What is a Hose Barb Fitting and How Does It Work?

Posted by
John Woodard on February 19, 2019

Hose barb fittings are designed for use with soft tubing and high pressure. These fittings are applied for many different applications, from beverage filters to aquarium pumps. In this video, John Woodard, our Master Water Specialist, answers the most common questions about hose barbs.

What is a hose barb fitting?

A hose barb fitting is a unique-looking piece of plastic. It comes in steel or plastic, sometimes brass. It can be in a variety of materials. It's got a barb to it, and the barb holds on to tubing. It's typically used with soft-side tubing, like clear PVC. You push the tubing on and it holds onto it. Sometimes you add a little stability with a hose clamp, but a lot of times, the hose barb holds onto the tube just by itself.

How does a hose barb fitting work?

A hose barb works by putting tubing over the top of the barb. The barb is the gripper that holds the tube in place. Typically, you use it with soft-side tubing. You're not going to use this in a high-pressure application where the pressure could overcome the barb's ability to hold onto the tube.

Where are hose barb fittings used most often?

Hose barb fittings are used most often in applications where we're using soft tubing. That could be beverage dispensing. That could be running an airline to your fish aquarium for your air filter. That could even be a low-pressure re-circulating pump on your aquarium as well. In a nutshell, hose barb fittings are used almost anywhere you use soft-side tubing and not in a high-pressure application. They make things versatile, very easy to use.

How do you install or disconnect they hose barb fitting?

To install a hose barb fitting, you push the tube onto the hose barb.

To remove it: If you get to the point where you have to take that fitting apart, that's a problem because the hose barb design will not let you simply pull the tubing off. So in most cases, in order to take the hose off of a hose barb, you're going to have to get a knife and cut the tubing so that it spreads away from the hose barbs.

How do you size a hose barb fitting?

barb ID

Hose barbs are sized by the tubing ID (inner diameter). So, the hose barb itself is going to be larger in diameter than the inner diameter of the hose. And that's what we're sizing for-- the inner diameter, the hose. For example, a 3/8 hose barb is 3/8 tubing ID. That's how you match it up to your tubing. 

Hose barbs come and a variety of sizes. In fact, we can get down to really small tubing with hose barb connections, and we can get fairly large. A well system is one example. The tube that comes in from the well pump them often is attached to a barb on the tank tee package. Barbs are incredibly effective when you're using the right tubing match to the hose barb.

What makes a hose barb fitting different from a quick-connect, quick-disconnect, or compression fitting?

Hose barbs differ from quick-disconnects in the aspect that the quick-disconnect fitting itself is own little apparatus for connection and disconnection. They will hook up to hose barbs for soft-side tubing. Your fitting could be a John Guest quick-connect if you're using a harder-side tubing like polyethylene. The quick-connect fitting, like John Guest, is not going to be usable with a softer tube. So you need a hose barb for the soft tube. A quick-connect fitting is for a more rigid-sided tubing like polyethylene.

Why is my hose barb fitting leaking?

Hose barbs fittings can leak for a variety of reasons. Possibly the tubing has become split or cracked on the barb itself. Or, the tubing you're using and the barb's size that you have aren't correct. The barb is too small for the inner diameter of the tubing, so you won't get a good seal. If the hose is the right size matched to the ID of the tube and the hose barb and you slide the tubing all the way on, it's going to create a pretty solid seal. If you're using it in a high-pressure application, it's possible that you've got too much pressure that's blowing the tubing away from the barbs. Either the tubing is cracked, it's not all the way on, or it's the wrong size.

Can a hose barb fitting be used for pneumatics?

Hose barbs can be used for pneumatics. Be careful of the pressures, however, and be sure to connect the right tubing with the hose barb. Check the specs on both the tubing and the hose barb to make sure they're going to be able to withstand the pressure from your pneumatic system.

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