Should You Use a Bubbler or an Ultrasonic Flow Meter?

The first step in wastewater flow measurement is choosing the right kind of flume or weir box for your needs. Every flow and situation will be unique in some way, so there are a lot of options to choose from. After you’ve found the right flume or weir, the next step is deciding which flow meter to use. Learn whether you should use a bubbler or an ultrasonic flow meter for your wastewater applications.


When you use a bubbler, you can enjoy several advantages with your measurements. The primary advantage is that bubblers are incredibly precise, measuring down to 1/16 of an inch. If you’re dealing with a low flow, this is especially useful. You can also enjoy accurate readings even if you have to deal with wind, turbulence, debris and steam in your flow channel. Bubblers also self-calibrate, so you don’t have to make adjustments very often.


The downside of a bubbler is that it needs an air compressor to function, and that component is particularly fragile. It will wear down relatively quickly compared with the rest of the meter, and it’s fairly energy-intensive. When the air compressor fails, the entire machine fails, so you won’t be able to get any measurements while the compressor isn’t working. Bubblers can still have a long lifespan, but you’ll have to perform maintenance on the air compressor more often than you would any component on an ultrasonic flow meter.

Ultrasonic Flow Meter

When you opt for an ultrasonic flow meter over a bubbler, the savings are immediately apparent just in the cost alone. Ultrasonic flow meters can get the job done well enough with technology that’s been tested for decades. Their energy source is also convenient and varied, with options that are line powered, battery powered or solar powered. Maintenance is relatively easy as well, because there aren’t any moving parts to deal with.

While ultrasonic flow meters can be convenient, there are a handful of disadvantages. The accuracy is a bit less precise compared with a bubbler, only measuring to 1/4 of an inch, and several factors like wind, steam and foam can compromise your measurements. Ultrasonic flow meters also need to be calibrated periodically to maintain accurate readings, because measurements will unavoidably drift over time and become more inaccurate. 

When You Should Use Each

Given the nature of bubblers and ultrasonic flow meters, there are specific circumstances for using each. The primary factor to keep in mind is whether you have a low flow or a high flow. Low flows almost always require bubblers over ultrasonic flow meters due to their increased accuracy. Not only are ultrasonic flow meters less accurate, but they also require precise replacement in order to account for false echo cancellation. 

If you have a high flow and need a cost-saving solution that’s easy to install and won’t require much maintenance, the ultrasonic flow meter is the clear choice. Remember, it doesn’t have any moving parts, so it’s easy to install and forget about. All you have to do is periodically recalibrate it, which is easier than fixing a moving part in most cases.

Find Meters From Tracom

Whether you’re looking for a bubbler or an ultrasonic flow meter, Tracom has got you covered. We even offer additional measuring options you can implement if you’re looking for a low-tech solution. Contact us today to learn more!

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