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.
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.
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.
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.
It is important to know the cost of compressed air at your facility. Most people think that compressed air is free, but it is most certainly not. Because of the expense, compressed air is considered to be a fourth utility in manufacturing plants. In this blog, I will show you how to calculate the cost to make compressed air. Then you can use this information to determine the need for Intelligent Compressed Air® products.
There are two types of air compressors, positive displacement and dynamic. The core construction for both is an electric motor that spins a shaft. Positive displacement types use the energy from the motor and the shaft to change the volume in an area, like a piston in a reciprocating compressor or like rotors in a rotary compressor. The dynamic types use the energy from the motor and the shaft to create a velocity energy with an impeller. (You can read more about air compressors HERE). For electric motors, the power is described either in kilowatts (KW) or horsepower (hp). As a unit of conversion, there are 0.746 KW in 1 hp. The electric companies charge at a rate of kilowatt-hour (KWh). So, we can determine the energy cost to spin the electric motors. If your air compressor has a unit of horsepower, or hp, you can use Equation 1:
hp * 0.746 * hours * rate / (motor efficiency)
hp – horsepower of motor
0.746 – conversion to KW
hours – running time
rate – cost for electricity, KWh
motor efficiency – average for an electric motor is 95%.
If the air compressor motor is rated in kilowatts, or KW, then the above equation can become a little simpler, as seen in Equation 2:
KW * hours * rate / (motor efficiency)
KW – Kilowatts of motor
hours – running time
rate – cost for electricity, KWh
motor efficiency – average for an electric motor is 95%.
As an example, a manufacturing plant operates 250 day a year with 8-hour shifts. The cycle time for the air compressor is roughly 50% on and off. To calculate the hours of running time, we have 250 days at 8 hours/day with a 50% duty cycle, or 250 * 8 * 0.50 = 1,000 hours of running per year. The air compressor that they have is a 100 hp rotary screw. The electrical rate for this facility is at $0.08/KWh. With these factors, the annual cost can be calculated by Equation 1:
In both equations, you can substitute your information to see what you actually pay to make compressed air each year at your facility.
The type of air compressor can help in the amount of compressed air that can be produced by the electric motor. Generally, the production rate can be expressed in different ways, but I like to use cubic feet per minute per horsepower, or CFM/hp.
The positive displacement types have different values depending on how efficient the design. For a single-acting piston type air compressor, the amount of air is between 3.1 to 3.3 CFM/hp. So, if you have a 10 hp single-acting piston, you can produce between 31 to 33 CFM of compressed air. For a 10 hp double-acting piston type, it can produce roughly 4.7 to 5.0 CFM/hp. As you can see, the double-acting air compressor can produce more compressed air at the same horsepower.
The rotary screws are roughly 3.4 to 4.1 CFM/hp. While the dynamic type of air compressor is roughly 3.7 – 4.7 CFM/hr. If you know the type of air compressor that you have, you can calculate the amount of compressed air that you can produce per horsepower. As an average, EXAIR uses 4 CFM/hp of air compressor when speaking with customers who would like to know the general output of their compressor.
With this information, we can estimate the total cost to make compressed air as shown in Equation 3:
C = 1000 * Rate * 0.746 / (PR * 60)
C – Cost of compressed air ($ per 1000 cubic feet)
1000 – Scalar
Rate – cost of electricity (KWh)
0.746 – conversion hp to KW
PR – Production Rate (CFM/hp)
60 – conversion from minutes to hour
So, if we look at the average of 4 CFM/hp and an average electrical rate of $0.08/KWh, we can use Equation 3 to determine the average cost to make 1000 cubic feet of air.
Once you have established a cost for compressed air, then you can determine which areas to start saving money. One of the worst culprits for inefficient air use is open pipe blow-offs. This would include cheap air guns, drilled holes in pipes, and tubes. These are very inefficient for compressed air and can cost you a lot of money. I will share a comparison to a 1/8” NPT pipe to an EXAIR Mini Super Air Nozzle. (Reference below). As you can see, by just adding the EXAIR nozzle to the end of the pipe, the company was able to save $1,872 per year. That is some real savings.
Making compressed air is expensive, so why would you not use it as efficiently as you can. With the equations above, you can calculate how much you are paying. You can use this information to make informed decisions and to find the “low hanging fruit” for cost savings. As in the example above, targeting the blow-off systems in a facility is a fast and easy way to save money. If you need any help to try and find a way to be more efficient with your compressed air system, please contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR. We will be happy to assist you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The use of compressed air can be found in almost any industry and is often referred to as a “fourth utility” next to water, gas and electric. The generation of compressed air accounts for approximately 1/3 of all energy costs in an industrial facility, in many cases, it’s the largest energy user in an industrial plant. With an average cost of $ 0.25 per every 1,000 SCF used, compressed air can be expensive to produce so it is very important to use this utility as efficiently as possible.
Utility companies recognize the benefit of using engineered products to reduce compressed air usage, like the ones manufactured by EXAIR, and offers rebate incentives for making a switch. Our local utility provider here in Cincinnati, Duke Energy, offers a $ 20 incentive for each replacement engineered nozzle.
In their specification, the nozzle must meet a certain volumetric flow rate (SCFM) at 80 PSIG operating pressure for a given pipe size. For example, when looking at a 1/4″ nozzle, the flow rate must be less than or equal to 17 SCFM when operated at 80 PSIG. Our most popular nozzles for “general” blowoff applications would be our Model # 1100 (1/4″ FNPT) or our Model # 1101 (1/4″ MNPT) Super Air Nozzles. These nozzles require 14 SCFM @ 80 PSIG so this would be the ideal solution to reduce the air demand and take advantage of the rebate.
Here at EXAIR, much of our focus is to improve the overall efficiency of industrial compressed air operating processes and point of use compressed air operated products. If you’d like to contact one of our application engineers, we can help recommend the proper engineered solution to not only save on your compressed air usage but also assist with possible energy rebates available in your area.
Leaks in a compressed air system can waste thousands of dollars of electricity per year. In fact, in many plants, the leakage can account for up to 30% of the total operational cost of the compressor. Some of the most common areas where you might find a leak would be at connection joints like valves, unions, couplings, fittings, etc. This not only wastes energy but it can also cause the compressed air system to lose pressure which reduces the end use product’s performance, like an air operated actuator being unable to close a valve, for instance.
One way to estimate how much leakage a system has is to turn off all of the point-of-use devices / pneumatic tools, then start the compressor and record the average time it takes for the compressor to cycle on and off. The total percentage of leakage can be calculated as follows:
Percentage = [(T x 100) / (T + t)]
T = on time in minutes
t = off time in minutes
The percentage of compressor capacity that is lost should be under 10% for a system that is properly maintained.
Another method to calculate the amount of leakage in a system is by using a downstream pressure gauge from a receiver tank. You would need to know the total volume in the system at this point though to accurately estimate the leakage. As the compressor starts to cycle on, you want to allow the system to reach the nominal operating pressure for the process and record the length of time it takes for the pressure to drop to a lower level. As stated above, any leakage more than 10% shows that improvements could be made in the system.
(V x (P1 – P2) / T x 14.7) x 1.25
V= Volumetric Flow (CFM)
P1 = Operating Pressure (PSIG)
P2 = Lower Pressure (PSIG)
T = Time (minutes)
14.7 = Atmospheric Pressure
1.25 = correction factor to figure the amount of leakage as the pressure drops in the system
Now that we’ve covered how to estimate the amount of leakage there might be in a system, we can now look at the cost of a leak. For this example, we will consider a leak point to be the equivalent to a 1/16″ diameter hole.
A 1/16″ diameter hole is going to flow close to 3.8 SCFM @ 80 PSIG supply pressure. An industrial sized air compressor uses about 1 horsepower of energy to make roughly 4 SCFM of compressed air. Many plants know their actual energy costs but if not, a reasonable average to use is $0.25/1,000 SCF generated.
3.8 SCFM (consumed) x 60 minutes x $ 0.25 divided by 1,000 SCF
= $ 0.06 per hour
= $ 0.48 per 8 hour work shift
= $ 2.40 per 5-day work week
= $ 124.80 per year (based on 52 weeks)
As you can see, that’s a lot of money and energy being lost to just one small leak. More than likely, this wouldn’t be the only leak in the system so it wouldn’t take long for the cost to quickly add up for several leaks of this size.
If you’d like to discuss how EXAIR products can help identify and locate costly leaks in your compressed air system, please contact one of our application engineers at 800-903-9247.
The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) issued a report this October that America had used the same amount of energy (measured in BTU’s) as it had used in 1999. We have reduced our energy usage per person, while still growing the economy, a feat that I would not have thought possible.
You can read the full report here: NRDC Energy Report. So often environmental news is dire and gloomy, but this news shows the power of energy efficiency. As noted in the report, politicians and media members focus on where we are going to find new energy resources. As opposed to opening up new energy reserves, we have reaped larger rewards from spending time and money conserving the energy over the last thirty-five years. The energy report uses the household refrigerator as an example of an appliance, whose increasing energy efficiency greatly decreased our electrical load per person. Refrigerators use 1/4 as much energy as the same size refrigerator used in 1975. This decrease in energy usage is a huge gain for the user who replaces their refrigerator and for the power grid that doesn’t need to build a new power plant to keep up with the increased load. As an EXAIR employee, I can not help but notice that EXAIR opened in 1982, which is one of the first years in the graph above were economic growth was not directly tied to energy usage. At EXAIR, we realize the impact of conserving compressed air can have on your compressed air system. By replacing home-made blow offs like open tubes or holes drilled in pipe with Super Air Nozzle or Super Air Knife engineered solutions, you conserve compressed air and save money. This also reduces wear on the your compressor and can extend its life. A model 1100 Super air nozzle uses 14 SCFM when fed with 80 PSIG, which is a 58% reduction from 1/4″ open copper tube, which uses 33 SCFM when fed with 80 PSIG. Go to our Air Savings Calculator to see how much compressed air and money you can save by replacing those home made blow offs.