Hydraulic piping, hosing and connections.

Hydraulic piping, hosing and connections

The differences between hydraulic and pneumatic piping primarily arise from the far higher operating pressures in a hydraulic system.

Particular care has to be taken to check the pressure rating of

pipes, tubing, hosing and fittings, specified as the bursting pressure. A safety factor is defined as:


Up to 60 bar, a safety factor of eight should be used, between 60 and 150 bar a safety factor of six is recommended, while above 150 bar a safety factor of four is required. This may be compared with pneu­matic systems where safety factors of around 40 are normally obtained with simple standard components.

The choice of piping or tubing is usually a direct consequence of pressure rating. These can be manufactured as welded, or drawn (seamless) pipe. Welded pipe has an inherent weakness down the welded seam, making seamless pipes or tubing the preferred choice for all but the lowest pressure hydraulic systems.

Hydraulic piping is specified by wall thickness (which deter­ mines the pressure rating) and outside diameter (OD, which deter­ mines the size of fittings to be used). It follows that for a given OD, a higher pressure pipe has a smaller inside diameter (ID). American piping is manufactured to American National Standards Institute (ANSI) specifications, which define 10 sets of wall thickness as a schedule number from 10 to 160. The higher the number, the higher the pressure rating. ‘Standard’ piping is schedule 40.

Pipes should be sized to give a specified flow velocity according to the expected flow. Typical flow velocities are 7-8 m/sec for a pressure line, and 3-4 m/sec for a return line. The lower velocity is specified for the return line to reduce the back pressure. For a similar reason the velocity in a pump suction line should be in the range 1.5-2 m/sec. At the point of exit from the return line diffuser into the tank the velocity should be very low, below 0.3 m/sec, to prevent stirring up any contamination at the base of the tank.

Like pneumatic piping, joints can be made by welding, with compression fittings (similar to those in Figure 6.12 but of higher pressure rating) or threaded connections and flanges. Particular care needs to be taken to avoid leaks at joints; in pneumatic systems a leak leads to loss of downstream pressure and perhaps an objec­ tionable noise whereas a hydraulic leak loses expensive fluid and creates an oil-pool which is a fire and safety hazard.

Flexible hosing is constructed in several concentric layers, with the inner tubing being chosen to be compatible with the hydraulic fluid and its temperature. One (or more) braided reinforcing layers are used. At higher pressures the braiding will be wire. The outer layer is designed to resist abrasion and protect the inner layers. Hoses are generally manufactured complete with fittings. Hydraulic hoses, like pneumatic hoses, must be installed without twists (which can lead to failure at the fittings).

Quick-disconnect hydraulic connections are available, but the higher pressure, risk of spillage and danger of introducing dust into the system restricts their usage.

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