Optimizing Your Compressed Air System in 6 Steps!

If you’re a follower of the EXAIR Blog, you’re probably well aware that compressed air is the most expensive utility in an industrial environment. The average cost to generate 1000 Standard Cubic Feet of compressed air is $0.25. If you’re familiar with how much air you use on a daily basis, you’ll understand just how quickly that adds up. To make matters worse, many compressed air systems waste significant amounts of compressed air just through leaks. According to the Compressed Air Challenge, a typical plant that has not been well maintained will likely have a leak rate of approximately 30%!! Good luck explaining to your finance department that you’re carelessly wasting 30% of the most expensive utility. To make sure you get the most out of your compressed air system, it’s important to follow the Six Steps to Optimizing Your Compressed Air System.

Starting with Step 1: Measure the air consumption to find sources that use a lot of compressed air. In order to have an understanding of your compressed air usage across various processes and in your entire facility, you have to measure and produce a baseline. Without a measurement of usage, there’s no way to determine your actual costs or evaluate opportunities for savings. To do so, EXAIR offers a range of Digital Flowmeters from stock. The Digital Flowmeter provides a digital readout of the exact amount of compressed air being used. Many companies will install the DFM on each major leg of their air distribution system to allow for constant monitoring and provide a benchmark of compressed air usage.

Once you’ve measured your baseline, it’s time to explore another simple avenue of savings. Step 2 in the process is finding and fixing leaks in your current system. EXAIR offers our Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector to allow you to locate and fix any leaks within your distribution system. With an unmaintained system wasting on average 30% of the produced volume, this one seems like a no-brainer but is often overlooked. If you can hear the leak without the help of a device like the ULD, it’s a VERY bad leak. These should be located, tagged, and repaired ASAP!

After getting a baseline measurement of the air consumption in your facility of compressed air usage and locating and fixing leaks in your system, it’s time to begin implementing some changes. Step 3 of the 6 Steps to Optimizing Your Compressed Air System covers upgrading your blowoff, cooling, and drying operations using engineered compressed air products. EXAIR manufactures a variety of products that can help to ensure you’re using your compressed air in the best way possible. While it may seem simple, easy, and cheap to use something like an open-ended pipe or tube for blowoff, the fact of the matter is that the volume of air that these homemade solutions use quickly make them more expensive. Look no further than EXAIR when seeking a safe, efficient, and reliable engineered blowoff solution.

EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products such as (left to right) the Air Wipe, Super Air Knife, Super Air Nozzle, and Air Amplifier are engineered to entrain enormous amounts of air from the surrounding environment.

Step 4 may be the easiest of any of the others. TURN IT OFF! You can’t waste compressed air when it’s turned off. By strategically placing valves at various points throughout the distribution system, it allows you to isolate areas of the facility that may not require continuous compressed air usage. It isn’t exactly feasible to eliminate every single leak, so even if you’ve closely followed Step 3 it’s still beneficial to close some valves here and there to further reduce your consumption. In some applications, such as products traveling on a conveyor, it may be possible to utilize a product like EXAIR’s Electronic Flow Controller to ensure air isn’t wasted in between parts on the conveyor.

The 5th step in the 6 steps to optimizing your compressed air system highlights the use of intermediate storage of compressed air near the point of use. Receiver tanks are installed in the distribution system to provide a source of compressed air close to the point of use, rather than relying on the output of the compressor. Compressed air receiver tanks are an integral part to many compressed air distribution systems. Compressed air is stored at a high pressure after drying and filtration, but just upstream of point of use devices. The receiver tank is charged to a pressure higher than what is needed by the system, creating a favorable pressure differential to release compressed air when needed.

Think of a compressed air receiver tank as a “battery”. It stores the compressed air energy within a system to be used in periods of peak demand, helping to maintain a stable compressed air pressure. This improves the overall performance of the compressed air system and helps to prevent pressure drop. They should be placed strategically to provide a source of compressed air to intermittent high-volume applications.

The last step, Step 6, discusses the use of pressure regulators at the point of use. Pressure regulators are available to control the air pressure within the system and throttle the appropriate supply of air to any pneumatic device. As the last of the six steps to optimizing your compressed air system, controlling air pressure so that you’re only consuming as much as necessary can have a dramatic impact. EXAIR sells a variety of systems that will include a suitably sized pressure regulator to ensure you’re operating as efficiently as possible.

Follow these 6 steps and make sure you get the most out of your compressed air system!

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mail: TylerDaniel@EXAIR.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

When Accessories Become Essentials

In my almost three decades of home ownership, I’ve learned a great deal about maintenance in regard to dwelling structures. Among those lessons are:

  • The importance of the right tool(s) for the job.
  • Having the right materials on hand (I’m looking at you, every plumbing project I’ve ever attempted).
  • When it’s a one-person job, a team effort…or a call to the professionals is always in play.

When it comes to EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, the first and last concerns above are easily addressed. With precious few exceptions, basic hand tools are all that’s required for installation or maintenance, and they’re engineered & manufactured to be “user friendly”. One key aspect of the “user friendliness” is a comprehensive inventory of accessories.

Some of these accessories are unique to a particular Product Line:

  • Air Knife Plumbing Kits are great, especially for the longer Super Air Knives that need to be plumbed to multiple ports along their length. These consist of air hose and brass fittings (for Aluminum Super Air Knives) or Stainless Steel tubing and fittings (for the Stainless Steel models) that connect in to those multiple ports, allowing for infeed to just one (for Super Air Knives up to 54″ long) or two (for lengths up to 108″) 1/2 NPT fittings. These can actually be used on our Super Ion Air Knives as well.
  • Universal Air Knife Mounting Systems provide for ease of installation, and precise positioning of our Aluminum or Stainless Steel Super, Standard, or Full Flow Air Knives.
  • Coupling Bracket Kits can join Super Air Knives together for a continuous, uninterrupted curtain of air flow in any length that you need. They can also be used if you don’t always need air flow along the entire length of a Super Air Knife assembly. I had the pleasure of assisting a user once who had needed to blow off parts on a hanging conveyor. Some parts were a little under 2ft long; others were about 4ft long. They used the Model 110900 Coupling Bracket Kit to join two Model 110024 24″ Aluminum Super Air Knives together, plumbed them separately, and turned both of them on for the long parts, and just the ‘top’ one for the shorter parts.

Other accessories can be used for a variety of products:

  • Stay Set Hoses (with or without Magnetic Bases) make up instant Blowoff Systems when used with our engineered Air Nozzles. They come in lengths from 6″ to 36″, and can bent by hand to “stay set” (as advertised) to hold their position. They can repositioned, as needed. They’re also popular for use with our 3/4″ and 1-1/4″ Super & Adjustable Air Amplifiers, and can even be used with 3″ Air Knives.
  • Conveyance Hose is a great way to connect point A to point B in a Line Vac Air Operated Conveyor system. Bulk material conveyance really doesn’t get much easier than Line Vac + Hose = Instant Conveyor System (just add compressed air). It can also be used with our Air Amplifiers to duct or route the air flow on the inlet, or the outlet to, or from, one area to another.
  • Mounting Brackets are available for a number of our products:
    • Atomizing Spray Nozzles
    • Line Vacs
    • Filters and Regulators
    • Cabinet Cooler System Thermostats
  • Vacuum Cups are often used with our E-Vac Vacuum Generators for pick-and-place material handling applications. We stock fittings and push-in tubing as well, to complete the package. Those fittings and tubing can also be used for the liquid supply to our Atomizing Spray Nozzles (depending on what you’re spraying, you might want to verify chemical compatibility first; call me if that’s a concern).

Other EXAIR Compressed Air Product Accessories can be used with products that aren’t even ours, or, in conjunction with your compressed air system design for increased efficiency or flexibility:

  • Model 9500-60 60 Gallon Receiver Tanks can be installed near points of high air flow demand to prevent or limit fluctuations in supply throughout the system.
  • Compressed Air Hoses can be made to length, and a variety of Fittings (Hex or Close Nipples, Couplers, Reducers, Tees, Elbows, Crosses, and Bulkhead Fittings) are on the shelf in popular sizes.
  • Our 5 Micron water/dirt Filter Separators are a standard when needing clean, condensate free air to blow through and end-use product.
  • Pressure Regulators are an important factor to minimize compressed air consumption. EXAIR always recommends operating our products at the minimum pressure necessary for a successful application. For example, if using a Super Air Knife to remove dust and light debris, this could be achieved at 20 PSIG, a Pressure Regulator will provide that adjustability and keep the air consumption much lower than if it were operated at 80-100 PSIG.
  • Swivel Fittings, typically used with compressed air nozzles, provide the precision adjustability to focus in on the exact area you need to treat.

If you have any questions about how the above accessories can aid with your application, please relay on our expert team for answers and solutions. Having the right materials and accessories on-hand can simplify installation, enhance performance, save compressed air, and more!

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Air Compressor Motors and Controls, Working Together.

One of the most important aspect of an efficient compressed air delivery system is effective utilization of compressor controls. The proper use of compressor controls is critical to any efficient compressor system operation. In order to reduce operating costs, compressor controls strategies need to be developed starting with minimizing the discharge pressure. This should be set as low as possible to keep energy costs to a minimum.

The compressor system is designed with maximum air demand in mind. During periods of lower demand compressor controls are used to coordinate a reduction in output that matches the demand. There are six primary types of individual compressor controls:

  1. Start/Stop – This is the most basic control. The start/stop function will turn off the motor in response to a pressure signal.
  2. Load/Unload – The motor will run continuously, but the compressor unloads when a set pressure is reached. The compressor will then reload at a specified minimum pressure setting.
  3. Modulating – Restricts the air coming into the compressor to reduce compressor output to a specified minimum. This is also known as throttling or capacity control.
  4. Dual/Auto Dual – On small reciprocating compressors, this control allows the selection of either Start/Stop or Load/Unload.
  5. Variable Displacement – Gradually reduces the compressor displacement without reducing inlet pressure.
  6. Variable Speed – Controls the compressor capacity by adjusting the speed of the electric motor.

All of these controls then control the compressor motors and they have several different starting methods.

There are several types of modern motor starters:

Full Voltage Starters: The original, and simplest method.  These are similar in theory to the old knife switches, but the operator’s hands aren’t right on the connecting switch.  Full line voltage comes in, and amperage can peak at up to 8 times full load (normal operating) amperage during startup.  This can result in voltage dips…not only in the facility itself, but in the neighborhood.  Remember how the lights always dim in those movies when they throw the switch on the electric chair?  It’s kind of like that.

Reduced Voltage Starters: These are electro-mechanical starters.  Full line voltage is reduced, commonly to 50% initially, and steps up, usually in three increments, back to full.  This keeps the current from jumping so drastically during startup, and reduces the stress on mechanical components…like the motor shaft, bearings, and coupling to the compressor.

Solid State (or “Soft”) Starters: Like the Reduced Voltage types, these reduce the full line voltage coming in as well, but instead of increasing incrementally, they gradually and evenly increase the power to bring the motor to full speed over a set period of time.  They also are beneficial because of the reduced stress on mechanical components.

The Application Engineering team at EXAIR Corporation prides ourselves on our expertise of not only point-of-use compressed air application & products, but a good deal of overall system knowledge as well.  If you have questions about your compressed air system, give us a call.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer

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Compressor Photo Credits to Bryan Lee, Creative Commons License

Optimizing Your Compressed Air System: Find and Fix Leaks

Looking to “go green?” We can help.

There are six steps in optimizing your compressed air system. This entry will focus on Step 2 “Find and Fix leaks in your compressed air system”. Each of the six steps make an impact toward optimizing your compressed air system but finding and repairing your leaks will save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars every year. Major leaks can be felt or heard as you walk around and are somewhat easy to identify. The smaller leaks, which can not be heard or felt, can be found using EXAIR’s Ultrasonic Leak Detector (ULD).

Model 9061

EXAIR Model 9061 will help you find all the smaller leaks that go unnoticed yet add up to become a significant portion of air loss within any air savings program. This Ultrasonic Leak Detector (ULD) is a hand held, high quality instrument that can locate costly leaks in your compressed air system. The person using the ULD need only aim it in the direction of a suspected leak. When a leak is present, an audible tone can be heard with the use of headphones, and the LED display will light. Testing the various unions, pipes, valves and fittings of a complete installation can be done quickly and effectively at distances up 20 feet ( 6.1 m) from a leak.

Compressed air systems that are not maintained can easily waste up to 30% of the compressor output through leaks that go undetected. Compressing air is an expensive operation. Saving the wasted compressed air reduces overall operating costs. Smaller insignificant air leaks may not be a problem but when you add up and repair the multiple smaller leaks it will lead to significant annual savings.

If you have a compressed air system and want to find and repair your leaks EXAIR Model 9061 is a must have for finding all your leaks. If you have questions or need help please contact any one of our Application Engineers for assistance.

Eric Kuhnash
Application Engineer
E-mail: EricKuhnash@EXAIR.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_EK