How to Save Money on Compressed Air

Compressed air can be one of the more expensive utilities to use in a facility, but a compressed air system is full of simple opportunities to increase efficiency and minimize the cost. Much like how you can take multiple steps to save electricity at your house there a few simple steps you can take to save your compressed air. These steps include finding and repairing leaks, compressor maintenance, minimizing pressure at the point of use, and turning the compressed air off when not in use. Implementing these steps and using the right tools to achieve them can lead to significant dollar savings – in fact our website case studies, other blog articles and catalog are filled with example after example of air (and dollar) savings success! And let’s be honest here, who doesn’t like saving money.

First off is finding your leaks. Leaks are one of the major wastes of compressed air in a system that could happen. Leaks in a compressed air system can account for wasting 20-30% of a compressors output. These leaks can commonly be found in pipe joints, devices that use the compressed air, quick connect fittings, and storage tanks. All of this compounds to wasting air much like a leaky faucet wastes water – little by little it grows until it simply needs to be addressed. One of the ways to help find leaks in your system is 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.

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Choose efficient end-use products. Engineered air knives, air amplifiers, air nozzles and safety air guns can dramatically outperform (use less air) than commercial air nozzles and in-house solutions such as drilled pipes, open air lines and other creative “fixes”. We have seen some very nice in-house solutions from customers who have put in some significant time and effort, but they all have one thing in common – they use more air than any of EXAIR’s engineered solutions.

Minimizing your pressure can also save you money by limiting the amount of compressed air that is being used. Pressure and volume go hand and hand, the higher the pressure the higher the volume of air and vice versa. By minimizing the pressure that you are using you are also minimizing the amount of air that is being used which means savings. Each CFM used can be associated with a certain price value so the less you use the more you save. You also cut down on the amount of work the compressor has to do and how often the compressor has to cycle. Pressure can be minimized using one of EXAIR’s Pressure Regulators to cut down on the amount of air being used.

EXAIR’s Pressure Regulators come in 4 different sizes

Turn off the compressed air when it is not in use. Just like how you wouldn’t leave the faucet running or lights on in a room that is not being used, don’t leave your compressed air running (insert bad dad joke). Constantly using compressed air even when not in use will cause the compressor to cycle more often wasting money. Each CFM has a price to it so don’t waste CFM’s blowing it back into the air and doing nothing. This can simply be done by adding one of EXAIR’s ball valve or solenoid valves to turn off when you are done using it. Also, if you want to take it another step farther you can look at using one of EXAIR’s Electronic Flow Controllers (EFC). The EFC uses a photo eye attached to a timer that will open a solenoid valve for a set amount of time when it detects an object within 3’ of the photo eye. This will turn the air on only when your product is in the air path and turn it off during any spaces in between.

EXAIR’s EFC in use

Compressor maintenance is another important step to minimizing the cost of compressed air. Neglected air compressors can cause a lot of issues ranging from expensive repairs to a decreases in efficiency. Wear and tear placed on the motor of an air compressor can cause the compressor to produce less compressed air (SCFM) at the same power consumption. This means you are paying the same amount of money and getting less out of it. Making sure that your compressor or any machine is always running at its optimal performance and should always be a priority for any facility.

There are many different ways to save on compressed air, these are just a few of them. Reducing air use will save money and reduce the demand on your compressor which in turn can prolong the life of your air compressor. If you have questions about how to save on compressed air or any of our engineered Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR or any Application Engineer.

Cody Biehle
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Super Air Knives Save 63% Electrical Cost for a Food Manufacturer Drying Trays

A food manufacturing company was looking for a more efficient way to dry polypropylene trays that were filled with food product. With their current operation, they would send already packed and sealed food trays through a washing system that used sterilized water. The trays would then have to be dried prior to bulk packaging. The operators would place the trays side by side on a 24” wide open-mesh stainless steel metal conveyor with two or three trays at a time (depending on the tray dimensions). They contacted EXAIR because they wanted to replace their “old and inefficient system” with something better.

In my discussions, they gave some additional details of the operation and the problems that they were seeing. The dimensions of the trays ranged from 150 to 200mm long by 100 to 150mm wide by 35 to 50mm in height. They were cleaning at a rate of 30 trays per minute through the washing and drying system. The washer was designed to recycle the water to improve “green” operations. But the trays were carrying much of the water outside the machine. Thus, they would have to stop and refill the wash system with fresh water.

After the washing cycle, the drying section began. It consisted of two parts; a sponge roller and a heated chamber that would blow hot air. First the trays would run under the sponge roller to absorb the water from the top of the trays. A feature that they did not like was the continuous adjustment to the sponge roller for the different tray heights. They had to make sure that they had good contact without stopping the movement.

Also, with bulk of the water being on top of the trays, the sponge surface would get saturated. They would have to stop the process to change with a dry foam pad or replace due to wear. After the sponge roller, it would move into a heated chamber to remove the remaining portion of the water from the trays. They used a 11 KW heating system to blow hot air. This part of their system required a lot of electricity to run. They wondered if EXAIR could help streamline their process and reduce energy costs.

They sent a photo of their system, reference above. As described, the trays were moving intermittently through the wash cycle and then into the drying operation. When gaps are present in a process, the Electronic Flow Control, or EFC, becomes a great product for energy efficiency. It is designed to use a photoelectric sensor to detect a part and initiate a timing sequence. Using a solenoid valve, it will turn on the compressed air only when needed. With the drying operation, I suggested that they could remove the sponge roller and heated chamber, and replace them with two Super Air Knives. In conjunction with the EFC, we can decrease energy usage, reduce downtime, and increase savings. Profit margins can be critical in the food industry, and EXAIR has many ways to help.

Electronic Flow Control

To expand a bit more about revitalizing the “old and inefficient system” with EXAIR products, I made some suggestions. I recommended two Stainless Steel Super Air Knife Kits, model 110224SS, to be placed near the end of the conveyor. One Super Air Knife would be positioned above the tray to blow across the top; and one would be positioned below the tray under the mesh conveyor to blow across the bottom.

At a slight blowing angle in a counter-flow direction, the air streams would remove the water from the top and bottom of the tray at the same time. This would create a non-contact “wiping” solution. Now they do not have to worry about parts wearing out due to contact. Another unique feature of the Super Air Knife is the strength of the laminar air stream. It is consistent from 3” (76mm) to 12” (305mm) away from the target. Thus, they can easily set the height of the Super Air Knives to dry all the different trays without adjusting it.

And as an added benefit, the water that was being blown off the trays by the Super Air Knives remained within the washing system. The sterilized water was not being wasted and could be recycled. With the Electronic Flow Control, I recommended the model 9056. It is a user-friendly device with eight different timing sequences. They were able to position the photoelectric sensor near the outlet of the washing system. As soon as the trays were detected, the Super Air Knives would turn on to blow two or three trays at the same time. With the EXAIR products installed, the system went from using 11 KW down to 4 KW, a 63% savings.

EXAIR has helped many customers like this one above. When it comes to energy savings, EXAIR leads the way. With two Super Air Knives and an EFC, we were able to modernized their system; save on water, improve productivity, reduce the overall footprint, and save on their energy usage. If you have a similar application, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR. We will be happy to update your system.

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

Six Steps to Optimization, Step 4 – Turn Off Your Compressed Air When Not in Use

Step 4 of the Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System is ‘Turn off the compressed air when it isn’t in use.’  Click on the link above for a good summary of the all the steps.

6 Steps from Catalog

Two basic methods to set up a compressed air operation for turning off is the ball valve and the solenoid valve. Of the two, the simplest is the ball valve. It is a quarter turn, manually operated valve that stops the flow of the compressed air when the handle is rotated 90°. It is best for operations where the compressed air is needed for a long duration, and shut off is infrequent, such as at the end of the shift.

manual_valves (2)
Manual Ball Valves, from 1/4 NPT to 1-1/4 NPT

The solenoid valve offers more flexibility. A solenoid valve is an electro-mechanical valve that uses electric current to produce a magnetic field which moves a mechanism to control the flow of air. A solenoid can be wired to simple push button station, for turning the air flow on and off – similar to the manual valve in that relies on a person to remember to turn the air off when not needed.

wa_solvalv
A Wide Array of Solenoid Valve Offerings for Various Flows and Voltage Requirements

Another way to use a solenoid valve is to wire it in conjunction with a PLC or machine control system. Through simple programming, the solenoid can be set to turn on/off whenever certain parameters are met. An example would be to energize the solenoid to supply an air knife when a conveyor is running to blow off parts when they pass under. When the conveyor is stopped, the solenoid would close and the air would stop blowing.

The EXAIR EFC (Electronic Flow Control) is a stand alone solenoid control system. The EFC combines a photoelectric sensor with a timer control that turns the air on and off based on the presence (or lack of presence) of an object in front of the sensor. There are 8 programmable on/off modes for different process requirements. The use of the EFC provides the highest level of compressed air usage control. The air is turned on only when an object is present and turned off when the object has passed by.

efcapp
EFC Used To Control Bin Blow Off Operation

By turning off the air when not needed, whether by a manual ball valve, a solenoid valve integrated into the PLC machine control or the EXAIR EFC, compressed air usage will be minimized and operation costs reduced.

If you have questions about the EFC, solenoid valves, ball valves or any of the 15 different EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product lines, 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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When to use Compressed Air Receiver Tanks (and More)

I was recently working with a process Engineer at a food packaging plant on installing a Super Air Knife to blow excess water off a food product. This product was moving single file on a conveyor belt with about 6 feet between each product. The belt was moving pretty slow so we wanted to turn the air knife on only when the product was in front of the knife, which saves compressed air and energy. To do this we used the ELECTRONIC FLOW CONTROL (EFC). If the knife ran the entire time it would be wasting any air blowing during one of the 6′ long gaps. This would also put an unnecessary strain on their already taxed compressed air system. The EFC let him only supply air to the Knife when it saw a product on the belt. To read more about the EFC click here!

efcapp
EXAIR Electronic Flow Control

This application worked perfectly, but they had one other issue. Throughout the day it seemed as if they were losing compressed air pressure at the knife. What they found was during peak compressed air usage in the plant the compressor couldn’t keep up with the demand. Fear not, the Super Air Knife was only running for 7 seconds and was off for 20 seconds. This was a perfect application for EXAIR’s Receiver Tank.

Receiver Tanks are great for applications that require an intermittent demand for a volume of compressed air. This can cause fluctuations in pressure and volume throughout the compressed air system with some points being “starved” for compressed air. EXAIR’s Model 9500-60 60 Gallon Receiver Tank can be installed near the point of high demand so there is an additional supply of compressed air available for a short duration. The time between the high volume demand occurrences should be long enough so the compressor has enough time to replenish the receiver tank.

Receiver Tank
Receiver Tank

If you have a process that is intermittent, and the times for and between blow-off, drying, or cooling allows, a Receiver Tank can be used to allow you to get the most of your available compressed air system. If you need any assistance calculating the need for a receiver, please let us help.

Note – Lee Evans wrote an easy to follow blog that details the principle and calculations of Receiver Tanks, and it is worth your time to read here.

If you would like to talk about 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.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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