Tools Of The Trade: The Rotameter

EXAIR’s Free Efficiency Lab

One of the free services we offer to customers here at EXAIR is our Efficiency Lab. In case you are not familiar here is a brief synopsis. Speak with an Application Engineer about your existing compressed air blowoff/point of use product and that you would like to know how much air it consumes. Fill out the brief survey and send the product you use in to our facility. Let us perform tests on calibrated test equipment to determine the force, flow, and noise level. We will then issue you a report that states what the EXAIR model would best be suited (if applicable) as well as how much compressed air you will be able to save. Order the recommendation and start saving money.

To do these evaluations, we have to have calibrated equipment that is reliable and capable of handling vast range of products we may receive in. For this, we could use a Digital Flowmeter, in some cases that is what has to be done due to large flow rates. For the majority of these though we go old school. We utilize a piece of equipment called a rotameter.

A rotameter pairs nicely with a calibrated pressure gauge as well.
The float can be seen with graduated marks for readings. The taper of the chamber is not easily seen with the naked eye.

This is a device that is designed to measure the flow rate of a fluid within a closed tube. The inside diameter of the tube is varied which causes the float within the meter to raise or lower.  They are calibrated for a specific gas at a given pressure and temperature, most are calibrated for atmospheric conditions, 14.7 psi (1.014 Bar). The meter must be mounted vertically and this is not always best suited for industrial environments.

When testing products the compressed air within the meter is pressurized which means we have to correct the reading for the given pressure, if the temperature is outside of the calibration temp then we must also perform that correction. We do this using a table provided by the manufacturer of the meter or by using the calculations shown to get exact values that may be in between the pressures in the table.

Pressure Correction Table

 

This will allow us to then multiply the Correction Factor by the meter reading and calculate our corrected flow for the point of use device at a given operating pressure and temperature.

Temperature correction table

Knowing where the values that are measured and calculated come from add validity to the reports and understanding all of the variables that go into reading like this helps to better validate the cost savings that can be seen.

In a pinch, for a field estimation, we can also use these Correction Factors and determine an approximate consumption rate of a device that has been measured at a pressure such as our cataloged 80 psig (5.5 Bar). This can often be done on the fly to help determine the flowrates currently on a system. This can be helpful when troubleshooting, giving estimated simple ROIs, and help justify results and reasons for future purchases of engineered solutions.

If you want to discuss the Efficiency Lab or any of the math behind our calculations, contact any Application Engineer, we can all help out.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

Leaks and Why They Matter

Leaks can be discussed quite frequently around industrial environments. These can be refrigerant leaks, water leaks, gas leaks, even information leaks. All of these leaks have one thing in common, they all cost the company money in the end. I often think about several classic cartoons when I hear about leaks being fixed as they are found. They can become a little overwhelming like the “Squirrel” from the movie Ice Age 2.

1 – Ice Age 2 – Scrat – Mission Impossible

When it comes down to it, not many leaks create good results, that is why I want to take a second and educate on the costs your facility may be seeing from compressed air leaks. The leaks within an industrial environment can often account for up to 30% of the total compressed air generated.

So let’s take a look at that, the cost of compressed air is derived from the kWh cost the facility pays to the utility company. Here in the Midwest the average cost is around $0.08 / kWh. The equation to convert this to cost per cubic foot of compressed air is shown below. This formula assumes that the compressor generates four standard cubic feet of compressed air per horsepower of compressor. Again this is an industry acceptable assumption.

The size of a leak will determine how much compressed air is wasted, most of these leaks are not even to the audible range for the human ear which leads them to be undetected for long periods of time. A leak that is equivalent to a 1/16″ diameter orifice can result in an annual loss of more than $836.50 USD. While the scale of this number when compared to the annual revenue of a company may be small, the fact remains that this single leak would more than likely not be the only one. This isn’t the only way leaks will cost money though.

Leaks can also generate false demand which can result in pressure drops on a system. When the pressure on a production line drops this could result in unscheduled shutdowns. Often, when a pressure drop is observed the quick answer is to increase the header pressure which causes even more energy to be utilized and even more compressed air will be pushed out of these leaks. That increase in system pressure comes at a price as well. When increasing a system pressure by 2 psi the compressor will consume an additional percent of total input power. This again will hit the bottom line and result in lower efficiency of operation for the facility.

If you hear that distinct hiss of compressed air leaks when you are walking through your facility, or even if you don’t hear the his and you know that a leak detection action plan is not being practiced and want to find out the best ways to get one in place, contact us. We are always willing to help you determine how to lower the leaks in your facility as well as reduce the system pressure required to keep your lines up and running by implementing engineered solutions at the point of use.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

1 – Ice Age 2 – Mission Impossible Scrat – retrieve from YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-HniegbnFs