Save $$$ by Finding and Fixing Compressed Air Leaks

SBMart_pipe900

The generation of compressed air accounts for approximately 1/3 of all energy costs in an industrial facility. According to the Compressed Air Challenge, about 30% of that compressed air is lost through leaks. This means nearly 10% of your facilities energy costs are simply wasted through poor connections, faulty air valves, improper installation, etc. In addition to simply wasting money, compressed air leaks can also contribute to a variety of other operating losses. A leak can cause a drop in system pressure. When this occurs, end users may not operate as efficiently and has an adverse effect on production. This same drop in system pressure will also cause the equipment to cycle on/off more often, shortening the life of your compressor and other equipment. If the leaks cause an issue in supply volume, it may lead to the belief that more compressor capacity is necessary, further increasing your operating costs.

To put leaks in perspective (assuming energy costs of .10/ kWh), the folks at Compressed Air Challenge put it this way:

  • A $200/year leak cannot be felt or heard
  • A $800/year leak can be felt, but not heard
  • A $1,400/year leak can be felt and heard.

If you walk through your facility, how many leaks can you hear? These are only the REALLY bad ones!!  So if we know that a large amount of compressed air is leaking, what do we do about it? ? A proper leak prevention plan is the key to success. Since these leaks are impossible to see and some cannot even be heard, you need a tool to help assist you. EXAIR’s model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector is the right tool for the job. When compressed air leaks through a pipe, it creates an ultrasonic signature due to turbulence. While this sound is not always detectable by the human ear, this meter will allow you to locate leaks up to 20’ away by converting the ultrasonic signature into an audible sound.

The first step will be locating the leaks using an Ultrasonic Leak Detector and tagging them throughout the facility. Don’t let this overwhelm you!! If you have a larger facility, break it up into sections that can be completed in 1 day. This will allow you to decide which areas of the plant should be looked at first. Once you’ve located and tagged all of the leaks, rate them under two separate criteria so that you can prioritize what to fix first. Rate them based on the difficulty that it will take to fix them and also by the severity of the leak. Those that are severe yet easy to fix would make sense to begin fixing first. Those that may require a period of shutdown can be planned to fix at a more appropriate time.

ULD_Kit

When you’ve had the opportunity to fix them, don’t just forget about it. When new piping is installed, new lines are added, or anything involving compressed air is installed there is the potential for new leaks to develop. Set this as one of your regular PM activities and complete your own compressed air audit once a year. Implementing the process and maintaining it are the keys to your success.

If you have questions about developing a leak program or how to use the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, give us a call. An Application Engineer will be happy to help with the process and recommend some other methods to save on your compressed air supply.

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

Why Start a Leak Prevention Program?

All compressed air systems will have some amount of leakage. It is a good idea to set up a Leak Prevention Program.  Keeping the leakage losses to a minimum will save on compressed air generation costs, and reduce compressor operation time which can extend its life and lower maintenance costs.

The Compressed Air Challenge estimates an individual compressed air leak can cost thousands of dollars per year when using $0.07/kWh.

  • 1/16″ diameter hole in excess of $700/year
  • 1/8″ hole in excess of $2900/year
  • 1/4″ hole in excess of $11,735 per year

There are generally two types of leak prevention programs:

  • Leak Tag type programs
  • Seek-and-Repair type programs

Of the two types, the easiest would be the Seek-and-Repair method.  It involves finding leaks and then repairing them immediately. For the Leak Tag method, a leak is identified, tagged, and then logged for repair at the next opportune time.

A successful Leak Prevention Program consists of several important components:

  • Document your Starting Compressed Air Use – knowing the initial compressed air usage will allow for comparison after the program has been followed for measured improvement.
  • Establishment of initial leak loss – See this blog for more details.
  • Determine the cost of air leaks – One of the most important components of the program. The cost of leaks can be used to track the savings as well as promote the importance of the program. Also a tool to obtain the needed resources to perform the program.
  • Find the leaks – Leaks can be found using many methods.  Most common is the use of an Ultrasonic Leak Detector, like the EXAIR Model 9061.  See this blog for more details. An inexpensive handheld meter will locate a leak and indicate the size of the leak.

    Model 9061
    Model 9061
  • Record the leaks – Note the location and type, its size, and estimated cost. Leak tags can be used, but a master leak list is best.  Under Seek-and-Repair type, leaks should still be noted in order to track the number and effectiveness of the program.
  • Plan to repairs leaks – Make this a priority and prioritize the leaks. Typically fix the biggest leaks first, unless operations prevent access to these leaks until a suitable time.
  • Record the repairs – By putting a cost with each leak and keeping track of the total savings, it is possible to provide proof of the program effectiveness and garner additional support for keeping the program going. Also, it is possible to find trends and recurring problems that will need a more permanent solution.
  • Compare and publish results – Comparing the original baseline to the current system results will provide a measure of the effectiveness of the program and the calculate a cost savings. The results are to be shared with management to validate the program and ensure the program will continue.
  • Repeat As Needed – If the results are not satisfactory, perform the process again. Also, new leaks can develop, so a periodic review should be performed to achieve and maintain maximum system efficiency.

An effective compressed air system leak prevention and repair program is critical in sustaining the efficiency, reliability, and cost effectiveness of an compressed air system.

If you have questions about a Leak Prevention Program or any of the 16 different EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product lines, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or any of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Twitter: @EXAIR_JS

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

Opportunities To Save On Compressed Air

If you’re a regular reader of the EXAIR blog, you’re likely familiar with our:

EXAIR Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System

This guideline is as comprehensive as you want it to be.  It’s been applied, in small & large facilities, as the framework for a formal set of procedures, followed in order, with the goal of large scale reductions in the costs associated with the operation of compressed air systems…and it works like a charm.  Others have “stepped” in and out, knowing already where some of their larger problems were – if you can actually hear or see evidence of leaks, your first step doesn’t necessarily have to be the installation of a Digital Flowmeter.

Here are some ways you may be able to “step” in and out to realize opportunities for savings on your use of compressed air:

  • Power:  I’m not saying you need to run out & buy a new compressor, but if yours is
    Recent advances have made significant improvements in efficiency.

    aging, requires more frequent maintenance, doesn’t have any particular energy efficiency ratings, etc…you might need to run out & buy a new compressor.  Or at least consult with a reputable air compressor dealer about power consumption.  You might not need to replace the whole compressor system if it can be retrofitted with more efficient controls.

  • Pressure: Not every use of your compressed air requires full header pressure.  In fact, sometimes it’s downright detrimental for the pressure to be too high.  Depending on the layout of your compressed air supply lines, your header pressure may be set a little higher than the load with the highest required pressure, and that’s OK.  If it’s significantly higher, intermediate storage (like EXAIR’s Model 9500-60 Receiver Tank, shown on the right) may be worth looking into.  Keep in mind, every 2psi increase in your header pressure means a 1% increase (approximately) in electric cost for your compressor operation.  Higher than needed pressures also increase wear and tear on pneumatic tools, and increase the chances of leaks developing.
  • Consumption:  Much like newer technologies in compressor design contribute to higher efficiency & lower electric power consumption, engineered compressed air products will use much less air than other methods.  A 1/4″ copper tube is more than capable of blowing chips & debris away from a machine tool chuck, but it’s going to use as much as 33 SCFM.  A Model 1100 Super Air Nozzle (shown on the right) can do the same job and use only 14 SCFM.  This one was installed directly on to the end of the copper tube, quickly and easily, with a compression fitting.
  • Leaks: These are part of your consumption, whether you like it or not.  And you shouldn’t like it, because they’re not doing anything for you, AND they’re costing you money.  Fix all the leaks you can…and you can fix them all.  Our Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector (right) can be critical to your efforts in finding these leaks, wherever they may be.
  • Pressure, part 2: Not every use of your compressed air requires full header pressure (seems I’ve heard that before?)  Controlling the pressure required for individual applications, at the point of use, keeps your header pressure where it needs to be.  All EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product Kits come with a Pressure Regulator (like the one shown on the right) for this exact purpose.
  • All of our engineered Compressed Air Product Kits include a Filter Separator, like this one, for point-of-use removal of solid debris & moisture.

    Air Quality: Dirty air isn’t good for anything.  It’ll clog (and eventually foul) the inner workings of pneumatic valves, motors, and cylinders.  It’s particularly detrimental to the operation of engineered compressed air products…it can obstruct the flow of Air Knives & Air Nozzles, hamper the cooling capacity of Vortex Tubes & Spot Cooling Products, and limit the vacuum (& vacuum flow) capacity of Vacuum Generators, Line Vacs, and Air Amplifiers.

Everyone here at EXAIR Corporation wants you to get the most out of your compressed air use.  If you’d like to find out more, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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