The Cost of Compressed Air Leaks Create the Need to Find and Fix

Leaks can cost you

As margins get tighter and cost of manufacturing climbs, industries are looking into other areas to be more economical.  A big focus today is in the compressed air systems.  Compressed air is considered to be the “forth” utility behind gas, water, and electricity.  It is a necessary system to run pneumatic systems, but it is the least efficient of the utilities.  For every $1.00 that is put into making compressed air, you only get roughly 5¢ of work from it.  So, it is very important to use this utility as efficiently as possible.

One of the largest problems affecting compressed air systems is leaks.  That quiet little hissing sound coming from the pipe lines is costing the company much money.  A university study was conducted to find the percentage of air leaks in a typical manufacturing plant.  In a poorly maintained system, they found on average that 30% of the compressor capacity is lost through air leaks.  In relation to the amount of electricity required to make compressed air, for every ten power plants producing electricity, there is one power plant producing electricity just for air leaks.  A majority of companies do not have a leak prevention program; so, many of these companies have poorly maintained systems. This creates a large amount of waste caused by simple air leaks.  To put a dollar value on it, a leak that you cannot physically hear can cost you as much as $130/year.  That is just for one inaudible leak in hundreds of feet of compressed air lines.  For the leaks that you can hear, you can tell by the chart below the amount of money that can be wasted by the size of the hole.  Unlike a hydraulic system, compressed air will not leave a tell-tale sign of a leak. You have to locate them by some other means.

**Note 1

Most leaks occur where you have threaded fittings, connections, hoses, and pneumatic components like valves, regulators, and drains.  The Optimization products from EXAIR are designed to help optimize your complete compressed air system.  The most effective way is to find and eliminate air leaks, and EXAIR has two products that can help do this.  The Ultrasonic Leak Detectors can find the air leaks, and the Digital Flowmeters can monitor your system for air leaks.  With both of these products included in a leak prevention program, you will be able to keep your compressed air system running optimally and reduce the wasted cost in air leaks and overusing the air compressor.

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector:

When a leak occurs, it emits an ultrasonic noise caused by turbulence.  These ultrasonic noises can be at a frequency above that which is audible for human hearing.  The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector can pick up these frequencies and make the leaks audible.  With three sensitivity ranges and LED display, you can find very minute leaks in your compressed air system.  It comes with two attachments; the parabola to locate leaks up to 20 feet away, and the tube attachment to define the exact location in the pipe line.  Once you find a leak, it can be marked for fixing.

EXAIR’s Digital Flowmeter w/ USB Data Logger

EXAIR Digital Flowmeter:

With the Digital Flowmeters, you can continuously monitor for waste.  Air leaks can occur at any time within any section of your pneumatic area.  You can do systematic checks by isolating sections with the Digital Flowmeter and watching for a flow reading.  Another way to monitor your system would be to compare the results over time.  With the Digital Flowmeters, we have a couple of options for recording the air flow data.  We have the USB Datalogger for setting certain time increments to record the air flows.  Once the information is recorded, you can connect the USB to your computer, and with the downloadable software, you can view the information and export it into an Excel spread sheet.  We also offer a wireless capability option with the Digital Flowmeters.  You can have multiple flow meters communicating through a gateway to monitor and record the flow information onto your computer system.  If you find that the flow starts trending upward for the same process, then you know that you have a leak.  It can also give you a preventive measure if your pneumatic system is starting to fail.

Compressed air leaks will rob you in performance, compressor life, and electrical cost.  It is important to have a leak prevention program to check for leaks periodically as they can happen at any time.  The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector and the Digital Flowmeters will help you accomplish this and optimize your compressed air system.  Once you find and fix all your leaks, you can then focus on improving the efficiency of your blow-off devices with EXAIR products and save yourself even more money.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb


**Note 1: Chart was published by Compressed Air Challenge in April 1998 – Rev. 0

How Do I Estimate The Cost Of My Compressed Air?

Saving Money and Compressed Air

One of the best features of EXAIR products is the engineering behind the designs.  For example, our nozzles are designed to generate a maximum force possible per CFM of compressed air.  This means that the compressed air consumed by the device is at its maximum possible efficiency, which in turn reduces the compressed air demand in an application, reducing the cost of the solution.

But, how do you determine the cost of a compressed air driven product?

Step 1 – Quantify flow

The first step to determine compressed air cost is to quantify the flow rate of the product.  Most pneumatic equipment will have a spec sheet which you can reference to determine air consumption, but open pipe blowoffs and drilled holes won’t provide this type of information.  In those cases, or in any case where the compressed air flow is unknown or questionable, a compressed air flow meter can be used.  (We have Digital Flowmeters for use on compressed air piping, with or without data logging capability, and with serial or wireless communication.)

Step 2 – Calculate flow over time

Once the flow rate is known, it’s time to determine flow rates per day/week/month/year.  To do so, we will perform a bit of short and easy math.  What we will do, is use the known flow rate of the device, and multiply this by the total time in operation to determine daily, weekly, monthly, and annual usage rates.  For example:

A 1/8” open pipe blowoff will consume 70 SCFM.  In an 8 hour shift there are 480 minutes, resulting in a total consumption of 33,600 SCFM per 8 hour shift.

Step 3 – Determine cost

With a quantified flow rate, we can now determine the cost.  Many facilities will know the cost of their compressed air per CFM, but for those which don’t, a cost of ($0.25/1000 standard cubic feet) can be used.  This value is then multiplied by the total compressed air consumption from above, to give a quantified dollar amount to the compressed air driven device.

Using the flow rate from above:

If (1) shift is run per day, 5 days per week and 52 weeks per year, this open pipe blowoff will have an annual cost of $2,184.00.

Step 4 – Compare

At this point we know the real cost of the device.  The benefit to quantifying these flow rates, is when making a comparison to an alternative such as an engineered solution.  For example, if we were to replace the open pipe blowoff reference above with an EXAIR 1010SS 1/8” NPT nozzle, the compressed air demand would drop to 13 SCFM, yielding the following flow rates and costs:

If (1) shift is run per day, 5 days per week and 52 weeks per year, this open pipe blowoff will have an annual cost of $405.60.

Comparing these two solutions on an annual basis yields a difference of $1,778.40.  This means an air savings which correlates to $1,778.40 per year – just by replacing ONE open pipe blowoff with an engineered solution.  Replacing multiple open pipe blowoffs will yield repeat savings.

The 1010SS EXAIR Micro Air Nozzle

Determining the cost of a compressed air driven device can clarify the impact of a truly engineered solution.  If you have an interest in determining the cost of the compressed air devices in your facility, contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.  We’ll be happy to help.


Lee Evans
Application Engineer

The Power of Optimization

When you take your car into the service shop for an oil change, you notice that they will check all the fluids, air filter, the belt, tire pressure, etc.  The reason that they do this is twofold.  They want to make sure that your car will not run into any potential safety problems and to get the maximum performance from your vehicle.

EXAIR has been in the forefront of selling efficient, safe, and effective products since 1983.  In that time, we wanted to become more than a manufacturer.  We wanted to also provide a way to improve your compressed air system.  We developed this into our Optimization product line.   By design, these products are also twofold.  First, it shows the importance of saving compressed air, improving safety and refining processes.  Second, it helps to improve the performance of your compressed air system to get the most out of it.   I am going to discuss a few points of each product below:

Electronic Flow Control

Electronic Flow Control:  The EFC is designed to save compressed air.  If there are any time gaps in a blowing or cooling application, then we should turn off the compressed air.  The EFC is a miniature timing PLC that uses a photoelectric sensor to turn off the compressed air.  By using less compressed air, you will be able to save a bunch of money.  This is why the light bulb in your refrigerator goes off when the door is closed (or does it?).

Digital Sound Level Meter

Digital Sound Level Meter:  This device is used for measuring sound level.  For safety reasons, OSHA sets a decibel ratings for work environments.  The Digital Sound Level Meter is calibrated to a NIST standard to accurately measure noise level.  If you have poor nozzles on your air guns or open pipes for blow-offs, you could be violating the OSHA standard 29CFR 1910.95(a), which will result in fines.  EXAIR products are designed to meet this standard.

Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Ultrasonic Leak Detector (ULD):   Many compressed air systems have leaks.  If they go unnoticed, this will affect the overall capacity of the compressed air system as well as costing a lot of money.  Leaks can account for one-third of your compressed air output.  The ULD can find these leaks to optimize your system and to improve the “health” of your compressor.

Digital Flowmeter

Digital Flowmeter (DFM):  If you can measure flow, then you can find many ways to optimize.  The DFM is able to show and record the amount of flow that you are using in your compressed air system.  You can also use the Digital Flowmeters to find leaks, diagnose pneumatic problems, and use the recorded information for preventative maintenance.  In comparing to an open pipes or competitive products, you can easily see the air savings with EXAIR products and easily determine the payback period (which is generally in weeks).  EXAIR does offer options that are wireless, serial, or USB type of recording, so, you can continuously monitor your compressed air system 24/7.

With the Optimization products, it can “service” your compressed air system; so that, you can get the most from it.  It can save you money, make your system safe, and keep things pneumatically maintained.  If you would like discuss one or more of these products, you can contact an EXAIR Application Engineer for more details.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

EXAIR Electronic Flow Control: Phase 3 for improving medical devices.

Medical Anatomy

As we started this journey on improving the processes with this medical device company, I wanted to touch base on one more area that EXAIR was able to help: Saving Money.  In the previous two blogs, I showed how EXAIR’s products helped the machining process by reducing scrap with the Stay Set Ion Air Jet (you can read it here: Phase 1) and by increasing production rates with the Mini Chip Vac (you can read it here: Phase 2).  But now I want to show you how EXAIR was able to save them money by reducing their compressed air usage; Phase 3.  Our goal at EXAIR is to use the least amount of compressed air to solve your process problems.  It costs a lot of money to make compressed air.  So, if you can reduce the amount being used, then your overhead costs are reduced.

Electronic Flow Control

A process with time delays or gaps is usually a candidate for wasting compressed air.  This is a hidden profit-reducing culprit that is not well recognized.  I like to correlate it to why the refrigerator light goes out when you shut the door.  When it is not required, then it shouldn’t be on.  With the previous discussions about the machining center, I did recognize that they did have time gaps in their process.  They could turn off the compressed air during loading and unloading of the parts to save money.  This may not seem like a lot of time, but during an 8 hour shift, it can really add up.  My suggestion was to use the Electronic Flow Control (EFC).

The EFC is a miniature PLC that controls a solenoid valve with 8 different timing sequences.  It utilizes a photo-sensing eye to trigger the timing cycle when it detects the part.  The timing is selectable from milliseconds to hours to optimize the on/off time of the solenoids.  I recommended the model 9055-2 which is an EFC that has two solenoids attached.  The customer attached one solenoid to the Mini Chip Vac and the other to the Stay Set Ion Air Jet.  They knew the timing sequence of the machining operation, so they were able to input that time into the EFC.  The photo-sensing eye was attached near the door of the machine to trigger the EFC.  Once the door was closed, the machining operation started as well as triggering the EFC.  This would turn on both solenoid valves to operate the Stay Set Ion Jet and the Mini Chip Vac.  When the operation was over, both of the EXAIR products would turn off.  This cycle would repeat for each operation throughout the day.  Since the EXAIR products do not have any moving parts, the instant on and off would not affect the operation of the EXAIR Stay Set Ion Air Jet and Mini Chip Vac.

With the addition of the EFC, they were able to project a savings of $6,000 a year, just by turning off the compressed air between cycles.  With a pay back of only 4 months, this was a nice bonus for the medical company, as this additional money was not appropriated.  Not only did they see their cost of operation reduced by less scrap and faster production rates; but, they could add this hidden gem of money right to the bottom line.  If you have stop gaps in your operation, you could get that added bonus to your profits by turning your compressed air off with the EFC.

John Ball
Application Engineer

Twitter: @EXAIR_jb


Photo: Muscles Anatomy Medical Human by Heblo/64 CC0 Public Domain

The Victory is in Solving the Problem, No Matter the Size

I had an engineer from a welding company contact me about his application.  He was already using three EXAIR Super Air Knives for a cooling application.  He had the Super Air Knives mounted in a linear fashion, two model 110018 18″ Super Air Knives and a model 110012 12″ Super Air Knife. His system was designed to operate the different Super Air Knives to cool the corresponding tubes length after a welding operation.  (He purchased the EXAIR Super Air Knives because he wanted the best air cooling capacity with the highest efficiency.)

Super Air Knife

Because it was an automated system, timing was critical.  The system was designed to operate one 18″ Super Air Knife for an 18″ welded tube.  For a 36″ long tube, they would turn on both the model 110018 Super Air Knives.  For their longest tube, they would activate all three Super Air Knives to cool the 48″ welded seam.  The engineer was extremely happy with the effectiveness and the consistency of the Super Air Knives that he was able to create a timing sequence in his automated operation for a repeatable and reliable cooldown of the welds.

So, why did he decide to contact EXAIR? I was thinking the same thing when he was giving high praises about the EXAIR Super Air Knives.  It was because of their compressed air system.  In another section of the plant, they would use large air vibrators to break loose powder from a hopper.  These vibrating devices would use a large quantity of compressed air when they were turned on.  During this time, the compressed air system would drop in pressure throughout the plant. This would change the amount of compressed air available for his application; affecting his timing sequence to get adequate cooling.

EXAIR Digital Flowmeter

Since that the engineer was happy with the efficiency and quality of our Super Air Knives, it was an easy decision for him to contact EXAIR about the Digital Flowmeters. He wanted to measure the amount of air flow to each Super Air Knife and continuously monitor the system for any low-flow conditions.  Since he was supplying the Super Air Knives with ½” NPT piping, he requested the model 9090 ½” Digital Flowmeter for each Super Air Knife.  I explained that the EXAIR Digital Flowmeters are very accurate and easy to install.  They have different ways to monitor the compressed air flow; 4 – 20 mA analog output, serial connection, or a Datalogger.  Since his PLC system had an analog reader, our Digital Flowmeters could supply the analog signal for flow measurements.   Currently the PLC was operating the solenoids to turn on and off sections of the Super Air Knives to cool the desired length of welds.  Now, he was looking to measure the amount of air flow with the PLC to verify that they did have adequate compressed air flow to the Super Air Knives.  If the flow was not sufficient, then he could trigger an alarm to delay the welding operation.  So, when the vibrators went offline, then they could restart their operation.

EXAIR routinely maximizes compressed air efficiency in an effective manner and I recommended, as an alternative, that he could use one 1½” Digital Flowmeter, model 9094, to monitor the air flow to all three Super Air Knives.  This would save him a lot of cost for his project in purchasing one larger Digital Flowmeter instead of three smaller ones.  Also, with the resolution of the flow meter and his ability to utilize the 4 – 20 mA analog signal, he could easily determine the required flow to one Super Air Knife, two Super Air Knives, or all three.  In the end, he was quite impressed with my recommendation to keep his system operating, even during times of depletion in his compressed air system.

At EXAIR, our first priority is to help the customer to correct their compressed air issues.  For this engineer, he was able to mount one Digital Flowmeter to monitor the compressed air flow to all three Super Air Knives. If you need real solutions to your compressed air applications, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR, and perhaps we can also reduce your project cost in the process.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

An Ultrasonic Leak Detector can also help to improve your monthly electric bill

Leaks cost you money

In my blog last week, “A Digital Flowmeter can help to improve your monthly electric bill”, I wrote about a company that was being charged for compressed air that was being used in the facility.  To give you the short version, a Digital Flowmeter determined that the power supply company was not miscalculating the amount of compressed air usage, but the facility had compressed air leaks.

Now that he found the issue, he focused on the next step; to find and fix the leaks in his compressed air system.  Being that EXAIR already helped him in measuring the air flow, he wondered if we could also help him to find the leaks.  And we can.  I recommended the model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector.

Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Whenever a leak occurs, it will generate an ultrasonic noise.  These noises have a range of frequencies from audible to inaudible.  The frequencies in the range of 20 Khz to 100 Khz are above human hearing.  The Ultrasonic Leak Detector can pick up these high frequencies, and make the inaudible leaks, audible.  The model 9061 has three sensitivity ranges and LED display; so, you can find very small leaks at a great distance away.  This unit comes with two attachments.  The parabola attachment can locate leaks up to 20 feet (6.1 meters) away.  This was great for locating leaks in pipes that ran in the ceiling.  Once you find an area with a leak, the tube attachment could define the exact location.  When he started using it, he was amazed with the performance.  The Ultrasonic Leak Detector found 44 leaks in his facility.  He tagged all the locations for the maintenance crew to fix.

As an example for how much compressed air costs, a 1/16” diameter leak in a compressed air line will lose roughly 4 SCFM of air at 100 psig.  An air compressor needs 1 horsepower of energy to make roughly 4 SCFM of compressed air.   As you can see, it take a lot of energy to supply a small leak.  If we go one step further to equate a cost to this leak, it costs roughly $0.25/1000 SCF (SCF is Standard Cubic Foot).  Being that this company was operating 5 days per week at 24 hours, this one small hole in a compressed air line would cost him $43.20/month.  With 44 leaks throughout his plant, you can see how this could add up to be a large amount of money at the end of each month.

The EXAIR Optimization line uses different devices to help you to get the most out of your compressed air system.  With this customer, he was “throwing” money away each month.  With the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, he could now put that excess money back into the company’s “pocket” for future use.


John Ball
Application Engineer

Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Super Air Knives Make Beer Bottle Labels Stick; EFC Optimizes Efficiency

The Super Air Knife has been featured as the cover photo of every EXAIR Compressed Air Products catalog since I got here in 2011…except for Catalog #26 in 2013, which featured the Super Ion Air Knife. BIG difference, right there.

The highlighted application photos may change from catalog to catalog, but one that always remains is the iconic (I think, anyway) image of the Super Air Knives blowing off the orange soda bottles:

This is a darn-near ‘textbook’ application for the Super Air Knives…the even, laminar flow wraps around the bottles, stripping moisture away. Among other reason why this is important, it improves the next step in the process – the labels stick better.

One of the many simple and effective ways an EXAIR Super Air Knife is commonly used.

In my younger, intemperate days, I’d join my friends at a popular watering hole to celebrate special occasions like…well, Tuesday, for example. Sometimes, there’d be a ballgame on the TV, or lively conversation, to entertain us. Other times, we’d make a game out of trying to separate the labels from the beer bottles, in one piece.

Some years later, I tried to teach my young sons this game…except with root beer bottles. It didn’t work near as well, because these labels adhered much tighter to the root beer bottles in my dining room than the ones on the beer bottles at the bar.

Some years after that (those boys are teenagers now,) I became an Application Engineer at EXAIR, and found out that this drying-the-bottles-to-make-the-labels-stick-better thing was for real, because I got to talk to folks in the bottling business who told me that the Super Air Knives had made all the difference in the world for their operation.

Just the other day, I had the pleasure of helping a caller who operates a micro-brewery, and had just installed a set of 110009 9″ Aluminum Super Air Knives for the express purpose of (you guessed it, I hope…) making their labels stick better. The only thing that could make it better, according to them, was if they could use less compressed air, and they were interested in what the EFC Electronic Flow Control could do for them.

Click here to calculate how much you can save with an EXAIR EFC Electronic Flow Control.

As a micro-brewery, their production lines don’t run near as fast…nor do they want them to…as some of the Big Names in the business. As such, there’s some space between the bottles on the filling lines, and they thought that turning the air off, if even for a fraction of a second, so they weren’t blowing air into those empty spaces, would make a difference. And they’re right…it’s a simple matter of math:

Two 9″ Super Air Knives, supplied at 80psig, will consume 26.1 SCFM each (52.2 SCFM total). This microbrew was running two 8 hour shifts, 5 days per week. That equates to:

52.2 SCFM X 60 minutes/hour X 16 hours/day X 5 days/week X 52 weeks/yr = 13,029,120 standard cubic feet of compressed air, annually.  Using a Department of Energy thumbrule which estimates compressed air cost at $0.25 per 1,000 SCF, that’s an annual cost of $3257.00*

Let’s say, though, that the micro-brewery finds that it takes one second to blow off the bottle, and there’s 1/2 second between the bottles.  The EFC is actually adjustable to 1/10th of a second, so it can be quite precisely set.  But, using these relatively round numbers of 1 second on/0.5 seconds off, that’s going to save 1/3 of the air usage…and the cost…which brings the annual cost down to $2171.00*

*As a friendly reminder that the deadline to file our USA income tax returns is closing fast, I’ve rounded down to the nearest dollar.  You’re welcome.

That means that the Model 9055 EFC Electronic Flow Control (1/4 NPT Solenoid Valve; 40 SCFM) with a current 2017 List Price of $1,078.00 (that’s exact, so you know) will have paid for itself just short of one year. After that, it’s all savings in their pocket.

If you’d like to find out how much you can save with EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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