Every stack has a critical wind speed at which vortex shedding occurs. Vortex Shedding is the instance where alternating low pressure zones are generated on the downwind side of the stack, as shown in the figure. These alternating low pressure zones cause the stack to move towards the low pressure zone, causing movement perpendicular to the direction of the wind. When the critical wind speed of the stack is reached, these forces can cause the stack to resonate where large forces and deflections are experienced. The critical wind speed can be calculated as follows:

Vc = f * D/S

f – Natural Frequency of stack

D – Diameter at the top

S – 0.2 (unless other structures are nearby)

Vortex Shedding Diagram

For more information on vortex shedding, check out our article: Take Vortex Shedding Seriously

Since Meca specializes in Stack design, we frequently encounter problems with new and existing stacks experiencing vortex induced vibration. It’s the single biggest problem that faces stack designers. As a result, we began offering services to assist Engineers in solving vortex shedding problems. We can help you with evaluation of a specific stack vibration problem, but here are the common solutions as well as their advantages and disadvantages.


Vortex Shedding Solution Advantages Disadvantages
Damping Pad
  • Does not Increase wind loads
  • Impervious to most oils and Solvents
  • Not frequency dependent, works for all Modes of vibration
  • Can only withstand up to 200° F [93 °C]
  • Difficult to retrofit an existing stack
  • Slight increase in lateral deflection
  • Does not provide enough damping for every stack
Tuned Mass Damper (TMD)
  • Can Provide high Damping
  • Relatively Low weight and wind drag
  • Can visually see TMD working
  • Proven Design with Decades of Service
  • Must be near the top of the stack
  • Less economical on short stacks
  • Less desirable with lots of attachments; however, mass can be notched to accommodate a ladder or attachment.
Tuned Liquid Damper (TLD)
  • Can design for multiple modes
  • No moving parts
  • Relatively low weight and wind drag
  • Shape can be changed as needed
  • Needs to be near the top of stack
  • Difficult with multiple attachments
  • Can’t see liquid from grade
Helical Strakes
  • Used successfully for decades
  • Simple design
  • Economical for short stacks
  • Increase wind loads
  • Expensive for Tall Stacks
  • Difficult to fabricate
  • Little guidance on complex situations
Segmented Strakes
  • They are easy and cheap to fabricate
  • They do not work

I have a vibration problem, what’s next?

If you have a stack with wind induced vibration issues, answer the questions in the “Vortex Shedding Solution Wizard” to receive a recommendation on how to best solve the problem.

Vortex Shedding Solution Wizard

Help for near another tall structure

To determine if you are near another tall structure you want to make sure that another structure that is 3/4 of the height of your stack is not within 15 diameters of your stack (i.e. stack that is 100 ft [30.5 m] tall with a 5 ft [1.5 m] base diameter would be near another tall structure if the structure was 75 ft [22.9 m] tall and within 75 ft [22.5 m] of the stack)

Help for temperature at base

If you don't have hot gases near the baseplate, then you typically would expect the temperature at the baseplate to be less than 200 °F [93 °C]. 

Help for overall stack height

What is the overall height of the stack from grade to the top of the stack.  If the stack is supported on top of other equipment or another structure, include the height of that supporting structure as well by going all of the way down to grade.