How to Estimate Leaks and the Impact upon a Compressed Air System

In today’s age where compressed air is often referred to as the 4th utility in an industrial manufacturing facility, leaks throughout the system can add up to serious financial losses. It has been estimated that leaks can waste as much as 20-30 percent of an air compressor output.

waste

Not only are leaks a source of wasted energy, they can also contribute to other losses such as:

  • Causing a drop in system pressure, resulting in air tools to function less efficiently
  • Increasing the air compressor on/off cycles which shortens the life of it and other components in the system
  • Increased maintenance costs and more planned downtime for the maintenance to be performed
  • A need to install of additional compressors to make up for the inefficiencies caused by leaks

For compressors that have start/stop controls – the below formula can be used to estimate the leakage rate in the system-

Leakage Equation 1

To use the above formula, the compressor is started when there is no demand on the system –  all air operated equipment and devices are turned off.  As the air escapes the system through the leaks, the system pressure will drop and the compressor will turn on and cycle to bring the pressure back up to the operating level. Measurement of the average time (T) of compressor run duration, and time (t) of the system pressure to drop to the set-point can be plugged into the formula and a Leakage Percentage established.

Another method to estimate the leakage rate is shown below-

Leakage Equation 2

The above method requires knowledge of the total system volume, which includes downstream air receivers, air mains, and all piping.  To perform the check, bring the system pressure up the normal operating pressure (P1) and then measure the time (T) it takes for the system to drop to pressure (P2) which is generally around half the operating pressure.  The 1.25 is a correction factor to normal system pressure, since the leakage rate will be less as the system pressure is lowered.

A leakage rate greater than 10% typically shows that there are areas of improvement (leaks that can be identified and repaired)

Any leakage testing and estimating should be preformed regularly, at least each quarter, so as to minimize the effect of any new system leaks. The tests are only one part of a leak detection and repair program. The best way to detect leaks is the use of ultrasonic leak detector (shown below.)  To learn more about the EXAIR model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector, check out this blog that was previously published.

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If you have questions about compressed air systems, or would like to talk about any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, 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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EXAIR Optimization Products: Ultra Sonic Leak Detector Overview

Ultrasonic Leak Detector

The Ultrasonic Leak Detector is a hand-held, high quality instrument that can locate costly leaks in a compressed air system.  When using the Ultra Sonic Leak Detector, you only need to aim it in the direction of the suspected leak and if a leak is present an audible tone can be heard through the supplied headphones and the LED will light.  This can be accomplished from up to 20′ away!

If you are not maintaining your compressed air system you can easily waste up to 30% of your compressor’s output through leaks.  We all know compressed air is expensive, so mitigating wasteful leaks should be high on your to do list!

 

ultrasonic_2
EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector

What is Ultrasound

Since most compressed air leaks emit only Ultra Sonic sound it would be next to impossible to find a leak by listening for them since the sound is above the human thresh hold.   That is where the EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector comes in.  Its sensitivity is is adjustable with 3 settings X1, X10 and X100 along with an on/off thumb wheel for fine sensitivity adjustments.  The Ultra Sonic Leak Detector also comes with both a parabola or tubular extension to aim the unit and block out extraneous background noise.

If you have an application where you need to find an ultrasonic noise, you can speak with an Application Engineer to see if the model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector could help.

If you would like to discuss the Ultra Sonic Leak Detector or any EXAIR product, I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer
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Business Benefits Of Compressed Air Efficiency

The primary business benefits of an efficient air compressor system are reduced operational costs, reduced maintenance and increased up-time.  With that being said, is your compressed air system costing you more than you think it should?  Are you having failures, pressure drops, inadequate volume and/or pressure?  You might think from these issues that your system has seen better days and is ready to be replaced.  However, it is possible that your existing tried and true compressor system has more life left in it than you think and with a few simple steps you could have it performing like a champ again!

It is estimated that typically plants can waste up to 30 percent of their generated compressed air and that cost is substantial.  Considering the average cost to generate compressed air is .25 cents per 1000 SCFM, that translates into .075 cents for every .25 cents spent!  Considering that energy costs have doubled in the last five years, it couldn’t be more timely to make your air compressor system more efficient.

So just where is all this waste occurring?  The largest source of compressed air energy waste is from unused or leaked compressed air and that is followed by line pressure drops, over pressurization and inadequate maintenance of the compressor.

So how can you identify this issues in your system?

1). Finding leaks can be accomplished by several methods such as soapy water applied to a suspected joint or connection or the EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector.   It is a high quality instrument that can locate costly leaks in your compressed air system.  When a leak is present and audible tone can be heard in the supplied headphones and the LED display will light.  This testing can be done up to 20′ away so need to get on a ladder!

Leak Detector

2). Pressure drop is caused by is caused by the friction of the compressed air flowing against the inside of the pipe and through valves, tees, elbows and other components that make up a complete compressed air piping system.  If the piping system is to small, the flow (volume) will not be sufficient and the devices will not operate properly.  The volumetric demand would need to be added up to determine if the piping is of sufficient diameter to flow the required volume.  EXAIR’s Digital Flow Meter is an easy way to monitor compressed air consumption and waste.  The digital display shows the exact amount of compressed air being used, making it easy to identify piping that may be undersized.  Installing one on every major leg of your air distribution system to constantly monitor and benchmark compressed air usage is a fast and efficient way to see what your volume through that distribution leg is.

Flow Meter

3). Over pressurization is also an issue, as the pressure is raised to account for high demand periods, system leaks and pressure drops. Unfortunately operating at higher pressures can require as much as 25 percent more compressor capacity than needed, generating wasted air which is called artificial demand.

You can reduce the leakage rate by running the compressor at lower pressures. If you’re short on air, don’t turn up the pressure. Run your compressor at no higher pressure than what you process requires. To relieve peak demands on your system consider the EXAIR Receiver Tank.  It store’s compressed air during low usage times and releases it when the demand is increased without working your air compressor system harder.

receiver_tank

4). Finally, a preventative maintenance (PM) program will need to be implemented to keep the air compressor system running properly.  Two items that are often neglected are the drive belts and filters.  Loose belts can reduce compressor efficiency and dirty filters allow dirt to get through the system and cause pressure drops.  EXAIR has replacement elements for our line of filter separators to keep you air clean and line pressure down.

By increasing your awareness of the health of your air compressor system and implementing a PM program you can significantly reduce your costs from wasted energy and avoid costly down time from an out of service air compressor.

If you would like to discuss improving your compressed air efficiency or any of EXAIR’s engineered solutions, I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer
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Advantages of Thermal Mass or Thermal Dispersion Flow Measurement

EXAIR’s Digital Flow Meter offers an easy way to measure, monitor and record compressed air consumption. The Digital display shows the current amount of compressed air flow, allowing for tracking to identify costly leaks and/or inefficient air users.

dfm

How exactly does the Digital Flow Meter work?  The unit falls under the category of Thermal Mass or Thermal Dispersion type flow meters.  Below shows the backside of a unit.

IMG_7387

Thermal mass flow meters have the advantage of using a simple method of measuring flow without causing a significant pressure drop. The EXAIR units have (2) probes that are inserted through the pipe wall and into the air flow.  Each of the probes has a resistance temperature detector (RTD.) One of the probes measures the temperature of the air flow.  The other probe is heated to maintain a preset temperature difference from the temperature measured by the first probe.  The faster the air flow, the more heat that is required to keep the second probe at the prescribed temperature.  From Heat Transfer principles, the heat energy input required to maintain the preset temperature is based on the mass velocity of the air.  Using basic physical properties for compressed air, the volumetric rate can be determined (SCFM), and displayed.

It is important to note that the compressed air should be filtered to remove oils, and dried to remove water, as these liquids have different physical properties from air, and will cause erroneous readings.

Advantages

  • Easy to install – No cutting or welding required
  • Summing Remote Display and Data Logger available
  • Sensitive at low flows
  • Rugged, reliable and no moving parts
  • No calibration or set-up required
  • Models from 1/2″ to 4″ schedule 40 iron pipe in stock
  • Short lead time for sizes up to 6″ Schedule 40 iron pipe
  • Available for size 3/4″ to 4″ copper pipe
  • New Wireless Capability

If you have any questions about the Digital Flow Meter or any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Compressor Control – A Way to Match Supply to Demand

Rarely does the compressed air demand match the supply of the compressor system. To keep the generation costs down and the system efficiency as high as possible Compressor Controls are utilized to maximize the system performance, taking into account system dynamics and storage. I will touch on several methods briefly, and leave the reader to delve deeper into any type of interest.

air compressor

  • Start/Stop – Most basic control –  to turn the compressor motor on and off, in response to a pressure signal (for reciprocating and rotary type compressors)
  • Load/Unload – Keeps the motor turning continuously, but unloads the compressor when a pressure level is achieved.  When the pressure drops to a set level, the compressor reloads (for reciprocating, rotary screw, and centrifugal type)
  • Modulating – Restricts the air coming into the compressor, as a way to reduce the compressor output to a specified minimum, at which point the compressor is unloaded (for lubricant-injected rotary screw and centrifugal)
  • Dual/Auto Dual – Dual Control has the ability to select between Start/Stop and Load /Unload control modes.  Automatic Dual Control adds the feature of an over-run timer, so that the motor is stopped after a certain period of time without a demand.
  • Variable Displacement (Slide Valve, Spiral Valve or Turn Valve) – Allows for gradual reduction of the compressor displacement while keeping the inlet pressure constant (for rotary screw)
  • Variable Displacement (Step Control Valves or Poppet Valves) – Similar effect as above, but instead of a gradual reduction, the change is step like (for lubricant injected rotary types)
  • Variable Speed – Use of a variable frequency AC drive or by switched reluctance DC drive to vary the speed of the motor turning the compressor. The speed at which the motor turns effects the output of the system.

In summary – the primary functions of the Compressor Controls are to match supply to demand, save energy, and protect the compressor (from overheating, over-pressure situations, and excessive amperage draw.) Other functions include safety (protecting the plant and personnel), and provide diagnostic information, related to maintenance and operation warnings.

If you would like to talk about compressed air or any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Lower Operating Costs by Minimizing Compressed Air Leaks

Almost every industry uses compressed air in some capacity. It is often referred to as the “fourth utility” In an industrial setting, next to water, gas and electric. and in many cases, is the largest energy user in the plant. With an average cost of $ 0.25 per every 1000 Standard Cubic Feet used, compressed air can be expensive to produce so it is very important to use this utility as efficiently as possible. When evaluating the performance of a compressed air system, it’s important to look at the system as a whole.

When you operate point-of-use devices at a higher pressure than necessary to perform a certain job or function, you are creating “artificial demand”. This results in excess air volume being consumed, increasing the amount of energy being lost to waste. For example, plant personnel or operators increase the supply pressure in an effort to improve the end use devices performance. When there is a leak in the system, the line pressure will actually begin to drop and performance begins to deteriorate in other areas in the plant. This not only puts stress on the existing compressor but it also leads to the false idea that a larger or secondary compressor is needed.

Here’s a quick reference on how operating pressure can directly affect operating cost:


Our Model # 1101 Super Air Nozzle requires 14 SCFM @ 80 PSIG. Based on the average operating cost of $ 0.25 per 1000 SCF used, it would cost $ 0.21 per hour to operate this nozzle. (14 SCFM x $ 0.25 x 60 minutes / 1000 SCF = $ 0.21)

If you were able to use the same Model # 1101 Super Air Nozzle operating at only 40 PSIG, while still achieving the desired end result, the air demand would decrease to only 8.1 SCFM, reducing the hourly cost to $ 0.12.  (8.1 SCFM x $ 0.25 x 60 minute / 1000 SCF = $ 0.12)

Don’t waste your money

Leaks in a compressed air system can account for up to 30% of the total operational cost of the compressor, wasting thousands of dollars of electricity per year. Some of the more common places for a leak to occur would be at connection points such as valves, unions, couplings, fittings, etc.

In this table, you will see that a certain amount of air volume is lost through an orifice or opening. If you have several leaks throughout your facility, it isn’t gong to take long for the waste and high operating costs to quickly add up as well as potential increases in repair or maintenance costs for the existing compressor. The industry average shows that any leakage more than 10%, shows there are areas where operational improvements could be made in a compressed air system.

Stay tuned to our blog over the next few weeks as we will discuss how following a few simple steps can help optimize your current compressed air system, in many cases, reducing energy costs related to compressed air waste, leading to a more economical operation.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like to discuss a particular application or EXAIR product, give me a call at 800-903-9247.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN

 

 

 

 

EXAIR’s EFC is THE Way to Save Compressed Air

waste

Compressed air is the most expensive utility for most industrial facilities. The energy costs associated with the generation of compressed air can be very high. Because of this, EXAIR manufactures a wide range of products geared towards reducing your overall compressed air consumption.

The best way to save compressed air is to simply turn it off when it’s not being used. This might seem pretty simple, but there may be processes in your facility where this couldn’t be achieved by just turning a valve. In applications where product is traveling along a conveyor, and must be dried, cooled, or blown off, there is likely some spacing in between the parts. It isn’t necessary to keep the blowoff running constantly if there’s periods of intermittent spacing. To help reduce the overall load on the air compressor, implementing a solution to shut the air off in between each part can have a dramatic impact. EXAIR’s Electronic Flow Control, or EFC, is designed to improve efficiency by reducing overall compressed air usage. It utilizes a photoelectric sensor that detects when the part is present. When it’s not, it triggers a solenoid valve to close and shut off the compressed air supply.

efcapp

 

Let’s take a look at an example that shows just how much air (and $$) an EFC can save. We had a manufacturer of car bumpers that was using a Model 112060 60” Super Ion Air Knife supplied at 40 PSIG to remove dust prior to a painting operation. The bumpers were moving at about 10’/minute and had 1’ of spacing in between each part. The bumpers are only under the blowoff for 10 seconds, while 6 seconds passed with no part present. With a (3) shift operation, this translates to 1,440 minutes of nonstop compressed air usage per day.

A 60” Super Ion Air Knife will consume 102 scfm at 40 PSIG. Their current method was using a total of 146,880 SCFM.

102 SCFM x 1,440 minutes = 146,880 SCF

With the EFC installed, the air was shut off for 6 seconds reducing the airflow by 37.5%. With the EFC installed, the compressed air consumption per day was reduced to 91,800 SCF.

146,880 SCF x .625 = 91,800 SCF

As a general rule of thumb, compressed air costs $0.25/1,000 SCF. By saving 55,080 SCF per day, this manufacturer was able to save $13.77 per day. Since this was a 24 hour/day shift running 7 day/week, total savings for the year came in at $5,012.28. This easily recoups the costs of the EFC and then begins to pay you in less than 6 months.

55,080 SCF x ($0.25/1,000 SCF) = $13.77

$13.77 x 7 days/week x 52 weeks/year = $5,012.28

The EFC models available from stock can accommodate flows up to 350 SCFM. For applications requiring more compressed air, EFCs with dual solenoids are also available. If you have an application in one or more of your processes where intermittent compressed air use could help save you money, give us a call. We’d be happy to take a look at the application and help determine just how quickly the EFC could start paying YOU!

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mal : TylerDaniel@Exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD