6 Steps to Air Savings: Step 1 – Measure!

Six Steps to Optimizing Your Compressed Air System

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 20%!! Good luck explaining to your finance department that you’re carelessly wasting 20% of the most expensive utility. Step 1 of the 6 steps to optimizing your compressed air system is to measure the air consumption to find sources that consume a lot of air.

In order to have an understanding of your compressed air usage across various processes and in your entire facility, you have to measure. 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 in sizes from as small as ½” Schedule 40 iron pipe and up to 4” Schedule 40 pipe from stock. Larger sizes and pipes calibrated for use on copper or metric pipe are also available.

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.

Each meter has a built in LED display that provides the volume of air moving through the pipe in SCFM, m3/hr, or m3/min. Two small probes are inserted into holes in the pipe (drill guide kit w/ drill bit included) to detect the airflow. The unit seals to the pipe once the clamps are tightened. (If the DFM ever needs to be removed, EXAIR also offers blocking rings to seal off the holes) No cutting, welding, adjustments or calibrations are ever required.

In addition to the standard Digital Flowmeter itself, it’s also offered with wireless capability to transmit the data back to your PC, or via USB Data Logger. Both of these options will allow you to track usage over time and upload that data into an Excel spreadsheet.

EXAIR’s Digital Flowmeter w/ USB Data Logger

If you’re “flying blind” when it comes to understanding your costs of compressed air in your facility, this is the first step. Contact an EXAIR Application Engineer today to get started. We’ll be happy to help you identify areas where you could take advantage of simple savings.

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

Compressed Air Receiver Tanks On The “Demand” Side

Most any air compressor is going to have a receiver tank…from the “pancake” types that might hold a gallon or so, to the large, multi-tank arrangements that facilitate both cooling and drying of compressed air in major industrial installations.  The primary purpose of these receiver tanks is to maintain proper operation of the compressor itself…they store a pressurized volume of air so that the compressor doesn’t have to run all the time.  Receiver Tanks, however, can also be used to eliminate fluctuations at points of use, especially in facilities where there might be a lot of real estate between the compressor and the compressed air consuming products.

I recently had the pleasure of discussing an Line Vac Air Operated Conveyor application with a caller.  The need was to move wood chips, from inside to outside the plant, into trailers.  The facility has plenty of compressed air to operate the Line Vacs (the application calls for several) but because the point of operation is so far from the header, they’ll need a “stash” (the caller’s words…we call it “intermediate storage” but he’s not wrong) of compressed air to keep the Line Vacs supplied for operation without any dips in performance.

Enter the Model 9500-60 60 Gallon Receiver Tank.  When an application requires an intermittent demand for a high volume of compressed air, the Receiver Tank provides intermediate storage (or a “stash” – that word’s growing on me) to prevent pressure fluctuations and the associated dips in performance.

Model 9500-60 60 Gallon Receiver Tank

The Model 9500-60 has a small footprint for where floor space is at a premium, and meets ASME pressure vessel code specifications. It comes with a drain valve so you can discharge condensate and contaminants.  A check valve (not included) can be installed upstream to maintain the tank at max pressure so it doesn’t ‘back feed’ other upstream uses.

Use of intermediate storage near the point of use is one of our Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System.  If you’d like to find out more about getting the most out of your compressed air, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Turn It Off: Saving Compressed Air The Easy Way

A major benefit to utilizing compressed air is the speed at which it can be shut off and re-energized for use – in fact, this can be done instantaneously. Shutting down the supply of compressed air to an application while it is not needed can drastically reduce the compressed air consumption of the process. This is an easy remedy that can produce significant savings.

Think about a place where you have a compressed air blow off with spaces between the parts or dwell times in conveyor travel. What about break times, do operators continue to keep the air on when they leave for a break or even worse, for the day?

Step number four in EXAIR’s Six Steps to Optimization is:

A simple manual ball valve and a responsible operator can provide savings at every opportunity to shut down the airflow. But an automated solution is a no-brainer and can provide significant savings.

Quarter Turn Ball Valves are low-maintenance and easy to install/use.

For a more automated approach, you can add a solenoid valve that would tie into your existing PLC or e-stop circuit, into your compressed air supply lines to aid in turning the compressed air on and off.

For an automated on/off solution can be found by using the EXAIR EFC (Electronic Flow Control). The EFC is made to accept 110V or 220V AC, and convert it to 24V DC to operate a sensor, timer, and solenoid valve. Its multiple operating modes allow you delay on, delay-off, and delay on/off among others. The operating mode can then be set to the specific time necessary for a successful application.

The spaces between parts can be turned into money saved. Every time you reach the end of a batch run, the EFC can turn the air off. You can also 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. The modes are all defined in the video below.

So, take a look, or even better a listen, around the plant and see what you can find that could benefit from turning the air off; even if it is just for a moment it will help put money back into your bottom line.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

 

Keep Your Pneumatics “Healthy” and “Running Like a Brand New Car”

Compressed air systems are used in facilities to operate pneumatic systems, and these systems are vital for industries.  So, it is important to keep them running.  The system can be segregated into three different sections; the supply side, the demand side, and the distribution system.  I like to represent these sections as parts of a car.  The supply side will be the engine; the distribution system will be the transmission; and, the demand side will be the tires.  I will go through each section to help give tips on how to improve the “health” of your pneumatic system.

From the supply side, it will include the air compressor, after-cooler, dryer, and receiver tank that produce and treat the compressed air.  They are generally found in a compressor room somewhere in the corner of the plant.  The air compressor, like the engine of your car, produces the pneumatic power for your plant, and needs to have maintenance to keep it working optimally.  The oil needs to be changed, the filters have to be replaced, and maintenance checks have to be performed.  I wrote a blog that covers most of these items, “Compressed Air System Maintenance”.

To connect the supply side to the demand side, a distribution system is required.  Distribution systems are pipes which carry compressed air from the air compressor to the pneumatic devices.  Just like the transmission on the car, the power is transferred from the air compressor to your pneumatic products.

Maintenance is generally overlooked in this area.  Transmissions have oil which can be detected if it is leaking, but since air is a gas, it is hard to tell if you have leaks.  Energy is lost from your pneumatic “engine” for every leak that you have.  So, it is important to find and fix them.  A study was conducted within manufacturing plants about compressed air leaks.  They found that for plants without a leak detection program, up to 30% of their compressed air is lost due to leaks.  This will be equivalent to running on only 6 cylinders in a V-8 engine.

EXAIR offers the Ultrasonic Leak Detector to find those pesky leaks.  It makes the inaudible “hiss”; audible.  It can detect leaks as far as 20 feet (6m) away with the parabola attachment, and can find the exact location of the leak to be fixed with the tube attachment.

Another area for discussion with the distribution system is contamination like rust, oil, water, and debris.  Compressed air filters should be used to clean the compressed air that supplies your pneumatic products. They can remove the debris for your pneumatic products to have a long life.  You can read about the EXAIR compressed air filters here, “Preventative Maintenance for EXAIR Filters”.

The third section is the demand side.  So, you have an engine that makes the power, the transmission to transfer that power, and the tires to use that power safely and efficiently.  Many managers miss the importance of the demand side within their pneumatic system.  If you are using blow-off devices like open pipes, coolant lines, copper tubes, or drilled pipe; it will be like running your car on flat tires.  It is very unsafe as well as reducing gas mileage.  To improve safety and efficiency, EXAIR has a line of Super Air Nozzles and Super Air Knives.  Not only will it increase your “gas mileage” to save you money, but they also will keep your operators safe.

In this analogy, you can have a high-performance engine and a durable transmission, but if your tires are bald, flat, or cracked; you cannot use your car safely and efficiently.  The same thing with your compressed air system.  You have to optimize your blow-off devices to get the most from your pneumatic system.  EXAIR is a leader in engineered blow-off devices for efficiency and safety.  So, if you want to improve the “health” of your pneumatic system, you should begin at how you are using your compressed air on the demand side.  EXAIR has Application Engineers that will be happy to help you in trying to keep your pneumatic system running like a “brand new car”.

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

 

Photo: Ford Mustang Roadster by openclipart-VectorsPixabay License