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Most Important Things to Know About a Water Flow Meter

Not every water flow meter is the same; every type has its working principle and advantages and they all come at a different cost. There are several working principles, but they all have the same purpose, to measure the amount of water that goes through a pipe. If you do not know much about them, or you cannot decide which one is the best, stay tuned to find out more about their features.

Four Types of Water Flow Meters

Depending on your budget, type of application, and maintenance, you can choose one of these four types of water flow meters:

  • Turbine (mechanic)
  • Vortex
  • Ultrasonic
  • Electromagnetic

These are the most common types you will find on the market. Their purpose is the same, but now we would like to explain how they work and introduce you to their properties.

Turbine Water Flow Meter

Since this is the cheapest option on the market, it is at the same time the most popular one, and it is also easy to find it. The turbine can measure how fast the water runs through a pipe thanks to the piston or rotating turbine in it. This is a volume sensing device, and the speed of rotating blades corresponds to the flow rate of water because the energy of the fluid is rotating the turbine. The faster the water flows, the faster the turbine will rotate. The only drawback is that they can clog in dirty waters, and that leads to a higher cost of maintenance.

Vortex Water Flow Meter

This flow measuring device relies on a vortex shedding principle to measure the amount of fluid. Inside of this meter, there is a mechanical sensor tab that is used to produce vortices, swirls that occur as the fluid goes around it. Similar to what happens when water goes around the rock. If the water is not flowing, there are no vortices, but as soon as it starts flowing and reaches a certain flow rate, vortices are formed. The distance between two consecutive vortices corresponds to the defined volume of fluid, so by counting the vortices, the total amount of water can be calculated. The maintenance cost is low, but the most significant advantage of vortex flowmeters is low sensitivity to variations during the process.

Ultrasonic Water Flow Meter

Ultrasonic meter has two ultrasonic transducers. Each of them functions as a receiver and a transmitter of a signal that goes upstream and downstream. When the travel time of both signals is compared by the meter, the difference in travel time is corresponding to the velocity of water in the pipe.

Electromagnetic Water Flow Meter

The electromagnetic fluid flow meter relies on Faraday’s law of induction and magnetic field to measure the flow of liquid. When water is flowing through a magnetic field, it creates a charge. The faster it flows, the more voltage it produces, and the meter just transforms voltage into flow rate. However, these meters are not the most accurate ones, and they are not meant to be used for custody transfer. Also, they do not work with pure water since it does not contain ions; they are more suitable for process water flow. So when choosing the brand of electromagnetic meters, you need to keep in mind the flow velocity, chemical compatibility, and abrasion.

How to Pick the Right Flow Meter for Your Application

There are a few things you should consider when searching for the right flow meter, besides the application and your budget, and here are some of them:

  • Value and life cycle
  • Measure accuracy
  • Maintenance costs
  • Operating temperature and pressure
  • Flow range
  • Sensor type

We hope we helped you understand better how these four common types of meters work. Each of them has its advantages, but it is always the best to consult with professionals when choosing the right one, just to be sure you are not making a mistake.



  1. […] Flow meters are apparatuses which simply estimate the liquid mass or gas volume and are usually also called with varying terms in different industries like flow indicator or gauge, liquid meter, or sensors. This is because flow meters are very versatile, these devices can measure different phases of matter. Furthermore, these metric devices can also be utilized to measure flowing components in open areas or in closed ones like pipes and tunnel-like passageways. […]