Starting a Leak Prevention Program

Since 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.

SBMart_pipe_800x

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.  Instead of a log system, the tag may be a two part tag.  The leak is tagged and one part of the tag stays with the leak, and the other is removed and brought to the maintenance department. This part of the tag has space for information such as the location, size, and description of the leak.

The best approach will depend on factors such as company size and resources, type of business, and the culture and best practices already in place. It is common to utilize both types where each is most appropriate.

A successful Leak Prevention Program consists of several important components:

  • Baseline compressed air usage – 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.
  • Identify 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.

    ULD_Pr
    Using the Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector to search for leaks in a piping system
  • Document 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.
  • Prioritize and plan the repairs – Typically fix the biggest leaks first, unless operations prevent access to these leaks until a suitable time.
  • Document 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.

In summary – 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.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer
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Intelligent Compressed Air: Estimating Your Leakage Rate

waste

The electricity costs associated with the generation of compressed air make it the most expensive utility within an industrial environment. In a   poorly maintained compressor system, up to 30% of the total operational costs can be attributed simply to compressed air leaks. While this wasted energy is much like throwing money into the air, it can also cause your compressed air system to lose pressure. This can reduce the ability of the end use products to function properly, negatively impacting production rates and overall quality. Luckily, it’s quite easy to estimate the leakage rate and is something that you should be including in your regular PM schedule.

According to the Compressed Air Challenge, a well-maintained system should have a leakage rate of less than 5-10% of the average system demand. To estimate what your leakage rate is across the facility, first start by shutting off all of the point of use compressed air products so that there’s no demand on the system. Then, start the compressor and record the average time it takes for the compressor to cycle on/off. The compressor will load and unload as the air leaks cause a pressure drop from air escaping. The percentage of total leakage can be calculated using the following formula:

Leakage % = [(T x 100) / (T + t)]

Where:

T = loaded time (seconds)

T = unloaded time (seconds)

The leakage rate will be given in a percentage of total compressor capacity lost. This value should be less than 10% for a well-maintained system. It is not uncommon within a poorly maintained system to experience losses as high as 20-40% of the total capacity and power.

A leak that is equivalent to the size of a 1/16” diameter hole will consume roughly 3.8 SCFM at a line pressure of 80 PSIG. If you don’t know your company’s air cost, a reasonable average is $0.25 per 1,000 SCF. Let’s calculate what the cost would be for a plant operating 24hrs a day, 7 days a week.

3.8 SCFM x 60 minutes x $0.25/1,000 SCFM =

$0.06/hour

$0.06 x 24 hours =

$1.44/ day

$1.44 x 7 days x 52 weeks =

$524.16 per year

A small leak of just 3.8 SCFM would end up costing $524.16. This is just ONE small leak! Odds are there’s several throughout the facility, quickly escalating your operating costs. If you can hear a leak, it’s a pretty severe one. Most leaks aren’t detectable by the human ear and require a special instrument to convert the ultrasonic sound created into something that we can pick up. For that, EXAIR has our Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector.

ULD_Pr
Model 9061 ULD w/ parabola attachment checking for compressed air leaks

Implementing a regular procedure to determine your leakage rate in the facility as well as a compressed air audit to locate, tag, and fix any known leaks should be a priority. The savings that you can experience can be quite dramatic, especially if it’s not something that has ever been done before!

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

Monitor Your Compressed Air System With EXAIR’s Digital Flowmeters

A topic that we’ve talked about here on the EXAIR blog discusses the costs of compressed air and how to use it more efficiently. How can you determine the costs of your compressed air? The first step you’ll need to take is to quantify the flow. In order to do that you’ll need a measurement tool such as the EXAIR Digital Flowmeter.

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EXAIR’s family of Digital Flowmeters

The Digital Flowmeter is available from stock for use on Schedule 40 pipe with sizes ranging from ½”-4” I.D. Sizes up to 6” for Schedule 40 and ¾”-4” for copper pipe are also available. With a digital readout display, it’s easy to accurately monitor your compressed air usage throughout the facility. Creating a baseline of your usage will allow you to understand your compressed air demand, identify costly leaks, and replace inefficient air products.

The Digital Flowmeter installs in minutes with help from a drill guide and locating fixture to assist in mounting the Digital Flowmeter to the pipe. Two flow sensing probes are inserted into the drilled holes in the pipe. The meter then seals to the pipe once tightened. There is no need to cut, weld, or do any calibration once it is installed. With blocking rings also available, installation can be permanent or temporary.

The newest addition to this product line is the Digital Flowmeter with wireless capability. Using a ZigBee® mesh network protocol, data is transmitted to an Ethernet connected gateway. This allows you to mount the Digital Flowmeter in areas that you may not be able to easily access and wirelessly monitor and graph the usage with the EXAIR Logger software. Take a peek at this video blog for a demonstration of the use of a wireless Digital Flowmeter software to compare an open pipe to an engineered Air Nozzle.

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In addition to communicating wirelessly with the gateway, the Digital Flowmeters can “piggyback” off of each other to extend their range. Each meter has a range of 100’. Using multiple Digital Flowmeters within the same ZigBee® mesh network, data can be passed from meter to meter to extend the distance over which the meters can operate. These can be installed on each major leg of your compressed air system to continuously monitor usage throughout the facility.

If you’d rather go with a hard-wired data collection method, the Digital Flowmeter is also available with a USB Data Logger. Simply remove the Data Logger from the Digital Flowmeter and connect it to the USB port of your computer. The data can then be viewed directly in the accompanying software or exported into Microsoft Excel.

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Digital Flowmeter w/ USB Data Logger installed

If you’d like to get a clear view of your compressed air usage, give us a call. An Application Engineer will be happy to work with you and get the proper Digital Flowmeters installed in your facility!

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

A Digital Flowmeter can Help Improve Your Monthly Electric Bill

No one likes paying their bills at the end of the month.  But, if you can save yourself some money, it helps to make it a little easier.  For this customer, he received a monthly bill for his compressed air.

Monthly Bill

An industrial facility consisting of four separate manufacturing plants and a power company that supplied all of them with utilities, i.e. hot water, natural gas, electricity, and compressed air.  The parent company decided to reorganize and sell the entities.  At the end of it, the power company was controlled by a different organization than the manufacturing plants.  The power plant was contracted to still supply the utilities to the individual plants, but now they would be charged individually on a monthly basis.

Being that compressed air is one of the most expensive utilities, the general manager of a solid-state electronic plant really noticed the charge on his bill.  He did an estimate on the amount of air that his equipment was using, and he compared it to the charges.  There was roughly a 20% difference in the figures.  Because of the excessive amount of money, he contacted EXAIR to see what we could offer.

In discussing their system, the compressed air was supplied through one 6” schedule 40 black pipe.  The pipe came into the facility in the ceiling and it branched off to supply the entire shop with compressed air.  He was looking for something to measure the compressed air flow with the ability to measure a cumulative amount.  He could use this amount to compare to his monthly usage.  He was also concerned about cutting into his compressed air line as this could cause him much downtime and additional costs.  He needed something easy to install, accurate, and versatile.

EXAIR Digital Flowmeter

I suggested our 6” Digital Flowmeter with the Model 9150 Summing Remote Display.  EXAIR Digital Flowmeters are designed to measure flow continuously and accurately.  You do not need to weld, cut, or disassemble pipe lines to install.  With a drill guide, the Digital Flowmeter can be easily mounted onto the 6” black pipe by drilling two small holes.  After that, they just had to insert the Digital Flowmeter into the holes, and tighten the clamp around the pipe.  The total procedure took less than 30 minutes, so downtime was minimal.  The EXAIR Digital Flowmeter measures flow by comparative analysis with thermal dispersion; so, the accuracy is very high and recalibration is not required.

EXAIR Summing Remote

With the option of the Summing Remote Display, they could attach it to the Digital Flowmeter and display the flow remotely up to 50 feet away.  They mounted it on the wall next to his office for the operational functions.  With a simple press of a button, it can show the current flow rates, daily flow rates, and cumulative flow rates.  So, during the billing cycle, he was able to get the cumulative measurement to compare the results, and reset the counter to zero for the next month.

Believe it or not, the power company was correct in their measurements.  But, not to waste an entire blog, I did have him turn the compressed air supply off after business hours to watch the flow rate.  He did find his 20% difference in compressed air leakage.  The Digital Flowmeter was able to measure low flows to target other problem areas in your compressed air system.  Now he had another chore in leak detecting and pipe fixing.

EXAIR Optimization line has different products that can help you to get the most out of your compressed air system.  With the customer above, he was able to measure his compressed air flow with the Digital Flowmeter, as well as detecting other issues.  I will now have to talk to him about our Ultrasonic Leak Detector.

 

John Ball
Application Engineer

Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

 

Picture: Calculator Calculation Insurance by stevepb.  Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain

EXAIR’s Efficiency Lab can Help With your Energy Audit, Quantify Savings and Provide an ROI

I recently received an inquiry from a customer to test their current air guns through our Efficiency Lab service. According to the operators, the handheld blow gun they were purchasing from a commercial retailer was too loud and complaints were rolling in.  They were also hoping to save some compressed air in the process as they were performing an energy audit at the same time.

Commercial Air Gun w/ Cross Cut Hole
Commercial Air Gun w/ Cross Cut Hole
Cross Cut Hole Nozzle
Cross Cut Hole Nozzle

The gun they sent in looked fairly similar to our Precision Safety Air Gun but it did not have an engineered nozzle on the tip of it.   Instead, it was simply a cross cut hole in a piece of material.   The air inlet to the gun was a 1/4″ NPT just like our Precision Safety Air Gun, the extension on the gun was slightly longer, the only significant variance I saw was the tip.

EXAIR Model 1410SS-CS
EXAIR Model 1410SS-CS
The Model 1110SS Nao Super Air Nozzle and Chip Shield
The Model 1110SS Nao Super Air Nozzle and Chip Shield

To try and get as much information as possible I measured the O.D. and I.D. of the extension, the hole size was approximately .140″.  I measured the extension on our Precision Safety Air Gun just to see what is different, it came in at the same size.  So, I flow tested the competitive blow gun with their tip on it and came up with air consumption of 12.69 SCFM, noise level of 92 dBA at 3′ away, and a blowing force of 11.5 oz at 80 psig.   I then measured the same attributes of EXAIR’s model 1410SS-CS Precision Safety Air Gun at 80 psig inlet pressure.  The model 1410SS-CS measured 8.3 SCFM, gave 8.1 ozs of working force, and only produced a 75 dBA sound level from 3′ away.

The sound level reduction was a total of 17 dBA which is below the OSHA standard for allowable noise level exposure, as well as reduced their air consumption by 4.39 SCFM.  That is almost a 35% reduction in their compressed air usage per gun replaced.  After seeing these levels of reduction the customer had more than enough information to provide management with in order to replace the blow guns not just for noise level reduction but also because it will reduce air use and save money. A clear supportive role in their energy audit.

If you would like to discuss how EXAIR can provide some free force, flow, and noise level testing for your facility, please contact an Application Engineer or check out the Efficiency Lab page on our site.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer Manager
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF