The Cost of Compressed Air Leaks

As margins get tighter and the cost of manufacturing climbs, industries are looking for ways to be more economical.  A big focus is on the compressed air system.  Compressed air is considered to be the “fourth utility” behind gas, water, and electricity.  Air compressors are necessary to run pneumatic systems, but they are 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 biggest problems affecting compressed air systems is leaks.  That quiet hissing sound coming from the pipelines is costing your company a lot of money.  A study was conducted by a university to determine the percentage of air leaks in a typical manufacturing plant.  In a poorly maintained system, they found that 30% of the compressor’s capacity is lost through air leaks on average.  Just to let you know, the majority of companies do not have a leak prevention program, so they will fall into the “poorly maintained” category.  To put a dollar value on it, a leak that you cannot physically hear can cost you as much as $130 per year.  That is just for one inaudible leak in hundreds of feet of compressed air lines.  The chart below shows the amount of money that can be wasted by the size of the hole for larger leaks. Unlike a hydraulic system, compressed air is clean, so leaks will not be visible at the source.  You have to find them by other means. 

Most leaks occur where you have threaded fittings, connections, hoses, and pneumatic components like valves, regulators, and drains.  The Optimization products that EXAIR offers are designed to help optimize your compressed air system, and the most effective way is to find and stop leaks.  We have the Ultrasonic Leak Detectors to find inaudible air leaks and the Digital Flowmeters to check your system and find leak rates.  With both products included in a leak prevention program, you will be able to keep your compressed air system running optimally and reduce the cost caused by wasting compressed air. 

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector: When a leak occurs, it emits an ultrasonic noise caused by turbulence.  These ultrasonic noises can be at a frequency which is inaudible for human hearing.  The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector, model 9207, can pick up these frequencies and make the leaks audible.  With a signal strength number and bar graph level display, you can find very minute leaks.  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 pipeline.  Once you find a leak, it can be marked for fixing.  This simple-to-use instrument can save you a lot of money and headaches. 

EXAIR Digital Flowmeter: With the Digital Flowmeters, you can continuously watch for waste.  Air leaks can occur at any time within any section of your pneumatic system.  You can do regular 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 downloadable software, you can view the information and export it into an Excel spreadsheet.  With the digital flowmeters, we also offer wireless capability.  You can have multiple flow meters that can communicate with your computers to continuously log and record the flow information via one gateway.  Once the flow information starts trending upward for the same process, you can use the Ultrasonic Leak Detector to find the leak.  It can also serve as a preventive measure if a pneumatic system is starting to fail.

Leaks in compressed air will cost you in terms of performance, compressor life, and electrical costs.  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.  If you need more information, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR.  Once you find and fix all your leaks, you can then focus on improving the efficiency of your blow-off devices with EXAIR products.  It will save you even more money. 

John Ball
Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Photo: Soap bubble and pencils by Carola68Pixabay license

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