Variable Area / Rotameter Flow Meters

Principles of Operation
Variable area flow meters operate on the principle that the variation in area of flow stream required to produce a constant pressure differential is proportional to the flow rate. The flowing fluid enters the bottom of the meter, passes upward through a variable area metering tube, and around the float, exiting at the top. The flow rate is read by noting the position of the float against the calibrated scale etched on the tube.

Variable area flow meters are generally available as direct-reading or correlated meters. The direct-reading meter allows users to read the flow rate in units printed directly on the tube, by aligning the top of the float with the marks on the flow tube but is restricted to a particular fluid. By contrast, correlated meters employ a unitless scale and are supplied with a separate correlation chart to provide flow rate data, but can be used for various fluids applications and changing pressure or temperature conditions.

Where calibration has been carried out for defined media conditions, deviations in the density, pressure or temperature of gases, or in the density or viscosity of liquids, result in measurement errors. It is essential to observe the calibration conditions and it is essential to provide data on the medium, density and viscosity at the operating temperature and pressure. With gases, it is additionally necessary to specify the exact reference point for the pressure (pressure above atmospheric or absolute pressure).

The variable area flow meter is also known as a VA meter or as a Rotameter after Rota, one of the inventors of this flow principle at the beginning of the 1900s. Rotameters are based on one of the oldest and most well-known flow measuring technologies available.

Rotameter Advantages

  • Relative low cost and ease of installation
  • Robust and easy to maintain
  • Applicable to liquids and gases
  • No need for auxiliary power
  • Eliminates Ex protection and electromagnetic compatibility issues

Rotameter Limitations

  • Generally, variable area flow meters must be mounted vertically
  • No output for data transmission
  • Sensitive to changes in viscosity
  • Sensitive to changes in temperature and pressure

Variable area meters or rotameters are well suited for a wide variety of liquid and gas applications, including monitoring chemical lines, flow in material-blending applications, filtration loading and makeup water for food & beverage plants.

View our range of variable area flow meters (rotameters) here.


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iCenta is a UK flow meter specialist with experience in Flow technologies for diverse applications, fluid types and process conditions. Call iCenta now for advice, sales & technical information on 0844 543 0844 or email

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