Intelligent Compressed Air: Maintaining an Efficient Compressor System

compressor

The electrical costs associated with generating compressed air make it the most expensive utility in any industrial facility. In order to help offset these costs, it’s imperative that the system is operating as efficiently as possible. I’d like to take a moment to walk you through some of the ways that you can work towards making your compressed air system more efficient.

The first step you should take is to identify and fix any leaks within the distribution piping. According to the Compressed Air Challenge, up to 30% of all compressed air generated is lost through leaks. This ends up accounting for nearly 10% of your overall energy costs!! To put leaks in perspective, take a look at the graphic below from the Best Practices for Compressed Air Systems handbook.

air leaks cost

Compressed air leaks don’t just waste energy, but they can also contribute to other operating losses. If enough air is lost through leaks, this can also cause a drop in system pressure. This can affect the functionality of other compressed air operated equipment and processes. This pressure drop can affect the efficiency of the equipment causing it to cycle on/off more frequently or to not work properly. This can lead to anything from rejected products to increased running time. With an increase in running time, there’s also the need for more frequent maintenance and unscheduled downtime.

You can perform a compressed air audit in your facility using an EXAIR Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector. If you’d prefer someone come in and do this for you, there are several companies that offer energy audit services where this will be a focal point of the process.

ultrasonic_2
EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Speaking of maintenance, proper compressor maintenance is also critical to the overall efficiency of the system. Like all industrial equipment, a proper maintenance schedule is required in order to ensure things are operating at peak efficiency. Inadequate compressor maintenance can have a significant impact on energy consumption via lower compressor efficiency. A regular preventative maintenance schedule is required in order to keep things in good shape. The compressor, heat exchanger surfaces, lubricant, lubricant filter, air inlet filter, and dryer all need to be maintained. This can be done yourself or through a reputable compressor dealer. The costs associated with these services are outweighed in the improved reliability and performance of the compressor. A well-maintained system will not cause unexpected shutdowns and will also cost less to operate.

The manner in which you use your compressed air at the point of use should also be evaluated. Inefficient, homemade solutions are thought to be a cheap and quick solution. Unfortunately, the costs to supply these inefficient solutions with compressed air can quickly outweigh the costs of an engineered solution. An engineered compressed air nozzle such as EXAIR’s line of Super Air Nozzles are designed to utilize the coanda effect. Free, ambient air from the environment is entrained into the airflow along with the supplied compressed air. This maximizes the force and flow of the nozzle while keeping compressed air usage to a minimum.

Another method of making your compressed air system more efficient is actually quite simple: regulating the supply pressure. By installing pressure regulators at the point of use for each of your various point of use devices, you can reduce the consumption simply by reducing the pressure. This can’t be done for everything, but I’d be willing to bet that several tasks could be accomplished with the same level of efficiency at a reduced pressure. Most shop air runs at around 80-90 psig, but for general blowoff applications you can often get by operating at a lower pressure. Another simple, but often overlooked, method is to simply shut off the compressed air supply when not in use. If you haven’t yet performed an audit to identify compressed air leaks this is even more of a no-brainer. When operators go to lunch or during breaks, what’s stopping you from just simply turning a valve to shut off the supply of air? It seems simple and minute, but each step goes a long way towards reducing your overall air consumption and ultimately your energy costs.

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

 

Image taken from the Best Practices for Compressed Air Systems Handbook, 2nd Edition

Is It Safe To Use Compressed Air?

Think about it…compressed air is, by definition, gas under pressure: potential (stored) energy.  This energy is intended to do work, like operation of pneumatic tools, actuation of pneumatic cylinders, debris removal with an air gun or blow off device, and (even though I haven’t done it in a while) my personal favorite:

High pressure compressed air is meticulously made, prepared, and stored to ensure the number of surfaces equals the number of dives.

Uncontrolled, unplanned, or accidental releases of stored energy (regardless of the source) are inherently dangerous, and great care must be taken to guard against such incidents.  This is accomplished, primarily, in three areas:

*Operation.  This might be the most prevalent, because it involves the greatest number of personnel (e.g., everyone) as well as the ways compressed air is used (e.g., all of them.)  It’s also the area where the most involved people (the operators) have the most control:

  • Personal protection.  Don’t even think about operating a compressed air device without eye protection.  Ever.  Hard stop.  Also, if the operation involves flying debris, a full face shield, long sleeves, gloves, etc. might be called for.  Hearing protection may be required as well…keep in mind, even if an engineered device (like any of EXAIR’s Intelligent Compressed Air Products) generates a relatively low sound level, the impingement noise of the air flow hitting the object can reach dangerous levels.
  •  Personnel cleaning is prohibited.  The risk of injury to the eyes, respiratory system, and other parts is just too great to rely on personal protective equipment that’s designed for use while discharging compressed air AWAY from the body.  While this is expressly prohibited in certain situations, OSHA has long recognized it as good practice for all industries.
  • No horseplay.  ’nuff said.  Plenty of better ways to have fun at work.

*Design.  This one usually has the advantage of being traceable to a small number of people, and is also the one that’s most likely to be documented.  This is where it starts…if the system is designed to fail, it doesn’t matter how much care the operators take:

  • Supply lines, fittings, and hoses must be rated for use with compressed air, up to and exceeding the maximum discharge pressure of the air compressor.
  • This goes for any tools, blow off devices, components, etc., serviced by the air system.  The only thing worse than a component failing is a component failing in your hand.
  • Shut off valves should be located as close as practical to point(s) of operation.  This allows you to quickly secure the flow of compressed air to a failed component, hose, etc., and prevent further damage or risk of injury.
  • Hoses shouldn’t be run across the floor, where they can become a trip hazard or subject to damage from stepping on them.   This is a surefire way to find out the value of shut off valves (see above.)

*Product specification.  Or, more simply put, using the right tool for the job.  A broader discussion could include efficiency and performance, but we’ll stay within the confines of safety for the purposes of this blog:

  • Be mindful of dead end pressure.  Blow off devices, especially hand held ones like air guns, are oftentimes fitted with a simple open-end discharge.  If this is pushed into a part of the body, the pressurized air can break the skin and cause an air embolism.  This is a serious injury, and can be fatal if it reaches the heart, lungs, or brain.
    • This is a key consideration to OSHA Standard 1910.242(b), which limits the downstream pressure when compressed air is used for cleaning to 30psi.
    • EXAIR products are compliant with this Standard by design…there’s always a relief path for the air pressure; they can’t be dead ended.
Because the compressed air exits through a series of holes, recessed between a ring of fins, any attempt to block the air flow will simply send it in another direction.
  • Harmful sound levels are a consideration as well.  As stated above, hearing protection is required in many cases, but sound levels can be mitigated through the use of engineered products.  EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, as a result of their high entrainment, generate a boundary layer of air flow that leads to dramatically lower sound levels than a similar-sized open end blow off device.

If you’d like to explore ways to make your compressed air system safer, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Sound Power Vs Sound Pressure

sound-level-comparison
EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product dBA ratings as compared to other sounds

When trying to explain or state a number associated with how loud a sound or noise is it can be somewhat confusing or at the very least, ambiguous.  This blog will help to make it clear and easy to understand the difference between Sound Power and Sound Pressure.

Sound Power is defined as the speed at which sound energy is radiated or transmitted for a given period of time.  The SI unit of sound power is the watt. It is the power of the sound force on a surface of the medium of propagation of the sound wave.

Sound Pressure is the sound we hear and is defined as the atmospheric pressure disturbance that can vary by the conditions that the sound waves encounter such as furnishings in a room or if outdoors trees, buildings, etc.  The unit of measurement for Sound Pressure is the decibel and its abbreviation is the dB.

I know, the difference is still clear as mud!  Lets consider a simple analogy using a light bulb.  A light bulb uses electricity to make light so the power required (stated in Watts) to light the bulb would be the “Sound Power” and the light generated or more specific the brightness is the “Sound Pressure”.  Sound just as with the light emitting from the bulb diminishes as the distance increases from the source.  Skipping the math to do this, it works out that the sound decreases by 6 dB as the distance from the sound source is doubled.  A decrease of 3dB is half as loud (Sound Pressure) as the original source.  As an example sound measured at 90 dB @ 36″ from the source would be 87dB at 54″ from the sound source or 84dB at 72″.

We at EXAIR specialize in making quiet and efficient point of use compressed air products, in fact most of our products either meet or exceed OSHA noise standards seen below.

OSHA Noise Level

EXAIR also offers the model 9104 Digital Sound Level Meter.  It is an easy to use instrument for measuring and monitoring the sound level pressures in and around equipment and other manufacturing processes.

If you have questions about the Digital Sound Level Meter, or would like to talk about any of the quiet EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR or any Application Engineer.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer

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Return On Investment: Does It Matter, And How Much?

I have a friend who participates in a process known as “extreme couponing.” She has multiple subscriptions to the Sunday edition of our major newspaper, and a couple of local papers that also have coupon inserts. When I see her at the grocery store, she’s got two 4″ binders full of baseball card holders, all stuffed with multiples of clipped coupons, organized by store aisle. The insane amount of money saved is a big factor in her being able to be a stay-at-home mother, which is something else she’s pretty good at.

If you get stuck at step one…or even two…extreme couponing may not be for you!

Now, extreme couponing isn’t for everyone. Even beginners to the process can buy a year’s worth of paper towels for next to nothing. However, that may take up so much room in their house that they need to rent a storage facility for other belongings that folks like you and me simply keep in the garage or basement. It also takes a LOT of time and effort to do it right – as well as discipline. Saving half (or more) on a truckload of stuff you don’t need (or will never use) is a waste of money, time, and space. In fact, I know people who have abandoned extreme couponing for those very reasons…the “return on investment” just isn’t there.

That’s the deal in industry too.  Anyone tasked with finding and exploiting efficiencies – or finding and eliminating inefficiencies – is going to be looking at return on investment.  Like extreme couponing, though, it has to make sense in all aspects of the operation.  For example:

*An OEM taking advantage of a quantity discount for components or subassemblies has to not only have the storage space available, but also has to consider the turnover rate…it costs money to keep product on the shelf.

*A machine shop considering a tooling upgrade has to compare the cost difference with the increased performance and/or lifespan of the “new and improved” product.  A tool that costs 10% more but lasts twice as long is probably a good deal.  A tool that costs twice as much but lasts 10% longer might not provide the “bang for the buck.”

*Any facility, before switching a service or utility provider, will “run the numbers” on promotional rates, contract terms, etc. before making a commitment.

Unlike extreme couponing, EXAIR makes it easy – and beneficial – to evaluate the return on investment:

*Our catalog (if you don’t have the latest, get it here) has complete performance & operational data on all of our products.  This is great if you know what you want it to do.

*If you’re not quite sure, our catalog also has a good number of actual application write-ups for most of our Intelligent Compressed Air Products.  You may be able to find something that’s similar to what you want to do, and further inform your selection from there.

*Once you’ve chosen a product, you can use the Calculator Library on our website to determine actual dollar cost savings associated with replacing a current compressed air powered device with an EXAIR product.

*Application Engineers are available to discuss your application and/or product selection via phone, email, or Live Chat.

*No matter how detailed the discussion, and how confident a plan we may make, the age-old saying about how it “looked good on paper” proves itself every now and again.  When this happens, all catalog products are covered by our 30 Day Unconditional Guarantee.  If you’re not satisfied for any reason within 30 days of purchase, we’ll arrange return for full credit.

*Let’s assume that we’re pretty good at this (because we are) and it actually DOES work out (because it usually does) – we can calculate your new (and improved) operating costs and compare them with the cost of your previous devices.  If you don’t have the instrumentation (flow meters, sound level meters, etc.,) this is a free service we provide in our Efficiency Lab.  Send it in, and we’ll do a full performance test & issue a comprehensive report, all at no charge.  And if you qualify for a Case Study, we can even save you some money on your next order.  Contact me for more details if you’re interested.

Free testing. Verifiable data. EXAIR Efficiency Lab.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Coupon Pile Stock Photos courtesy of Carol Pyles  Creative Common License

Compressed Air Uses In Industry

Air Compressor

There are so many uses for compressed air in industry that it would be difficult to list every one of them as the list would be exhaustive.  Some of the uses are the tools used in production lines, assembly & robotic cells, painting, chemical processing, hospitals, construction, woodworking and aerospace.

It is considered as important as water, electricity, petroleum based fuels and often referred to as the fourth utility in industry. The great advantage of compressed air is the high ratio of power to weight or power to volume. In comparison to an electric motor compressed air powered equipment is smoother.  Also compressed air powered equipment generally requires less maintenance, is more reliable and economical than electric motor powered tools.  In addition they are considered on the whole as safer than electric powered devices.

Even amusement parks have used compressed air in some capacity in the operation of thrill rides like roller coasters or to enhance the “wow factor” of certain attractions. Compressed air can be found in your dentist’s office where it is used to operate drills and other equipment. You will find compressed air in the tires on your car, motorcycle and bicycles. Essentially, if you think about it, compressed air is being used nearly everywhere.

Here at EXAIR, we manufacture Intelligent Compressed Air Products to help improve the efficiency in a wide variety of industrial operations. Whether you are looking to coat a surface with an atomized mist of liquid, conserve compressed air use and energy, cool an electrical enclosure, convey parts or bulk material from one location to another or clean a conveyor belt or web, chances are we have a product that will fit your specific need.

Atomizing nozzle
Atomizing Nozzles Can Apply Even Coatings
Super Air Amplifier
Air Amplifiers pull in a large volume of ambient air to increase air flow volume and are great for cooling applications!
Heavy Duty Threaded Line Vac
For conveying heavy or abrasive products the Heavy Duty Threaded Line Vacs have male NPT Threads to make permanent and rigid installation into a piping system a breeze.

If you would like to discuss quiet, efficient compressed air products, I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer
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Heavy Duty Line Vac: A Powerful and Durable Pneumatic Conveyor

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EXAIR’s Line Vacs are an ideal solution for bulk conveying over long distances. With just a small amount of compressed air, the Line Vac generates vacuum on one end and high output flows on the other. The conveyance rate is easily adjustable by regulating the pressure supplied to the Line Vac. At higher input pressures the Line Vac will move more material, at lesser pressures the conveyance rate is also reduced.

The Heavy Duty Line Vac looks similar to the standard Line Vac, but packs a more powerful punch. Performance has been boosted with larger holes in the generator. This makes the Heavy Duty Line Vac ideal for heavier materials that must be conveyed over longer vertical and horizontal distances. Standard Line Vacs can also be drilled out to match the performance of a Heavy Duty. In addition to being a more powerful conveying system, the Heavy Duty Line Vac is also constructed of our proprietary hardened alloy steel blend. This material provides exceptionally strong abrasion resistance for applications requiring the transfer of materials such as crushed glass, steel shot, or dry sand.

Where a material such as aluminum or even stainless steel would quickly wear out, the Heavy Duty Line Vac will not. As with all of our stock products, the Heavy Duty Line Vac comes with EXAIR’s Built-To-Last 5 year warranty. We’ve tested these units here ourselves with a variety of different common abrasive materials. Check out the video below to see for yourself just how durable these Line Vacs are!

Just as the Standard Line Vacs, the Heavy Duty Line Vac can come with either smooth of NPT threaded connections to turn ordinary pipe into a powerful conveying system. With sizes from ¾ NPT up to 3” NPT, there’s a size from stock available suitable for your application. If you’re looking to move abrasive materials from one point to another in your shop, look no further than EXAIR’s Heavy Duty Line Vac. Reach out to an EXAIR Application Engineer for help in determining the most suitable sized Line Vac for your requirement.

Tyler Daniel

Application Engineer

E-mail: TylerDaniel@EXAIR.com

Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

Heat Transfer – 3 Types

When you have two objects and they are of different temperatures, we know from experience that the hotter object will warm up the cooler one, or conversely, the colder object will cool down the hotter one.  We see this everyday, such as ice cooling a drink, or a fan cooling a person on a hot day.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that heat (energy) transfers from an object of a higher temperature to an object of a lower temperature. The higher temperature object has atoms with higher energy levels and they will move toward the lower energy atoms in order to establish an equilibrium. This movement of heat and energy is called heat transfer. There are three common types of heat transfer.13580963114_f222b3cdd9_z

Heat Transfer by Conduction

When two materials are in direct contact, heat transfers by means of conduction. The atoms of higher energy vibrate against the adjacent atoms of lower energy, which transfers energy to the lower energy atoms, cooling the hotter object and warming the cooler object. Fluids and gases are less heat conductive than solids (metals are the best heat conductors) because there are larger distances between atoms.  Solids have atoms that are closer together.

Heat Transfer by Convection

Convection describes heat transfer between a surface and a liquid or gas in motion. The faster the fluid or gas travels, the more convective heat transfer that occurs. There are two types of convection:  natural convection and forced convection. In natural convection, the motion of the fluid results from the hot atoms in the fluid moving upwards and the cooler atoms in the air flowing down to replace it, with the fluid moving under the influence of gravity. Example, a radiator puts out warm air from the top, drawing in cool air through the bottom. In forced convection, the fluid, air or a liquid, is forced to travel over the surface by a fan or pump or some other external source. Larger amounts of heat transfer are possible utilizing forced convection.

Heat Transfer by Radiation

Radiation refers to the transfer of heat through empty space. This form of heat transfer does not require a material or even air to be between the two objects; radiation heat transfer works inside of and through a vacuum, such as space. Example, the radiation energy from the sun travels through the great distance through the vacuum of space until the transfer of heat warms the Earth.

EXAIR‘s engineered compressed air products are used every day to force air over hot surfaces to cool, as well as dry and/or blow off hot materials. Let us help you to understand and solve your heat transfer situations.

To discuss your application and how an EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product can improve your process, feel free to contact EXAIR, myself, or one of our other Application Engineers. We can help you determine the best solution!

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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The picture “Energy Transfer – Heat” by Siyavula Education is licensed under CC BY 2.0