What is a Thermowell? Types of Thermowell

Thermowells are cylindrical pressure-tight fittings used to protect the temperature sensors which are inserted into a pipe or vessel in industrial applications. A thermowell is basically a tube closed at one end and mounted in the process stream. The thermowell acts as a barrier between the sensing element and the process medium. It protects the sensing element against corrosive process media and the fluid pressure and velocity.

Importance of Thermowells

Thermowells play a crucial role in the successful measurement of temperature in industrial processes.

  • They Protect the sensor.
  • Thermowells ensure that process temperature is passed to the sensor (proper heat transfer).
  • Improved heat transfer, results in better accuracy.
  • Allow the removal of the sensing element while maintaining a closed system.

Types of thermowells

Depending on the stem design shape three types of thermowell are available:

  • Straight Thermowell
  • Stepped thermowell and
  • Tapered Thermowell

Straight thermowell have the same diameter for the entire insertion length. Stepped thermowell has stepped diameters; Normally at the tip, they have 1/2″ diameter while 3/4″ at the top. On the other hand, tapered thermowell has varying diameters over its full insertion length. Tapered thermowell is suitable for high-velocity applications and possess fast response time.

Types of Thermowells
Fig. 1: Types of Thermowells

Depending on material types Two types of Thermowells can be found:

  • Pipe Fabricated.
  • Bar stock thermowells.

Depending on End connections, five types of thermowells are available. they are

  • Threaded thermowells
  • Weld-In thermowells
  • Socket Weld thermowells
  • Van Stone or Lap Joint flanged thermowells
  • Flanged thermowells

The threaded type is generally the least costly and most versatile.

Thermowell types based on End Connection
Fig. 2: Thermowell types based on End Connection

Materials of Thermowells

Right material increases the longevity of a thermowell. Material selection of thermowell will depend on the chemical, temperature and flow rate of the process fluid. With increase in temperature and fluid concentration, the corrosive effects normally increases. At the same time, suspended particles of the fluid will cause erosion. So all these parameters need to be addressed while selecting thermowell material. Some of the most frequently used thermowell materials are listed below:

  • Carbon Steel
  • SS 316 / SS 304
  • SS316 with Teflon / Zirconium Coated or Tantalum / Titanium steathing.
  • Graphite
  • Chromium/molybdenum steels
  • Incoloy
  • Inconel
  • Monel
  • Hastelloy
  • Haynes Alloy
  • Titanium

However, the most widely used thermowell material is stainless steel as it is cost-effective and highly resistant to heat and corrosion. For pressurized vessels, Chromium/molybdenum steel is used. Cobalt, nickel, chromium and tungsten constitute the Haynes alloy that is widely used for sulphidising, carburizing, and chlorine-containing environments. The use of carbon steel thermowell is only limited to low-temperature pressure applications due to its very low resistance to corrosion.

Thermowell Insertion Length

The length from the connection point to the thermowell tip is known as the insertion length of the thermowell (U dimension in Fig. 4). For better accuracy, the thermowell insertion length should be long enough. This will allow the entire temperature sensitive portion of the measurement device to extend into the medium being measured.

Thermowell Installation

Lagging is used when the thermowell is installed through an insulation media on pipeline or equipment.

Fig. 1: Examples of Thermowells
Fig. 3: Examples of Thermowells

An improperly specified thermowells, will result in:

  • Failure due to poor welding practices.
  • Poor compatibility with the temperature and media.
  • Inadequate temperature transfer.
  • Incompatibility with the process velocity leading to failure due to vibration.
  • The gap between the OD of the thermocouple sheath and the ID of thermowell must be very close.
  • The bore of the thermowell must be uniform and linear.

Design of Thermowells

  • The design should cater to process media, pressures, temperatures, velocity, specific gravity, etc.
  • Proper MOC (Material of construction).
  • Wall thickness Vs response time.
  • Bore diameter, Insertion length, Taper requirements, Overall length, etc.
  • Calculate the Vibration using Wake Frequency methods.
Details of Thermowell
Fig. 4: Details of Thermowell
Various dimensions of Thermowells.
Fig. 5: Various dimensions of Thermowells.

Thermowell Installation Requirements

Refer to Fig. 6 and Fig. 7

Requirements during installation
Fig. 6: Requirements during installation
Installation Requirements
Fig. 7: Installation Requirements

Thermowell Design Code

Piping Designers follow ASME PTC 19.3 for guidelines regarding thermowells.

Thermowell Vibrations:

As thermowells are immersed in the process flow, they can be subjected to vibration due to fluid velocity. The thermowell must have sufficient stiffness and rigidity to absorb those vibrations. In such a scenario, tapered thermowells are preferred as they have more stiffness.

Information required for Purchasing Thermowell

The following information must be supplied to the thermowell manufacturer/vendor while placing an order.

  • Process Connection Size
  • Thermowell Insertion Length
  • Lagging extension
  • Shank configuration
  • Process Connection type
  • Nominal Bore
  • Thermowell Material
  • Process Design temperature and pressure
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Anup Kumar Dey

I am a Mechanical Engineer turned into a Piping Engineer. Currently, I work in a reputed MNC as a Senior Piping Stress Engineer. I am very much passionate about blogging and always tried to do unique things. This website is my first venture into the world of blogging with the aim of connecting with other piping engineers around the world.

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