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Fan Application


application guide
A technical bulletin for engineers, contractors and students in the air movement and control industry.

Understanding bearings for the fan industry

Bearings are one of the most critical components in meaning. It’s time to end the confusion! In today’s
the operation of a fan and careful consideration terminology the preferred term is L10. However, L50
must be given to the selection of the appropriate is sometimes used, therefore both meanings must
bearing for each application. Fan manufacturers be understood.
that have comprehensive product line ranging from
L10 life: The preferred term in specifying bearing life.
small light duty commercial fans to heavy duty,
high-speed The American Bearing Manufacturers Association
industrial (ABMA), formerly the AFBMA defines the Basic
fans Rating Life, L10 as the bearing life associated with a
inherently 90% reliability when operating under conventional
acquire more conditions, i.e. after a stated amount of time 90% of
experience in a group of identical bearings will not yet have
bearing developed metal fatigue. L10 life is also referred to
application. by manufacturers as the `minimum expected life’.
Through the
L50 life: Or average life.
Greenheck Although the L10 life is the proper method of
has worked closely with our bearing supplier specifying fatigue life per the ABMA, another term
partners to establish the quality features required is often used in the industry. The L50 or average life
for our full range of products, and to provide the is accepted as the bearing life associated with a 50%
bearing life expectancy required by our industry. reliability, i.e., after a stated amount of time, only
50% of a group of identical bearings will not yet
The following information is intended as a guide to
have developed metal fatigue. L50 life equals five
understand fan-bearing life, components and some
times the L10 life.
of the typical applications for which they are used.
We will begin our discussion by defining some of In other words, to get a L50 life equal to a L10
the industry terms used to describe bearing life 80,000-hour life, you must specify the L50 life to be
expectancy. 400,000 hours. The following chart shows a
comparison of L10 to L50 equivalents.
Bearing Life
Bearing life is usually expressed as the number of Required L10 Equivalent L50 (avg)
hours an individual bearing will operate before the Life Hours Life Hours
first evidence of metal fatigue develops in the rings
20,000 100,000
or rolling elements. In past years, four different
40,000 200,000
terms were used when referring to bearing life. The
terms commonly used were B10 or L10 and B50 or 80,000 400,000
L50. The terms B10 and L10 had the same meaning 100,000 500,000
and the terms B50 and L50 also had the same 200,000 1,000,000

P.O. Box 410 • Schofield, WI 54476 • 715.359.6171 • Fax 715.355.2399
Copyright © 2000 Greenheck Fan Corp.
Greenheck Product Application Guide

Writing the Bearing Specification *Bearings with a L10 200,000 hour life are optional
Basic Rating Life, L10 is a useful tool when for most centrifugal and vane axial products.
specifying a given level of bearing construction. However, in most cases, it is not practical to specify
When required to provide a given L10 life, all L10 200,000 because of the associated cost. (And, do
equipment manufacturers must supply the same you really need the bearings to last for 68 years?) It
capacity bearing for a given RPM and shaft is more practical for your customer to spend the
diameter. Also, an 80,000 hour L10 bearing will have additional money on maintenance.
a theoretical life twice as long as a 40,000 hour L10 Avoid writing bearings specifications without
bearing and hence will last longer in the field. having the correct Basic Rating Life (L10 or L50)
Here’s Greenheck’s recommendation for a typical terms in front of the required hours of life. If your
bearing specification: specification reads 200,000 hour bearing life, your
chance of getting what you want is minimal. Some
“Bearings shall be air handling quality, heavy duty suppliers will assume L50 200,000 life is all that’s
grease lubricated, ball or roller type. Bearings shall required and you will end up with an inferior
be selected for a Basic Rating Life, (L10) of 80,000 bearing system. Other suppliers will assume you
hours at maximum operating speed and are specifying the optional L10 200,000 hour life and
horsepower for each construction level.” (Air add unnecessary cost. The best suppliers will ask
handling quality means the bearings meet the for a confirmation of the L10 life required.
requirements for use in air handling applications; high
speeds, long life and quiet operation. All bearings are No Guarantee
100% tested for excessive noise levels and bore
dimensions are verified to be within tolerances.) Bearing Basic Rating Life is theoretical and is based
on a collection of statistics. Specifying a L10 life
Note: If all the fan products you are specifying are does not guarantee that the fan bearings will have a
from the Greenheck Fan & Vent catalog, you can 90% reliability when installed on a fan in the real
specify L10 100,000 hour life bearings at no extra world. The calculation for Basic Rating Life
charge. assumes proper lubrication is provided, no shock or
vibration exists, alignment is virtually perfect, no
The chart below provides another way to look at
debris enters the bearings and ambient
the expected bearing life. Assuming you specified
temperatures are not extreme. In the real world,
Greenheck’s standard bearing life of L10 80,000
none of these conditions are realistic and the
hours and your fans run an average of 8 hours per
“installed life” of the bearing will depend on the
day, you can expect 27.5 years of life on 90 percent
application and maintenance.
of the bearings.
To get as close as possible to the specified life, the
L10 Life Average running hours per day installer and end user must follow the
8 16 24 recommendations in the manufacturer’s installation
and maintenance instructions. Once the bearing life
80,000 27.5 yrs 13.7 yrs 9.2 yrs
expectancy is clearly defined, that information can
100,000 34.3 yrs 17.2 yrs 11.4 yrs then be combined with other bearing requirements
to select the most appropriate bearing for each
200,000* 68.6 yrs 34.3 yrs 22.8 yrs
*Years of bearing life for fans running seven days a week,
fifty two weeks per year. Bearing selection
In most cases, the Basic Rating Life will be much Most manufacturers use some type of bearing
greater than shown because the bearings are selection program that calculates equivalent bearing
selected for the maximum RPM and horsepower for loads and bearing life. Some of the main selection
each size and fan class. Most fans are selected criteria include shaft diameter and weight; lubricant
significantly below their maximum fan rpm. viscosity; motor horsepower; fan sheave pitch
diameter, weight and location on the shaft; fan
speed; fan wheel weight; bearing and wheel

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Fan Application No. FA/103-00

Greenheck Product Application Guide

locations on the shaft; thrust loads; and the somewhat within the race, so the race doesn’t need
direction of belt pull. Most often the selection to pivot within the pillow block.
program used is one developed by a bearing
2. Noise and vibration testing
manufacturer. Greenheck engineers use Dodge
All “air handling quality” bearings are 100%
bearing selection software. Based on the output
vibration tested. These high test standards are
results of this data, Greenheck engineers are able to
designed to discover microscopic manufacturing
select the bearings that best meet each individual
defects that may either cause higher noise levels or
lead to premature failure of the bearing.
Light duty bearings 3. Bore Size Test
Ball bearings with stamped steel housings are well All “air handling quality” bearings are 100%
suited for applications with very light loads and inspected to insure that the inner race diameter is
lower speeds. The main design characteristic that within tolerance. A bore size larger than tolerance
defines stamped would allow the bearing to shift which could cause
bearings is the rubber misalignment.
sleeve around the
The benefits of “air handling quality” bearings to
bearing insert, which
the life of ventilation equipment are being seen
snaps into the
throughout the HVAC industry. More and more
stamped housing. The
manufacturers are providing air handling quality
use of these bearings
bearings as their standard.
is limited to fan
products with 3⁄4 inch Ball Bearing with rubber sleeve
and smaller diameter and stamped steel housing. Ball bearings
shafts, and one The Dodge D-Lok pillow block bearing
horsepower and smaller motors. incorporates a “heavy-clamp-style” locking collar as
an alternative to the typical set screw locking
Air handling quality system. This design allows the bearing race to be
tightened concentrically about the shaft. This type
When the operating level of the ball bearings with
of locking mechanism gives two distinct advantages
stamped steel housing is exceeded, air handling
over the set screw method. First it maintains one
quality ball, spherical or tapered roller pillow block
common center axis of the shaft and bearing,
or flange-mount bearings are primarily specified.
whereas tightening of the set screw forces the shaft
These bearings have been engineered specifically off to one side, offsetting its rotating axis. Secondly,
for air handling applications and feature special the shaft and bearing race come into surface-to-
construction and tighter quality control. In order for surface contact upon tightening. This increase in
a bearing to be of “air handling quality,” it must contact surface area not only improves the holding
meet the following specifications: strength of the bearing to the shaft, but it also
eliminates problems with burring on the shaft
1. Reduced swivel torque caused by the tightening of set screws.
Proper alignment of the bearing to the shaft is
essential in preventing vibration, noise and damage
to the bearing components. To allow a bearing to
Greenheck uses Dodge
self align under light loading, it must have a low
D-Lok ball bearings for
swivel torque. A low swivel torque enables the
all centrifugal, vane
outer race of the bearing to pivot or swivel within
axial and industrial
the cast pillow block, allowing the bearing to align
units within the ball
to the shaft much easier. It should be noted that this
bearing application
feature is special only to air handling ball bearings
range. In our fan and
and tapered roller bearings. Spherical designs
ventilation line, Dodge
inherently allow for easy self-aligning because the
D-Lok ball bearings are
race has a radius that allows the rollers to pivot Ball bearing with D-Lok

Fan Application No. FA/103-00


Greenheck Product Application Guide

used on Greenheck’s extended pressure CUBE adapter sleeve-mount locking

exhaust fans (Model Cube-XP). system. Because of the
geometry of the sleeve-mount
The balance of the fan and ventilator products that
design, a larger bearing is
exceed the limitations of the
required for the same shaft
stamped steel bearings use the
size as would be used in a
air handling ball bearing with
solid pillow block design.
the set screw locking method.
Consequently, the capacity of Split housing
This includes fans with a shaft
the rollers increases, thus
diameter of one inch and
requiring a higher minimal radial load for proper
larger, and a motor of 1 1⁄2
operation of the rollers.
horsepower and larger. In
applications with lower speeds In some applications where contaminants need to
the D-Lok mechanism is be kept out of the bearing, special seals other than
available, however, the D-Lok Ball bearing with set the labyrinth-type are used in the split pillow block
advantages are negligible and screw housing. In these cases, the seal may be a speed-
not cost justified. limiting factor and must be accounted for in the
selection of the bearing.
When the application load and speed exceed the
capacity of ball bearings, roller pillow block In certain products, such as some vane axial belt
bearings are typically drive fans, the installation of a pillow block bearing
specified. Like ball can be difficult simply because of physical space
bearings, roller bearings constraints within the belt
can carry a combination tube. In such a case, a flange-
of radial and thrust loads; mount bearing can be used.
however, roller bearings, The bearing components are
in order to operate essentially the same as the
properly, require a radial pillow block version, but the
load at least equal to the Roller bearing with set screw housing allows for face
thrust load. Insufficient mounting around the shaft
radial loading allows the rollers to skid within the instead of pedestal mounting Flange mount bearing
race, which could cause premature failure of the under the shaft.
bearing components. Tapered roller bearings that
are similar to the spherical rollers, are commonly Summary
specified for vertical applications where high thrust The information in this article is a guideline to help
loads are encountered. communicate a better overall understanding of
Currently, roller bearings are available with either bearings and good bearing application.
the standard set screw-locking method, or the Don’t let your air handling equipment suffer a short
Dodge Imperial patented adapter-mounting system life span because of premature bearing failure.
(spherical roller bearings only). Applications are often times unique, and your
Thus far all of the bearing options we have selection will be based upon the bearing options
discussed have been in a solid housing, either best suited to your job specifications.
stamped or pillow block. Once the application Greenheck engineers have over 40 years of
exceeds the speed limit for the contact seal and experience in bearing selection and work closely
grease sump design of the solid housing, a split with our vendors to ensure customers receive the
pillow block bearing is typically specified. The split highest quality products. Determine what bearing
pillow block design incorporates a friction-free life your application requires and let Greenheck’s
labyrinth seal and a larger grease cavity. Higher experienced engineering team specify the right
speeds can then be attained and the rollers become bearing for the job.
the limiting factor instead of the seal.
Split pillow block housings incorporate a tapered

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Fan Application No. FA/103-00