difference between Paddle Wheel Flow Meters and Turbine Flow Meters?

Although both paddle wheel flow meters and turbine flow meters operate via a similar principle, there are a couple differences. They are similar in that they both operate off the principle of a rotational blades within the flow stream, and both handle the same type of media that is clean and lower in viscosity.

For paddle wheel flow meters and Pelton wheel flow meters, the flow is “overshot” over the blades, like an old fashion steam paddle-boat. For turbine flow meters, the flow hits the blades, or rotating element, head on, like an airplane engine. Both are considered a “mechanical” means of flow measurement, but the nature of the turbine flow principle typically delivers better accuracy than paddle wheel and Pelton wheel flow meters.

Sometimes the term “turbine flow meters” is erroneously used to refer to paddle wheel flow meters and Pelton wheel flow meters. While they are similar, they are not the same.

To learn more about turbine flow meters, visit our in-depth article.

What Are the Advantages of Paddle Wheel Flow Meters?

Paddle wheel flow meters offer a lot of advantages for clean, non-viscous media like water.

  • Economical Price
  • Fast Response Time
  • High Repeatability
  • Easy to Install and Maintain
  • Universal Mounting Positions
  • Direct Volumetric Flow Measurement
  • Some Provide Visual Flow Verification
  • Can be Coupled with Monitoring Electronics
  • Minimal Pressure Drop
  • Senses Low Flow Rate

What Are the Disadvantages and Limitations of Paddle Wheel Flow Meters?

  • Over-ranging Causes Significant Wear
  • Ferrous Particles Must be Filtered Out
  • Magnetic Particles Impede the Output Signal
  • Pipes Must be Consistently Full
  • Typically not Bi-directional
  • Best Suited for Clean, Low Viscosity Liquids
  • Have Straight Piping Requirements
Paddle Wheel Flow Meter Advantages and Disadvantages

How Accurate are Paddle Wheel Flow Meters?

Paddle wheel flow meters provide sufficient accuracy for a wide variety of applications. For applications that require a higher degree of accuracy, paddle wheel flow meters are not the best choice, providing a general accuracy of 2.5% to 5%. Pelton wheel flow meters offer higher accuracy at 1.5% to 3%. For a simple mechanical flow meter based on a rotational principle of operation, the best accuracy is available through turbine flow meters, which deliver an accuracy of 0.5% to 1.5%. To learn more about flow meter accuracy for each technology type, visit our in-depth article.

Can You Use Paddle Wheel Flow Meters with Water?

Paddle wheel flow meters are ideal for water if it does not have magnetic particles or large particulate matter that would impede the rotation of the wheel. Most any paddle wheel flow meters for liquids will be suitable for the use of compatible water.

What is a Pelton Wheel Flow Meter?

Pelton wheel flow meters are very similar to paddle wheel flow meters. The only exception is that the flow is channeled differently at the inlet and the outlet, creating a much more concentrated flow stream that moves the paddle wheel in the same overshot manner as the standard paddle wheel. This slight modification for the Pelton wheel flow meters does offer an increase in accuracy.

Pelton Wheel vs Paddle Wheel Flow Meter

What are Some Applications for Paddle Wheel Flow Meters?

Paddle wheel flow meters can be commonly found in cooling towers and chillers, dispensation or batching systems, flow verification and monitoring, pump protection, fume scrubbers, medical equipment, reverse osmosis, filtration, and irrigation. They are used in countless more applications across the globe.

What is a Paddle Wheel Flow Switch?

Due to the inherent principle of operation and the build of the instrumentation, paddle wheel flow switches will usually be an integral or optional part of a flow meter.

How Do You Install a Paddle Wheel Flow Meter?

When installing a paddle wheel flow meter, always refer to the exact user manual for your flow meter. The following is provided as a reference only.

  • Make sure any electrical supply conforms to the equipment operating data
  • Remove all packaging and ensure that no material is in the flow meter
  • Must be installed with the direction of flow in the direction of the guidance arrow on the meter
  • Ensure that there will be no lapses of flow in the meter due to piping/installation orientation
  • Seal the connection threads when installing
  • Do not stress the connections when installing
  • Check connection is fully sealed
  • Connect wiring in accordance with diagrams
  • Slowly introduce flow into the meter, avoiding any water hammer that can cause damage
  • Ensure that there are no bubbles being produced into the media near the meter as this will cause measurement inaccuracies
  • Ensure that there are no bubbles being produced into the media near the meter as this will cause measurement inaccuracies

How Much Do Paddle Wheel Flow Meters Cost?

Paddle wheel flow meters are an economical solution for applications with lower to moderate flow rates and low to moderate pressures. They are one of the cheapest flow technologies out there, next to variable area rotameter technology.

Paddle Wheel Flow Meter Manufacturers

KOBOLD has been manufacturing, providing, and supporting quality paddle wheel flow meters for decades. We offer a wide variety of line sizes, connections, build materials, flow rates, and display/control options. To learn more about the best fit for your applications, please call us now or email us and our knowledgeable engineers will be glad to assist you for free.

Learn more about why you should partner with KOBOLD for your application.

Help Selecting Paddle Wheel Flow Meter
Featured Products
Digital Paddle Wheel Flow Meter
DF-DL - Digital Flow Meter with Batch Controller

Made in the USA | For Liquids | Rate, Totalizing, Batching | Up to 36 GPM | Up to 1,450 PSI | Up to 180 °F | NPT Threads | Wide Variety of Materials

All-Plastic Low Flow Paddle Wheel Flow Meter
DPL - All-Plastic Low Flow Paddle-Wheel Sensor

Made in the USA | For Liquids | Up to 400 GPH | Polypropylene Build | Sapphire Bearings | Up to 145 PSI | Up to 160 °F

Pelton Wheel Flow Meter
DPM - Pelton Wheel Flow Sensor

Made in the USA | For Liquids | Low Flow Rate Measurement | Brass or SS | Up to 80 GPH | Up to 230 PSI | Up to 176 °F | Optional Flow Rate Indicators

Paddle Wheel Flow Meter
DRB - Paddle-Wheel Flow Meter

For Liquids | Brass or SS | Low Pressure Loss | Up to 200 GPM | Up to 250 PSI | Up to 176 °F | Optional Flow Rate, Batching, Totalizing

Paddle Wheel Flow Meter
DRH - Paddle Wheel Flow Sensor

Made in the USA | For Liquids | Seven Different Material Combinations | Up to 13.2 GPM | Up to 580 PSI | Up to 176 °F | Optional Flow Rate Indicators


KOBOLD USA is a subsidiary of KOBOLD Messring GmbH, a world-leading instrumentation engineering business founded in Germany in 1980 by Klaus J. Kobold. With patented technology and superior service, the company quickly established itself as one of the global leaders in sensor and control systems with high quality products. The KOBOLD brand name became synonymous with superior quality and technological advancement in instrumentation engineering.

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