How to Manage Condensate in Your Compressed Air System

If you operate an air compressor, you’re drawing water vapor into your compressed air system.  Factors like climate control (or lack thereof,) and humidity will dictate how much.  If (or more to the point, when) it condenses, it becomes an issue that must be addressed.  There are several types of dryer systems to choose from, usually when you buy your compressor…we’ve covered those in a number of blogs.  Some of these can leave a little more water vapor than others, but remain popular and effective, when considering the cost, and cost of operation, of the different types.

So, how do you handle the condensate that the dryer doesn’t remove?

  • Receivers, or storage tanks (like EXAIR Model 9500-60, shown to the right,) are commonly used for several reasons:
    • By providing an intermediate storage of compressed air close to the point of use, fluctuations across the system won’t adversely affect an application that needs a constant flow and pressure.
    • This also can keep the air compressor from cycling rapidly, which leads to wear & tear, and additional maintenance headaches.
    • When fitted with a condensate drain (more on those in a minute,) they can serve as a wet receiver.  Condensate collects in the bottom and is manually, or automatically emptied.
  • Condensate drains, while popularly installed on receivers, are oftentimes found throughout larger systems where the vapor is prone to condense (intercoolers, aftercoolers, filters and dryers) and where the condensation can be particularly problematic (drip legs or adjacent to points of use.) There are a couple of options to choose from, each with their own pros & cons:
    • Manual drains are self explanatory: they’re ball valves; cycled periodically by operators.  Pros: cheap & simple.  Cons: easy to blow down too often or for too long, which wastes compressed air.  It’s also just as easy to blow down not often enough, or not long enough, which doesn’t solve the condensate problem.
    • Timer drains are self explanatory too: they cycle when the timer tells them to. Pros: still fairly cheap, and no attention is required.  Cons: they’re going to open periodically (per the timer setting) whether there’s condensate or not.
    • Demand, or “zero loss” drains collect condensate until their reservoir is full, then they discharge the water.  Pros: “zero loss” means just that…they only actuate when condensate is present, and they stop before any compressed air gets out.  Cons: higher purchase price, more moving parts equals potential maintenance concerns.
  • The “last line of defense” (literally) is point-of-use condensate removal.  This is done with products like EXAIR Automatic Drain Filter Separators.  They’re installed close to compressed air operated devices & products, oftentimes just upstream of the pressure regulator and/or flow controls…the particulate filter protects against debris in these devices, and the centrifugal element “spins” any last remaining moisture from the compressed air flow before it gets used.
Good engineering practice calls for point of use filtration and moisture removal, such as that provided by EXAIR Filter Separators.

Efficient and safe use of your compressed air includes maintaining the quality of your compressed air.  If you’d like to find out more about how EXAIR Corporation can help you get the most out of your compressed air system, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Engineered Super Air Nozzles Improve Efficiency and Safety vs. Commercial and Homemade Nozzles

They may be inefficient, but they sure are loud…

Over the years, EXAIR has come across a variety of different types of blow-off devices.  We have seen copper tubes, pipes with a crushed end, fittings with holes drilled into them, and modular flex lines.  For compressed air use, these are very dangerous and very inefficient.  In many instances, companies will go through a mixed bag of items to make a blow-off device for their application.  It is inexpensive to do.  But what they do not realized is that these items are very unsafe and will waste your compressed air, costing you much money in the long run.

When EXAIR started to manufacture compressed air products in 1983, we created a culture in making high quality products that are safe, effective, and efficient.  Since we stand by our products, we created a program called the Efficiency Lab.  We test blow-off devices against EXAIR products in noise levels, flow usage, and force measurements.  With calibrated test equipment, we compare the data in a detailed report for the customer to review.  If we are less effective, we will state that in the report, but this is very rare.  With this quantified information, we can then determine the total amount of air savings and safety improvements that EXAIR products can offer.

With our Efficiency Lab, it is quite simple to do.  For starters, you can go to our Product Efficiency Survey on our website to give the conditions for testing.  If you wish for a side by side analysis, you can place your pneumatic device in a box and send it to EXAIR.  We will run the tests at the specified conditions or in a range of settings.  We will then return your pneumatic device back to you with a report of the comparison.  This report can be used to show managers, executives, HSE, etc. on the improvements that EXAIR can provide in cost savings and safety.

In a recent Efficiency Lab, a customer sent us a water jet nozzle that he was using to blow off product passing on a conveyor (reference photo above).  The customer supplied us with the required information to test.  They had three water jet nozzles on a manifold that had ¼” NPT male connections.  The air pressure was set at 75 PSIG (5.2 bar), and the air pattern was round.  Their annual usage for this blow-off device was 7000 hours continuous, and their electric rate for their facility was $0.10/KWh.  The reason that they sent their nozzle to EXAIR was because the operation was very loud, and they believed that they were wasting compressed air.  They asked me for a recommendation and what the payback period might be with my selection.

Model 1101

I recommended the model 1101 Super Air Nozzle as our standard round pattern with a ¼” NPT male connection.  With our engineered design, the Super Air Nozzle can entrain the “free” ambient air into the air stream to generate a hard-hitting force; using less compressed air.  Also, with this suggestion, they will not have to redesign their blow-off station; just remove the water jet nozzles and replace them with the Super Air Nozzles.  We tested the water jet nozzle, and we found that it used 17.5 SCFM (496 SLPM) at 75 PSIG (5.2 bar).  The noise level was measured at 91.2 dBA for a single nozzle.  As a comparison, the model 1101 Super Air Nozzle will only use 13.3 SCFM (376 SLPM) of compressed air at 75 PSIG (5.2 bar); and, the noise level was reduced to 73 dBA for each nozzle.

The first thing that is important to me is safety.  High noise levels will cause hearing damage.  OSHA generated a standard 29CFR-1910.95a with a chart for Maximum Allowable Noise Exposure.  To calculate the noise level for three nozzles, I will reference a previous blog that I wrote: “Measuring and Adding Sounds”.  With three water jet nozzles, the total sound is 96 dBA.  From the OSHA table above, the usage without hearing protection is less than 4 hours a day.  With the Super Air Nozzles, the noise level will be 78 dBA for all three nozzles; well below the requirement for 8 hours of exposure.  It is difficult to put a monetary value on safety, but using PPE should never be the first step as a solution.

For the annual savings and the payback period, I will only look at the electrical cost.  (Since the Super Air Nozzle is using less compressed air, the maintenance and wear on your air compressor is reduced as well).

The air savings is calculated from the comparison; 17.5 SCFM – 13.3 SCFM = 4.2 SCFM per nozzle.  With three nozzles, the total compressed air savings will be 12.6 SCFM for the blow-off station.  An air compressor can produce 5.36 SCFM/KW of electricity at a cost of $0.10/KWh.  For an annual savings, we have the figures from the information above; 7000 hours/year * 12.6 SCFM * $0.10/KWh * 1KW/5.36 SCFM = $1,645.52/year.  For the payback period, the model 1101 Super Air Nozzle has a catalog price of $44.00 each, or $132.00 for three.  The customer above did not disclose the cost of the water jet nozzles, but even at a zero value, the payback period will be just under 1 month.  Wow!

Not all blow off devices are the same.  With the customer above, they were able to reduce their noise levels and compressed air consumption.  If your company decides to select an unconventional way to blow off parts without contacting EXAIR, there can be many hidden pitfalls; especially with safety.  Besides, if you can save your company thousands of dollars per year as well, why go with a non-standard nozzle?  If you have a blow off application and would like to compare it against an EXAIR product, you can discuss the details with an Application Engineer.  What do you have to lose?

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

EXAIR Digital Sound Level Meters Measure Noise Exposure Levels

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Digital Sound Meter

EXAIR 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.

Sound meters convert the movement of a thin membrane due to the pressure waves of sound into an electric signal that is processed and turned into a readable output, typically in dBA.  The dBA scale is the weighted scale that most closely matches the human ear in terms of the sounds and frequencies that can be detected.

Noise induced hearing loss can be a significant problem for many workers in manufacturing and mining. To protect workers in the workplace from suffering hearing loss OSHA has set limits to the time of exposure based on the sound level.  The information in the OSHA Standard 29 CFR – 1910.95(a) is summarized below.

OSHA Noise Level

The EXAIR Digital Sound Level Meter is an accurate and responsive instrument that measures the decibel level of the sound and displays the result on the large optionally back-lit LCD display. There is an “F/S” option to provide measurement in either ‘slow’ or ‘fast’ modes for stable or quickly varying noises. The ‘Max Hold’ function will capture and hold the maximum sound level, and update if a louder sound occurs.

Certification of accuracy and calibration traceable to NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) is included.

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 and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Compressed Air Efficiency – How It Benefits Business

It is estimated that typically plants can waste up to 30 percent of their generated compressed air and that cost is substantial.  Considering the average cost to generate compressed air here in the Midwest is .25 cents per 1,000 Standard Cubic Feet, that translates into .075 cents for every .25 cents spent!  Compounded with the fact that energy costs have doubled in the last five years, it couldn’t be a better time to make your air compressor system more efficient.

efficiencylab

The following steps will help you save air and in turn save money.

  1. Measure the air consumption to find sources that use a lot of compressed air.

Knowing where you stand with your compressed air demand is important to be able to quantify the savings once you begin to implement a compressed air optimization program. Placing a value upon your compressed air consumption will also allow you to place a value on its costs and the savings you will reap once you start to reduce your consumption. (EXAIR’s Digital Flow Meter)

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  1. Find and fix the leaks in your compressed air system.

Not fixing your compressed air system leaks can cause your system pressure to fluctuate and affect your equipment negatively. It may cause you to run a larger compressor than necessary for your compressed air needs and raise your total costs. Or it could cause your cycle and run times to increase which leads to increased maintenance to the entire system. (EXAIR’s Ultrasonic Leak Detector)

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  1. Upgrade your blow off, cooling and drying operations using engineered compressed air products.

Your ordinary nozzle with a through hole and a cross drilled hole can be an easy choice based upon price, but if you do not consider the operating cost you do not really know how much it is costing you. An Engineered Air Nozzle will pay for itself and lower operating costs quickly. Engineered Air Nozzles are the future of compressed air efficiency and are made to replace ordinary nozzles, homemade nozzles and open line blow offs. Engineered Nozzles reduce air consumption and noise levels; ordinary nozzles cannot compete. Engineered Nozzles maintain safety features and can qualify for an energy savings rebate from a local utility; ordinary nozzles fall short. Open blow off or homemade blow off applications typically violate OSHA safety standards; Engineered Nozzles do not.  (EXAIR’s Air Nozzles)

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EXAIR Nozzles
  1. Turn off the compressed air when it is not in use.

Automated solutions add solenoid valves and run them from your machine controls. If the machine is off, or the conveyor has stopped – close the solenoid valve and save the air.  And blow off applications can benefit from any space in between parts by turning the air off during the gaps with the aid of a sensor and solenoid. (EXAIR’s automated  Electronic Flow Control)

 

  1. Use intermediate storage of compressed air near the point of use.

Also known as secondary receivers, intermediate air storage is especially effective when a system has shifting demands or large volume use in a specific area. Intermediate storage is the buffer between a large demand event and the output of your compressor. The buffer created by intermediate storage (secondary receiver) prevents pressure fluctuations which may impact other end use operations and affect your end product quality. (EXAIR’s Receiver Tanks)

  1. Control the air pressure at the point of use to minimize air consumption.

This is a very simple and easy process, all it requires is a pressure regulator. Installing a pressure regulator at all of your point of use applications will allow you to lower the pressure of these applications to the lowest pressure possible for success. Lowering the pressure of the application also lowers the air consumption. And it naturally follows that lower air consumption equals energy savings. (EXAIR’s Pressure Regulators)

By increasing your awareness of the health of your air compressor system and implementing a PM program you can significantly reduce your costs from wasted energy and avoid costly down time from an out of service air compressor.

If you would like to discuss improving your compressed air efficiency or any of EXAIR’s engineered solutions, I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Benefits of an Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Ultrasonic Leak Detector

As margins get tighter and cost of manufacturing climbs, industries are looking into different areas to be more efficient.  A big focus nowadays is in their compressed air system.  Why is this?  Manufacturers are starting to realize that it takes an abundant amount of electricity to make compressed air.  That is why EXAIR manufactures compressed air products for optimization to get the best efficiency.  But what many manufacturers don’t realize is that quiet little hissing sound from there compressed air lines is costing them much money.   That is why EXAIR has the Ultrasonic Leak Detector.

Finding leaks will save you money

Energy Star, a federal voluntary program ran by the Environmental Protection Agency, offers energy-efficient solutions.  EXAIR has partnered with Energy Star because it underscores our commitment to improve energy savings.  They even wrote an excerpt about compressed air leaks here: Energy Tips: Minimize Compressed Air Leaks.  With compressed air leaks, it can be as much as 30% of your compressed air usage.

When a leak occurs, it emits an ultrasonic noise.  The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector can pick this up.  It has a frequency range from 20 KHz to 100 KHz, above human hearing, so it can make the inaudible leaks, audible.  With three sensitivity ranges and LED display, you can find very minute leaks.  It comes with headphones and two attachments; the parabola attachment to find leaks up to 20 feet (6 meters) away, and the tube attachment for local proximity to define the exact location of the leak.

In the Energy Tips from Energy Star, they reference estimated leak rates and costs associated with these leaks.  They also recommend a leak prevention program with reference materials to help improve energy savings.  As part of that program, an Ultrasonic Leak Detector is the best way to begin.

Checking pipe fittings

To tell a common success story about the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, an EXAIR customer had a 50-horsepower air compressor.  It started to overwork, overheat, and occasionally shut down.  He thought that he would need to buy a larger air compressor to keep his plant running.  In discussing his problems and requirements, he decided to purchase an Ultrasonic Leak Detector from EXAIR to check for leaks as a possible cause.  He checked every fitting and connection in his facility.  When he finished checking the compressed air system, he found 91 leaks.  (You will be surprised with your system if it is not well maintained).

If we look at a very small 1/16” (1.6mm) diameter hole at 80 PSIG (5.5 bar), it will cost you $360 a year per leak (based on 6000 working hours per year).  Thus, 91 leaks at $360/year will equal $32,760 per year.  After the fittings were reworked with piping compound, the compressor was back operating in a normal range.  There was no need to buy a larger air compressor with capital funds, and he was able to save $32,760 a year by finding and fixing the leaks.

As a little secret with the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, it can do more than find compressed air leaks.  Any issue that creates an ultrasonic noise, the Ultrasonic Leak Detector can find it.  This will include air damper seals, circuit breakers, cracked rubber belts, gas burner leaks, refrigerant leaks, worn bearings, and air brake systems on trucks.  It is a handy tool to find potential issues or problems in other areas other than compressed air systems.

For optimization of your compressed air system, it is very important to find and correct leaks in your piping system.  The Ultrasonic Leak Detector can help you do that.  It is an inexpensive way to solve an expensive problem, compressed air leaks.  If you would like to discuss the features and benefits in more detail, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR.  We will be glad to help you.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Six Steps to Optimization: Step 6 – Control the Air Pressure at the Point of Use to Minimize Air Consumption

Since air compressors use a lot of electricity to make compressed air, it is important to use the compressed air as efficiently as possible.  EXAIR has six simple steps to optimize your compressed air system.  Following these steps will help you to cut your production costs and improve your bottom line.  In this blog, I will cover the sixth step; controlling the air pressure at the point of use.

Regulators

One of the most common pressure control devices is called the Regulator.  It is designed to reduce the downstream pressure that is supplying your system.  Regulators are commonly used in many types of applications.  You see them attached to propane tanks, gas cylinders, and of course, compressed air lines.  Properly sized, regulators can flow the required amount of gas at a regulated pressure for safety and cost savings.

EXAIR designs and manufactures compressed air products to be safe, effective, and efficient.  By replacing your “old types” of blowing devices with EXAIR products, it will save you much compressed air, which in turn saves you money.  But, why stop there?  You can optimize your compressed air system even more by assessing the air pressure at the point-of-use.  For optimization, using the least amount of air pressure to “do the job” can be very beneficial.

1100 Super Air Nozzles

Why are regulators important for compressed air systems?  Because it gives you the control to set the operating pressure.  For many blow-off applications, people tend to overuse their compressed air.  This can create excessive waste, stress on your air compressor, and steal from other pneumatic processes.  By simply turning down the air pressure, less compressed air is used.  As an example, a model 1100 Super Air Nozzle uses 14 SCFM of compressed air at 80 PSIG (5.5 bar).  If you only need 50 PSIG (3.4 bar) to satisfy the blow-off requirement, then the air flow for the model 1100 drops to 9.5 SCFM.  You are now able to add that 4.5 SCFM back into the compressed air system. And, if you have many blow-off devices, you can see how this can really add up.

In following the Six Steps to optimize your compressed air system, you can reduce your energy consumption, improve pneumatic efficiencies, and save yourself money.  I explained one of the six steps in this blog by controlling the air pressure at the point of use.  Just as a note, reducing the pressure from 100 PSIG (7 bar) to 80 PSIG (5.5 bar) will cut your energy usage by almost 20%.  If you would like to review the details of any of the six steps, you can find them in our EXAIR blogs or contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Engineered Air Nozzles vs. Commercial vs. Open Air Line

How much does your compressed air cost?  If you don’t know, there are some handy tools, like this one, that will help you calculate it precisely.  For estimating purposes, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that compressed air costs about $0.25 per 1,000 Standard Cubic Feet of mass to generate.  Again, this is an estimate based on different electric power consumption costs from around the country, varying efficiencies of different types & sizes of air compressors, etc., so, as the automobile folks say, “your mileage may vary.”

Regardless of whether you calculate it exactly or just estimate it, it’s going to come as no surprise that it isn’t cheap.  That’s why efficient use HAS to be taken seriously.  Luckily, there are steps you can take (six, specifically, see below,) that can help.

Step 3, dear reader, is the subject of today’s blog.

This is a common inquiry here at EXAIR Corporation.  It’s not hard to find a blog about them -like this one, or this one, or even this one.  Before we go any further….yes, this is ANOTHER one.

I recently had the pleasure of helping a caller who was using the male ends of pneumatic quick connect fittings to blow off steel tubes:

Cheap and easy…but loud & wasteful. Don’t let this happen to you.

They were operating these, for the most part, 24/7, as their production was continuous, although there were actually spaces between product at times.  They were using over 74 SCFM…that’s 750,000 Standard Cubic Feet of compressed air PER WEEK, or over 39 MILLION SCF per year…over $9,700.00* in generation cost.  After a brief discussion, they ordered & installed two Model 1101 Super Air Nozzles, which threaded right in to their existing fittings:

This was a “slam dunk” – no system modification was even required.

Not only were the Super Air Nozzles markedly quieter (sound level went from 90dBA to 72dBA,) air consumption was reduced to just 20.90 SCFM…a 72% reduction, which translates to an annual cost savings of over $7,000.00*.  But wait…there’s more.

See, that was just “step 3” – they also installed a solenoid valve in the supply line, actuated from their process control.  This turns off the compressed air in between cycles, roughly estimated at about half the time.  This gets them additional savings of almost $1,400.00* per year.  But wait (again)…there’s STILL more.

This is one of five lines that were (mis)using the pneumatic fittings.  With the dramatic improvements of the first line, they ordered Super Air Nozzles for the remaining four.  So, to recap…an investment of $440.00 (2019 List Price for the Model 1101 is $44.00,) plus their solenoid valves, they’re saving almost $42,000.00* per year in compressed air generation costs.

*using the DoE thumbrule of $0.25/1,000 SCF referenced in the first paragraph.

Engineered compressed air products like the Super Air Nozzles are a clear winner all day, every day, over any open-end type device.  If you’d like to find out how much EXAIR’s Intelligent Compressed Air Products can save you, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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