Compressed Air Leaks and the Problems They Cause

Over the Fourth of July I had a great opportunity to do some backpacking in the backwoods of the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. “That sounds awesome!” is what most people would think; looking back on it, it was awesome. BUT, at the time it was the very definition of complete and total suffer fest. During my time on the trail, I learned three life lessons. First, always thoroughly study up on every bail out point along the trail. Second, water proofing has its limits; and thirdly, when things leak it is dreadful. After 7 miles of crawling over rocks and traversing lakes and streams in the pouring down rain everything was soaked and water was leaking through our rain jackets, leaving me and my girlfriend cold, wet, and sore as all get out – all on day one.

Heading up the Algonquin Mountain trail starting Colden Lake

Leaks don’t just stink when they appear in your rain coat, they are dreadful all around whether it is leaking faucets, a leaky basement or compressed air line leaks. Unlike the fact that I currently have no solution for the leaking rain coat, I do have a solution for your leaking air lines. Leaks are costly and an all-around waste of money that can have severe implications on how the air is being used and the entire system itself.

There are four main affects that a leak in your compressed air system can have and they are as follows; 1) leaks can cause a pressure drop across the system, 2) leaks shorten the life of almost all air supply system equipment, 3) leaks demand increased running time of the compressor, and 4) leaks produce unnecessary compressor capacity by demanding more and more air.

  • A pressure drop across your compressed air system can lead to a decreased efficiency of the end use equipment (i.e. an EXAIR Air Knife or Air Nozzle). This adversely effects production as it may take longer to blow off or cool a product or not blow off the product well enough to meet quality standards.
  • Leaks can shorten the life of almost all supply system components such as air compressors. This is because the compressor has to continuously run to make up for the air lost from leaks. By forcing the equipment to continuously run or cycle more frequently means that the moving parts in the compressor will wear down faster.
  • An increased run time due to leaks can also lead to more maintenance on supply equipment for the same reasons as to why the life of the compressor is shortened. The increase stress on the compressor and supply side components due to unnecessary running of the compressor.
  • Leaks can also lead to adding unnecessary compressor size. The wasted air that is being expelled from the leak is an additional demand in your system. If leaks are not fixed it may require a larger compressor to make up for the loss of air in your system.
EXAIR’s Ultrasonic Leak Detector

It is fairly easy to find these leaks, simply use EXAIR’s affordable Ultrasonic Leak Detector. This leak detector uses ultrasonic waves to detect where costly leaks can be found so that they can be patched or fixed. So don’t get stuck in some rainy day with your compressed air leaking everywhere; find those pesky leaks, mark them for maintenance and seal them up.

If you have any questions or want more information on EXAIR’s Ultrasonic Leak Detector or like products. Give us a call, we have a team of application engineers ready to answer your questions and recommend a solution for your applications.

Cody Biehle
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Keep Your Pneumatics “Healthy” and “Running Like a Brand New Car”

Compressed air systems are used in facilities to operate pneumatic systems, and these systems are vital for industries.  So, it is important to keep them running.  The system can be segregated into three different sections; the supply side, the demand side, and the distribution system.  I like to represent these sections as parts of a car.  The supply side will be the engine; the distribution system will be the transmission; and, the demand side will be the tires.  I will go through each section to help give tips on how to improve the “health” of your pneumatic system.

From the supply side, it will include the air compressor, after-cooler, dryer, and receiver tank that produce and treat the compressed air.  They are generally found in a compressor room somewhere in the corner of the plant.  The air compressor, like the engine of your car, produces the pneumatic power for your plant, and needs to have maintenance to keep it working optimally.  The oil needs to be changed, the filters have to be replaced, and maintenance checks have to be performed.  I wrote a blog that covers most of these items, “Compressed Air System Maintenance”.

To connect the supply side to the demand side, a distribution system is required.  Distribution systems are pipes which carry compressed air from the air compressor to the pneumatic devices.  Just like the transmission on the car, the power is transferred from the air compressor to your pneumatic products.

Maintenance is generally overlooked in this area.  Transmissions have oil which can be detected if it is leaking, but since air is a gas, it is hard to tell if you have leaks.  Energy is lost from your pneumatic “engine” for every leak that you have.  So, it is important to find and fix them.  A study was conducted within manufacturing plants about compressed air leaks.  They found that for plants without a leak detection program, up to 30% of their compressed air is lost due to leaks.  This will be equivalent to running on only 6 cylinders in a V-8 engine.

EXAIR offers the Ultrasonic Leak Detector to find those pesky leaks.  It makes the inaudible “hiss”; audible.  It can detect leaks as far as 20 feet (6m) away with the parabola attachment, and can find the exact location of the leak to be fixed with the tube attachment.

Another area for discussion with the distribution system is contamination like rust, oil, water, and debris.  Compressed air filters should be used to clean the compressed air that supplies your pneumatic products. They can remove the debris for your pneumatic products to have a long life.  You can read about the EXAIR compressed air filters here, “Preventative Maintenance for EXAIR Filters”.

The third section is the demand side.  So, you have an engine that makes the power, the transmission to transfer that power, and the tires to use that power safely and efficiently.  Many managers miss the importance of the demand side within their pneumatic system.  If you are using blow-off devices like open pipes, coolant lines, copper tubes, or drilled pipe; it will be like running your car on flat tires.  It is very unsafe as well as reducing gas mileage.  To improve safety and efficiency, EXAIR has a line of Super Air Nozzles and Super Air Knives.  Not only will it increase your “gas mileage” to save you money, but they also will keep your operators safe.

In this analogy, you can have a high-performance engine and a durable transmission, but if your tires are bald, flat, or cracked; you cannot use your car safely and efficiently.  The same thing with your compressed air system.  You have to optimize your blow-off devices to get the most from your pneumatic system.  EXAIR is a leader in engineered blow-off devices for efficiency and safety.  So, if you want to improve the “health” of your pneumatic system, you should begin at how you are using your compressed air on the demand side.  EXAIR has Application Engineers that will be happy to help you in trying to keep your pneumatic system running like a “brand new car”.

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

 

Photo: Ford Mustang Roadster by openclipart-VectorsPixabay License

Save $$$ by Finding and Fixing Compressed Air Leaks

SBMart_pipe900

The generation of compressed air accounts for approximately 1/3 of all energy costs in an industrial facility. According to the Compressed Air Challenge, about 30% of that compressed air is lost through leaks. This means nearly 10% of your facilities energy costs are simply wasted through poor connections, faulty air valves, improper installation, etc. In addition to simply wasting money, compressed air leaks can also contribute to a variety of other operating losses. A leak can cause a drop in system pressure. When this occurs, end users may not operate as efficiently and has an adverse effect on production. This same drop in system pressure will also cause the equipment to cycle on/off more often, shortening the life of your compressor and other equipment. If the leaks cause an issue in supply volume, it may lead to the belief that more compressor capacity is necessary, further increasing your operating costs.

To put leaks in perspective (assuming energy costs of .10/ kWh), the folks at Compressed Air Challenge put it this way:

  • A $200/year leak cannot be felt or heard
  • A $800/year leak can be felt, but not heard
  • A $1,400/year leak can be felt and heard.

If you walk through your facility, how many leaks can you hear? These are only the REALLY bad ones!!  So if we know that a large amount of compressed air is leaking, what do we do about it? ? A proper leak prevention plan is the key to success. Since these leaks are impossible to see and some cannot even be heard, you need a tool to help assist you. EXAIR’s model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector is the right tool for the job. When compressed air leaks through a pipe, it creates an ultrasonic signature due to turbulence. While this sound is not always detectable by the human ear, this meter will allow you to locate leaks up to 20’ away by converting the ultrasonic signature into an audible sound.

The first step will be locating the leaks using an Ultrasonic Leak Detector and tagging them throughout the facility. Don’t let this overwhelm you!! If you have a larger facility, break it up into sections that can be completed in 1 day. This will allow you to decide which areas of the plant should be looked at first. Once you’ve located and tagged all of the leaks, rate them under two separate criteria so that you can prioritize what to fix first. Rate them based on the difficulty that it will take to fix them and also by the severity of the leak. Those that are severe yet easy to fix would make sense to begin fixing first. Those that may require a period of shutdown can be planned to fix at a more appropriate time.

ULD_Kit

When you’ve had the opportunity to fix them, don’t just forget about it. When new piping is installed, new lines are added, or anything involving compressed air is installed there is the potential for new leaks to develop. Set this as one of your regular PM activities and complete your own compressed air audit once a year. Implementing the process and maintaining it are the keys to your success.

If you have questions about developing a leak program or how to use the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, give us a call. An Application Engineer will be happy to help with the process and recommend some other methods to save on your compressed air supply.

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