Opportunities to Save On Compressed Air

Since air compressors use a lot of electricity to make compressed air, it is important to use the compressed air as efficiently as possible.  EXAIR has six simple steps to optimize your compressed air system.  (Click HERE to read).  Following these steps will help you to cut your overhead costs and improve your bottom line.  In this blog, I will cover a few tips that can really help you to save compressed air.

To start, what is an air compressor and why does it cost so much in electricity?  There are two types of air compressors, positive displacement and dynamic.  The core components for these air compressors is an electric motor that spins a shaft.  Like with many mechanical devices, there are different efficiencies.  Typically, an air compressor can put out anywhere from 3 SCFM per horsepower to 5 SCFM per horsepower.  (EXAIR settles on 4 SCFM/hp as an average for cost calculations.)  Equation 1 shows you how to calculate the cost to run your air compressor.

Equation 1:

Cost = hp * 0.746 * hours * rate / (motor efficiency)


Cost – US$

hp – horsepower of motor

0.746 – conversion KW/hp

hours – running time

rate – cost for electricity, US$/KWh

motor efficiency – average for an electric motor is 95%.

As an example, a manufacturing plant operates a 100 HP air compressor in their facility.  The cycle time for the air compressor is roughly 60%.  To calculate the hours of running time per year, I used 250 days/year at 16 hours/day.  So operating hours equal 250 * 16 * 0.60 = 2,400 hours per year.  The electrical rate for this facility is $0.08/KWh. With these factors, the annual cost to run the air compressor can be calculated by Equation 1:

Cost = 100hp * 0.746 KW/hp * 2,400hr * $0.08/KWh / 0.95 = $15,077 per year in just electrical costs.

There are two major things that will rob compressed air from your system and cost you much money.  The first is leaks in the distribution system, and the second is inefficient blow-off devices.   To address leaks, EXAIR offers an Ultrasonic Leak Detector.  The Ultrasonic Leak Detector can find hidden leaks to fix. That quiet little hissing sound from the pipe lines is costing your company.

A University did a study to find the percentage of air leaks in a typical manufacturing plant.  For a poorly maintained system, they found on average that 30% of the compressor capacity is lost through air leaks.  Majority of companies do not have a leak preventative program; so, majority of the companies fall under the “poorly maintained system”.  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.  Or if we take the University study, the manufacturing plant above is wasting $15,077 * 30% = $4,523 per year.

The other area to check is air consumption.  A simple place to check is your blow-off stations.  Here we can decide how wasteful they can be.  With values of 4 SCFM/hp and an electrical rate of $0.08/KWh (refence figures above), the cost to make compressed air is $0.25 per 1000 ft3 of air.

One of the worst culprits for inefficient air usage is open pipe blow-offs.  This would also include cheap air guns, drilled holes in pipes, and tubes.  These devices are very inefficient for compressed air usage and can cost you a lot of money.  As a comparison, a 1/8” NPT pipe versus an EXAIR Mini Super Air Nozzle.  (Reference below).  As you can see, by just adding the EXAIR nozzle to the end of one pipe, the company was able to save $1,872 per year.  That is some real savings.

 By following the Six Steps to optimize your compressed air system, you can cut your energy consumption, improve pneumatic efficiencies, and save yourself money.  With the added information above, you can focus on the big contributors of waste.  If you would like to find more opportunities to save compressed air, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR.  We will be happy to help.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Intelligent Compressed Air: Estimating Your Leakage Rate


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)]


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 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.

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