Six Steps to Compressed Air Optimization: Step 2 – Find and Fix Leaks.

Since air compressors use a lot of electricity to make compressed air, it is important to use the compressed air as efficiently as possible.  The compressed air system is considered to be the “forth” utility behind gas, water, and electricity.  It is necessary for pneumatic systems, but it is the least efficient of the utilities.  For every $1.00 that is put into making compressed air, you only get roughly 5¢ of work from it.  EXAIR has six simple steps to optimize your compressed air system.  Following these steps will help you to cut electrical costs, reduce overhead, and improve your bottom line.  In this blog, I will cover the second step – find and fix leaks.

One of the largest problems affecting compressed air systems is leaks.  That quiet little hissing sound from the pipe lines is costing your company much money.  A study was conducted by a university to determine the percentage of air leaks in a typical manufacturing plant.  In a poorly maintained system, they found on average that 30% of the compressor capacity is lost through air leaks.  For a 100 hp compressor, you are losing 30 hp into the ambient air.  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.  For the leaks that you can hear, you can tell by the chart below (**Note 1) the amount of money that can be wasted by the size of the hole.  Unlike a hydraulic system, compressed air is clean; so, leaks will not appear at the source.  You have to locate them by some other means.

Most leaks occur where you have threaded fittings, connections, hoses, and pneumatic components like valves, regulators, and drains.  The Optimization product line from EXAIR are designed to help improve your compressed air system, and the most effective way is to eliminate leaks.  The Ultrasonic Leak Detectors can find the air leaks, and the Digital Flowmeters can monitor your system for air leaks.  With both of these products included in your leak preventative program, you will be able to keep your compressed air system running optimally and reduce the “hidden” cost of leaks.

Ultrasonic Leak Detector

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector:

When a leak occurs, it emits an ultrasonic noise caused by turbulence from the gas escaping.  This ultrasonic noise can be at a frequency above the audible level for human hearing.  The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector can pick up these frequencies and make the leaks audible.  With three sensitivity ranges and LED display, you can find very minute leaks.  It comes with two attachments; the parabola to locate leaks up to 20 feet away, and the tube attachment to define the exact location in the pipe line.  Once you find a leak, it can be marked for fixing.

EXAIR’s Digital Flowmeter w/ USB Data Logger

EXAIR Digital Flowmeter:

With the Digital Flowmeters, you can continuously monitor for waste.  Air leaks can occur at any time within any section of your pneumatic area.  You can do systematic checks by isolating sections with the Digital Flowmeter and watch for a flow reading.  Another way to monitor your system would be to compare the results over time.  With the Digital Flowmeters, we have a couple of options for recording the air flow data.  We have the USB Datalogger for setting certain time increments to record the air flows.  Once the information is recorded, you can connect the USB to your computer, and with the downloadable software, you can view the information and export it into an Excel spread sheet.  We also offer a wireless capability option with the Digital Flowmeters.  You can have multiple flow meters that can communicate with your computer to continuously log and record the flow information.  Once the flow information starts trending upward for the same process, then you can use the Ultrasonic Leak Detector to find the leak.  It can also give you a preventative measure if a pneumatic system is starting to fail.

Compressed air leaks will rob you in performance, compressor life, and electrical cost.  It is important to have a leak preventative program to check for leaks periodically as they can happen at any time.  The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector and the Digital Flowmeters will help you accomplish this and optimize your compressed air system.  Once you find and fix all your leaks, you can then focus on improving the efficiency of your blow-off devices with EXAIR products and save yourself even more money.

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

 

**Note 1: Chart was published by Compressed Air Challenge in April 1998 – Rev. 0

Benefits of an Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Ultrasonic Leak Detector

As margins get tighter and cost of manufacturing climbs, industries are looking into different areas to be more efficient.  A big focus nowadays is in their compressed air system.  Why is this?  Manufacturers are starting to realize that it takes an abundant amount of electricity to make compressed air.  That is why EXAIR manufactures compressed air products for optimization to get the best efficiency.  But what many manufacturers don’t realize is that quiet little hissing sound from there compressed air lines is costing them much money.   That is why EXAIR has the Ultrasonic Leak Detector.

Finding leaks will save you money

Energy Star, a federal voluntary program ran by the Environmental Protection Agency, offers energy-efficient solutions.  EXAIR has partnered with Energy Star because it underscores our commitment to improve energy savings.  They even wrote an excerpt about compressed air leaks here: Energy Tips: Minimize Compressed Air Leaks.  With compressed air leaks, it can be as much as 30% of your compressed air usage.

When a leak occurs, it emits an ultrasonic noise.  The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector can pick this up.  It has a frequency range from 20 KHz to 100 KHz, above human hearing, so it can make the inaudible leaks, audible.  With three sensitivity ranges and LED display, you can find very minute leaks.  It comes with headphones and two attachments; the parabola attachment to find leaks up to 20 feet (6 meters) away, and the tube attachment for local proximity to define the exact location of the leak.

In the Energy Tips from Energy Star, they reference estimated leak rates and costs associated with these leaks.  They also recommend a leak prevention program with reference materials to help improve energy savings.  As part of that program, an Ultrasonic Leak Detector is the best way to begin.

Checking pipe fittings

To tell a common success story about the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, an EXAIR customer had a 50-horsepower air compressor.  It started to overwork, overheat, and occasionally shut down.  He thought that he would need to buy a larger air compressor to keep his plant running.  In discussing his problems and requirements, he decided to purchase an Ultrasonic Leak Detector from EXAIR to check for leaks as a possible cause.  He checked every fitting and connection in his facility.  When he finished checking the compressed air system, he found 91 leaks.  (You will be surprised with your system if it is not well maintained).

If we look at a very small 1/16” (1.6mm) diameter hole at 80 PSIG (5.5 bar), it will cost you $360 a year per leak (based on 6000 working hours per year).  Thus, 91 leaks at $360/year will equal $32,760 per year.  After the fittings were reworked with piping compound, the compressor was back operating in a normal range.  There was no need to buy a larger air compressor with capital funds, and he was able to save $32,760 a year by finding and fixing the leaks.

As a little secret with the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, it can do more than find compressed air leaks.  Any issue that creates an ultrasonic noise, the Ultrasonic Leak Detector can find it.  This will include air damper seals, circuit breakers, cracked rubber belts, gas burner leaks, refrigerant leaks, worn bearings, and air brake systems on trucks.  It is a handy tool to find potential issues or problems in other areas other than compressed air systems.

For optimization of your compressed air system, it is very important to find and correct leaks in your piping system.  The Ultrasonic Leak Detector can help you do that.  It is an inexpensive way to solve an expensive problem, compressed air leaks.  If you would like to discuss the features and benefits in more detail, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR.  We will be glad to help you.

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