Pressure Decay Testing. Why, When, & How?

A simpler integrity test for less critical applications is a pressure decay test. This type of test can be performed before and after use and is sensitive enough to detect very small leaks.

This test requires the same air (or nitrogen) source and an accurate pressure gauge but does not require a mass flow meter.

All test procedures outlined below should be followed when performing pressure decay testing of cartridge filters. The schematic below represents a cartridge integrity test setup with all of the piping, valves, gauges, and regulators needed to properly integrity test filters in place.

NOTE: This blog and the schematics in it show a filter housing with a single 10” cartridge installed. Different-length cartridges can be accommodated using the appropriately sized housing that will also match the end configuration on the cartridge. Contact CPF Customer Service for additional details on multi-filter housing installation.


Pore Size (µm) Bubble point (psi) Pressure Decay1 / Diffusion2 Test Pressure (psi)
0.03 * 60
0.10 * 48
0.22 ≥ 50 35
0.45 ≥ 25 20
0.65 ≥ 19 15
0.80 ≥ 15 12

           * Bubble Point exceeds maximum operating parameters

Pressure Decay Test Formula

DP = D * T * Pa / V


DP = Maximum allowable Pressure Drop; (starting pressure – final pressure at end of test interval)

D = Diffusion Rate limit; (from the cartridge data sheet)

T = Time (minutes); typically, 10 minutes

Pa = Atmospheric Pressure (14.7 psi)

V = Upstream Volume of test apparatus (cc); Can be calculated by filling the upstream side with water, then draining through V2 and measuring water volume

Diffusion specification values are shown on the Data Sheet for the cartridge being tested

 Important Notes

  • ALL connections must be airtight. Any leaks in the plumbing can cause inaccurate readings. It is recommended to leak-check the system on a regular basis.
  • Marginal integrity failures can often be the result of inadequate cartridge wetting. As indicated in the instructions below, re-wet the module and retest.
  • Gross failures could be the result of an improperly installed cartridge in the housing or a plumbing leak. Make sure the cartridge is properly installed with any O-Rings undamaged and properly seated. Check the system for air leaks.


  1. Make sure all parts required to install the cartridge in the housing are available
  2. Install the cartridge in the housing, ensuring all fittings and connections are tight
  3. If a pre-wetted cartridge is being tested, skip to the appropriate integrity test section
  4. To wet out a cartridge:
    1. Make sure all valves are closed
    2. Connect feed water to the “Water In” line
    3. Open valves V3 (Vent) and V4 (outlet)
    4. Slowly open V1 to allow wetting fluid to enter the housing
    5. Once the fluid is observed coming out of the vent with no bubbles, close V3
    6. Adjust V1 as necessary to feed ~2 liters per minute per 10” length
    7. Allow fluid to flow for ten (10) minutes
    8. Slowly close V4 until inlet pressure (P2) reads 15 – 20 psi
    9. Allow fluid to flow for an additional five (5) minutes
    10. Close V1
    11. Open V2 and V3 to allow housing to drain


  1. Install the cartridge into the housing
  2. Follow wetting instructions if necessary
  3. Start with all valves closed
  4. Connect regulated air or nitrogen line to V6
  5. Open valves V2 (Drain), V3 (Vent), and V4 (outlet)
  6. Set pressure regulator to 2 psi
  7. Open V6, then V5
  8. Allow the system to purge any upstream fluid
  9. When the flow from Vent and Drain is mostly air, close V2 and V3
  10. Slowly increase the air pressure (pressure reading on P3) to the value specified in the table
  11. Close valve V5
    1. Allow the system to stabilize for 2 minutes
    2. Re-pressurize if necessary by opening V5
  12. Read pressure on P3 at the end of test time (typically 10 minutes)
  13. The cartridge passes the integrity test when the pressure drop is less than the calculated amount
  14. Relieve pressure on the regulator
  15. Close valves V6 and V5
  16. Open valve V3 to completely relieve upstream pressure
  17. Remove the cartridge from the housing

If the cartridge appears to fail the initial test, repeat the Cartridge Wetting procedure and increase the rinse time to twice the initial amount to assure that the media has been properly wetted. Then, retest. If necessary, check the cartridge seal in the housing.