Saving Compressed Air – The Fourth Utility

We all know the value of electric, water and gas but what about compressed air? Your compressed air system has an annual cost and deserves to be treated as a cost center. In my previous career, I was guilty of not having a budget for compressed air in my business plan and wish I knew then what I needed for a more efficient compressed air system. Compressed air carries a significant value and deserves to be a cost center with aggressive annual efficiency planning.

Unfortunately, several misconceptions about how to reduce energy costs through increased compressed air efficiencies have prevented many industrial operations from taking control of their compressed air energy costs. There are 2 main focuses about compressed air systems that can begin to reduce expenditures, improve the reliability of your systems and generate savings for future equipment improvements. First, you can look at energy savings in the compressor motors but this is a more complicated and more expensive endeavor that can be a next step when tackling compressed air savings head on. Second, the demand side of the compressed air system is where many efficiencies can be gained. A focus on leaks, storage, pressure and inefficient use are generally simple and inexpensive to address.

Increasing the pressure isn’t always the answer. In fact, frequently it is not. An efficient compressed air system is characterized by stable pressure levels. Steady pressure levels are achieved by addressing two things: air demand patterns and the minimum acceptable pressure level required for reliable production. Unfortunately, many operators who fail to properly diagnose the causes of system problems simply increase pressure to improve performance. Arbitrary increases to the pressure without understanding the root causes of performance issues can lead to increased energy costs. An audit completed by your compressed air specialist will reveal which aspects of your compressed system can be fine-tuned in order to reduce energy costs and increase reliability. Use of the “Six Steps to Optimizing Your Compressed Air System” will help achieve your goals for cost savings and efficiencies.

Begin with establishing a baseline for your system and learn what your typical air use looks like. This can be done with a flow meter installed at the compressor outlet. A flow meter is also useful at each machine or process demanding compressed air because they can (1) indicate if a machine or process is operating atypically and consuming more air than usual and (2) identify where high demand machines or processes are located in your facility.

It is estimated that up to 20% of compressed air produced by industrial air compressors is wasted due to leaks in typical facilities.¹ Approximately 20% of the air produced for industrial applications ends up being lost through leaks. The use of EXAIRs’ model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector will enhance your efforts in finding leaks.

Choose engineered products to apply compressed air, these product have a focus on efficiency and outperform commercial products which do not concern themselves with air reduction.

When moving around your facility, look for applications of compressed air which can be turned off when personnel are on break or can be turned off in between parts. This step is very simple and can reap big savings.

Be sure to store compressed air close to high demand applications, this will prevent peaks and valleys in your compressed air demand which contributes toward less maintenance for your compressor.

Also lower your pressure at compressed air points of use. Keeping the pressure at the minimum pressure required for a successful application can also help keep system wide pressure to a minimum, which will increase lifetime of your compressor.

The good news is that, in most cases, lower energy costs are completely attainable for industrial operations that have not optimized their compressed air systems. To begin saving please contact EXAIR about compressed air products that can lower your compressed air costs today.

Eric Kuhnash
Application Engineer
E-mail: EricKuhnash@EXAIR.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_EK

  1. Best Practices for Compressed Air Systems, second edition. From The Compressed Air Challenge.

Proper Labeling of Piping Systems Increases Safety

Industrial facilities can have a multitude of piping and utilities within them. Some of the piping can all look similar, especially if it is not labeled. water, sprinkler lines, compressed air, even steam, and refrigeration lines are just a few of those that can easily be seen within a number of manufacturing facilities. Proper labeling of these helps to ensure plant safety and can also lead to higher efficiencies within the system.

Properly labeled compressed air piping.

So how does labeling lead to safety? Well, in more than one occurrence I have been inside of facilities where piping that was not intended for compressed air, such as PVC was used for it. When the incorrect piping gets used it can become easily confused and if the contractor that is installing new equipment doesn’t do their homework then it can lead to catastrophic errors. For instance, piping can rupture, or even worse, you could easily pipe the incorrect utility into a piece of equipment. Imagine seeing PVC pipe, which is used for water, and hooking it to a rinse application only to find someone improperly used the piping for industrial compressed air. Or vise versa, an unlabeled pipe thought to be compressed air is actually city water and the next thing happening is water raining down on a packaging blowoff.

Cold Water Piping Labeled properly.

This all can and should be easily prevented by properly labeling any and all piping systems thoroughly throughout the facility. This not only names the utility but generally shows the flow direction as well which an help determine where the source is coming from as well. When performing the first step in the 6 Steps To Compressed Air Optimization knowing the direction of flow is critical when installing a Digital Flowmeter in order to assess system efficiency for compressed air.

The proper labeling and utilizing proper piping within industrial environments can easily prevent accidents and ensure ease of troubleshooting or new installations because the piping is already labeled. If you would like to discuss more on what types of piping are acceptable to use with compressed air, feel free to contact an Application Engineer.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

Want to Know How Much Money you can Save? Use EXAIR’s Efficiency Lab

Growing up as a kid of the 80’s I remember wanting a Nintendo 64. This was very much a want due to the excellent advertising and having friends that got them when they first came out. So, like many kids of the times, I set forth to present my case to my parents and sell them on the benefits to me receiving this 64 bit wonder of the world. These benefits all revolved around me doing chores and “helping” to earn money to go towards the end goal. Thinking back now, I really should have started to learn more about negotiating earlier in life because my parents and older brother really made out on the deal. The point is, I had to make sure that they saw a return on their investment. Mainly, I would be entertained and they would get some stuff done around the house without complaints.

1 – NUTS For Nintendo special on ABC news 20/20 from 1988

Well, flash forward to today and I still feel as though it is always an easy justification if I have supporting evidence of the benefits and even better, if there is some form of cost savings that will be had by spending money on a project or a tool. Often times the justification is the amount of time spent on a task. Well, here at EXAIR we completely embrace that justification culture and, in many cases, can provide you the information necessary to present to management or budget committee – the simple ROI your company will see when investing in EXAIR products. The best part is, this study is always free.

The way it works is pretty simple, we want to compare your current solution to our engineered products. EXAIR has a simple form that gets filled out (or you can call, e-mail or chat) explaining your application to us. We ask for a few key pieces of detailed information, and for you to send one of your current solutions (the nozzle, homemade device, or open tube for example). Then we run side by side tests in house to determine air consumption, noise, and force at the same pressure you are using at your facility. That’s right, this testing is all done here at EXAIR through our EXAIR Efficiency Lab. We document these performance characteristics and send a report showing a simple return on investment for you if you replace your device with an EXAIR engineered solution.

EXAIR’s Free Efficiency Lab

This information is then easily backed up by our 30 day guarantee on stock products. Get the EXAIR solution in, test it in your facility and see how the savings stack up. If there is anything that doesn’t stack up, you simply let us know and send the units back.

The entire Efficiency Lab and 30 day guarantee are offered to all of our customers that are within the US and Canada. If you would like to discuss what is possible for you and your team, please reach out to an Application Engineer.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

1 – Hertz, Steve – NUTS FOR NINTENDO special on ABC news 20/20 from 1988, 6/24/2010 – Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yt4KG9ib8S4

Optimizing Your Compressed Air System in 6 Steps!

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 30%!! Good luck explaining to your finance department that you’re carelessly wasting 30% of the most expensive utility. To make sure you get the most out of your compressed air system, it’s important to follow the Six Steps to Optimizing Your Compressed Air System.

Starting with Step 1: Measure the air consumption to find sources that use a lot of compressed air. In order to have an understanding of your compressed air usage across various processes and in your entire facility, you have to measure and produce a baseline. 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 from stock. 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.

Once you’ve measured your baseline, it’s time to explore another simple avenue of savings. Step 2 in the process is finding and fixing leaks in your current system. EXAIR offers our Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector to allow you to locate and fix any leaks within your distribution system. With an unmaintained system wasting on average 30% of the produced volume, this one seems like a no-brainer but is often overlooked. If you can hear the leak without the help of a device like the ULD, it’s a VERY bad leak. These should be located, tagged, and repaired ASAP!

After getting a baseline measurement of the air consumption in your facility of compressed air usage and locating and fixing leaks in your system, it’s time to begin implementing some changes. Step 3 of the 6 Steps to Optimizing Your Compressed Air System covers upgrading your blowoff, cooling, and drying operations using engineered compressed air products. EXAIR manufactures a variety of products that can help to ensure you’re using your compressed air in the best way possible. While it may seem simple, easy, and cheap to use something like an open-ended pipe or tube for blowoff, the fact of the matter is that the volume of air that these homemade solutions use quickly make them more expensive. Look no further than EXAIR when seeking a safe, efficient, and reliable engineered blowoff solution.

EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products such as (left to right) the Air Wipe, Super Air Knife, Super Air Nozzle, and Air Amplifier are engineered to entrain enormous amounts of air from the surrounding environment.

Step 4 may be the easiest of any of the others. TURN IT OFF! You can’t waste compressed air when it’s turned off. By strategically placing valves at various points throughout the distribution system, it allows you to isolate areas of the facility that may not require continuous compressed air usage. It isn’t exactly feasible to eliminate every single leak, so even if you’ve closely followed Step 3 it’s still beneficial to close some valves here and there to further reduce your consumption. In some applications, such as products traveling on a conveyor, it may be possible to utilize a product like EXAIR’s Electronic Flow Controller to ensure air isn’t wasted in between parts on the conveyor.

The 5th step in the 6 steps to optimizing your compressed air system highlights the use of intermediate storage of compressed air near the point of use. Receiver tanks are installed in the distribution system to provide a source of compressed air close to the point of use, rather than relying on the output of the compressor. Compressed air receiver tanks are an integral part to many compressed air distribution systems. Compressed air is stored at a high pressure after drying and filtration, but just upstream of point of use devices. The receiver tank is charged to a pressure higher than what is needed by the system, creating a favorable pressure differential to release compressed air when needed.

Think of a compressed air receiver tank as a “battery”. It stores the compressed air energy within a system to be used in periods of peak demand, helping to maintain a stable compressed air pressure. This improves the overall performance of the compressed air system and helps to prevent pressure drop. They should be placed strategically to provide a source of compressed air to intermittent high-volume applications.

The last step, Step 6, discusses the use of pressure regulators at the point of use. Pressure regulators are available to control the air pressure within the system and throttle the appropriate supply of air to any pneumatic device. As the last of the six steps to optimizing your compressed air system, controlling air pressure so that you’re only consuming as much as necessary can have a dramatic impact. EXAIR sells a variety of systems that will include a suitably sized pressure regulator to ensure you’re operating as efficiently as possible.

Follow these 6 steps and make sure you get the most out of your compressed air system!

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