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

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