The Cost of Compressed Air Leaks Create the Need to Find and Fix

Leaks can cost you

As margins get tighter and cost of manufacturing climbs, industries are looking into other areas to be more economical.  A big focus today is in the compressed air systems.  Compressed air is considered to be the “forth” utility behind gas, water, and electricity.  It is a necessary system to run pneumatic systems, but it is the least efficient of the utilities.  For every $1.00 that is put into making compressed air, you only get roughly 5¢ of work from it.  So, it is very important to use this utility as efficiently as possible.

One of the largest problems affecting compressed air systems is leaks.  That quiet little hissing sound coming from the pipe lines is costing the company much money.  A university study was conducted to find the percentage of air leaks in a typical manufacturing plant.  In a poorly maintained system, they found on average that 30% of the compressor capacity is lost through air leaks.  In relation to the amount of electricity required to make compressed air, for every ten power plants producing electricity, there is one power plant producing electricity just for air leaks.  A majority of companies do not have a leak prevention program; so, many of these companies have poorly maintained systems. This creates a large amount of waste caused by simple air leaks.  To put a dollar value on it, a leak that you cannot physically hear can cost you as much as $130/year.  That is just for one inaudible leak in hundreds of feet of compressed air lines.  For the leaks that you can hear, you can tell by the chart below the amount of money that can be wasted by the size of the hole.  Unlike a hydraulic system, compressed air will not leave a tell-tale sign of a leak. You have to locate them by some other means.

**Note 1

Most leaks occur where you have threaded fittings, connections, hoses, and pneumatic components like valves, regulators, and drains.  The Optimization products from EXAIR are designed to help optimize your complete compressed air system.  The most effective way is to find and eliminate air leaks, and EXAIR has two products that can help do this.  The Ultrasonic Leak Detectors can find the air leaks, and the Digital Flowmeters can monitor your system for air leaks.  With both of these products included in a leak prevention program, you will be able to keep your compressed air system running optimally and reduce the wasted cost in air leaks and overusing the air compressor.

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector:

When a leak occurs, it emits an ultrasonic noise caused by turbulence.  These ultrasonic noises can be at a frequency above that which is audible for human hearing.  The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector can pick up these frequencies and make the leaks audible.  With three sensitivity ranges and LED display, you can find very minute leaks in your compressed air system.  It comes with two attachments; the parabola to locate leaks up to 20 feet away, and the tube attachment to define the exact location in the pipe line.  Once you find a leak, it can be marked for fixing.

EXAIR’s Digital Flowmeter w/ USB Data Logger

EXAIR Digital Flowmeter:

With the Digital Flowmeters, you can continuously monitor for waste.  Air leaks can occur at any time within any section of your pneumatic area.  You can do systematic checks by isolating sections with the Digital Flowmeter and watching for a flow reading.  Another way to monitor your system would be to compare the results over time.  With the Digital Flowmeters, we have a couple of options for recording the air flow data.  We have the USB Datalogger for setting certain time increments to record the air flows.  Once the information is recorded, you can connect the USB to your computer, and with the downloadable software, you can view the information and export it into an Excel spread sheet.  We also offer a wireless capability option with the Digital Flowmeters.  You can have multiple flow meters communicating through a gateway to monitor and record the flow information onto your computer system.  If you find that the flow starts trending upward for the same process, then you know that you have a leak.  It can also give you a preventive measure if your pneumatic system is starting to fail.

Compressed air leaks will rob you in performance, compressor life, and electrical cost.  It is important to have a leak prevention program to check for leaks periodically as they can happen at any time.  The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector and the Digital Flowmeters will help you accomplish this and optimize your compressed air system.  Once you find and fix all your leaks, you can then focus on improving the efficiency of your blow-off devices with EXAIR products and save yourself even more money.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb


**Note 1: Chart was published by Compressed Air Challenge in April 1998 – Rev. 0

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