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

 

Why Start a Leak Prevention Program?

All compressed air systems will have some amount of leakage. It is a good idea to set up a Leak Prevention Program.  Keeping the leakage losses to a minimum will save on compressed air generation costs, and reduce compressor operation time which can extend its life and lower maintenance costs.

The Compressed Air Challenge estimates an individual compressed air leak can cost thousands of dollars per year when using $0.07/kWh.

  • 1/16″ diameter hole in excess of $700/year
  • 1/8″ hole in excess of $2900/year
  • 1/4″ hole in excess of $11,735 per year

There are generally two types of leak prevention programs:

  • Leak Tag type programs
  • Seek-and-Repair type programs

Of the two types, the easiest would be the Seek-and-Repair method.  It involves finding leaks and then repairing them immediately. For the Leak Tag method, a leak is identified, tagged, and then logged for repair at the next opportune time.

A successful Leak Prevention Program consists of several important components:

  • Document your Starting Compressed Air Use – knowing the initial compressed air usage will allow for comparison after the program has been followed for measured improvement.
  • Establishment of initial leak loss – See this blog for more details.
  • Determine the cost of air leaks – One of the most important components of the program. The cost of leaks can be used to track the savings as well as promote the importance of the program. Also a tool to obtain the needed resources to perform the program.
  • Find the leaks – Leaks can be found using many methods.  Most common is the use of an Ultrasonic Leak Detector, like the EXAIR Model 9061.  See this blog for more details. An inexpensive handheld meter will locate a leak and indicate the size of the leak.

    Model 9061
    Model 9061
  • Record the leaks – Note the location and type, its size, and estimated cost. Leak tags can be used, but a master leak list is best.  Under Seek-and-Repair type, leaks should still be noted in order to track the number and effectiveness of the program.
  • Plan to repairs leaks – Make this a priority and prioritize the leaks. Typically fix the biggest leaks first, unless operations prevent access to these leaks until a suitable time.
  • Record the repairs – By putting a cost with each leak and keeping track of the total savings, it is possible to provide proof of the program effectiveness and garner additional support for keeping the program going. Also, it is possible to find trends and recurring problems that will need a more permanent solution.
  • Compare and publish results – Comparing the original baseline to the current system results will provide a measure of the effectiveness of the program and the calculate a cost savings. The results are to be shared with management to validate the program and ensure the program will continue.
  • Repeat As Needed – If the results are not satisfactory, perform the process again. Also, new leaks can develop, so a periodic review should be performed to achieve and maintain maximum system efficiency.

An effective compressed air system leak prevention and repair program is critical in sustaining the efficiency, reliability, and cost effectiveness of an compressed air system.

If you have questions about a Leak Prevention Program or any of the 16 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.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
Send me an email
Find us on the Web 
Like us on Facebook
Twitter: @EXAIR_JS

Opportunities To Save On Compressed Air

If you’re a regular reader of the EXAIR blog, you’re likely familiar with our:

EXAIR Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System

This guideline is as comprehensive as you want it to be.  It’s been applied, in small & large facilities, as the framework for a formal set of procedures, followed in order, with the goal of large scale reductions in the costs associated with the operation of compressed air systems…and it works like a charm.  Others have “stepped” in and out, knowing already where some of their larger problems were – if you can actually hear or see evidence of leaks, your first step doesn’t necessarily have to be the installation of a Digital Flowmeter.

Here are some ways you may be able to “step” in and out to realize opportunities for savings on your use of compressed air:

  • Power:  I’m not saying you need to run out & buy a new compressor, but if yours is

    Recent advances have made significant improvements in efficiency.

    aging, requires more frequent maintenance, doesn’t have any particular energy efficiency ratings, etc…you might need to run out & buy a new compressor.  Or at least consult with a reputable air compressor dealer about power consumption.  You might not need to replace the whole compressor system if it can be retrofitted with more efficient controls.

  • Pressure: Not every use of your compressed air requires full header pressure.  In fact, sometimes it’s downright detrimental for the pressure to be too high.  Depending on the layout of your compressed air supply lines, your header pressure may be set a little higher than the load with the highest required pressure, and that’s OK.  If it’s significantly higher, intermediate storage (like EXAIR’s Model 9500-60 Receiver Tank, shown on the right) may be worth looking into.  Keep in mind, every 2psi increase in your header pressure means a 1% increase (approximately) in electric cost for your compressor operation.  Higher than needed pressures also increase wear and tear on pneumatic tools, and increase the chances of leaks developing.
  • Consumption:  Much like newer technologies in compressor design contribute to higher efficiency & lower electric power consumption, engineered compressed air products will use much less air than other methods.  A 1/4″ copper tube is more than capable of blowing chips & debris away from a machine tool chuck, but it’s going to use as much as 33 SCFM.  A Model 1100 Super Air Nozzle (shown on the right) can do the same job and use only 14 SCFM.  This one was installed directly on to the end of the copper tube, quickly and easily, with a compression fitting.
  • Leaks: These are part of your consumption, whether you like it or not.  And you shouldn’t like it, because they’re not doing anything for you, AND they’re costing you money.  Fix all the leaks you can…and you can fix them all.  Our Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector (right) can be critical to your efforts in finding these leaks, wherever they may be.
  • Pressure, part 2: Not every use of your compressed air requires full header pressure (seems I’ve heard that before?)  Controlling the pressure required for individual applications, at the point of use, keeps your header pressure where it needs to be.  All EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product Kits come with a Pressure Regulator (like the one shown on the right) for this exact purpose.
  • All of our engineered Compressed Air Product Kits include a Filter Separator, like this one, for point-of-use removal of solid debris & moisture.

    Air Quality: Dirty air isn’t good for anything.  It’ll clog (and eventually foul) the inner workings of pneumatic valves, motors, and cylinders.  It’s particularly detrimental to the operation of engineered compressed air products…it can obstruct the flow of Air Knives & Air Nozzles, hamper the cooling capacity of Vortex Tubes & Spot Cooling Products, and limit the vacuum (& vacuum flow) capacity of Vacuum Generators, Line Vacs, and Air Amplifiers.

Everyone here at EXAIR Corporation wants you to get the most out of your compressed air use.  If you’d like to find out more, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
Visit us on the Web
Follow me on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

 

Starting a Leak Prevention Program

Since all compressed air systems will have some amount of leakage, it is a good idea to set up a Leak Prevention Program.  Keeping the leakage losses to a minimum will save on compressed air generation costs,and reduce compressor operation time which can extend its life and lower maintenance costs.

SBMart_pipe_800x

There are generally two types of leak prevention programs:

  • Leak Tag type programs
  • Seek-and-Repair type programs

Of the two types, the easiest would be the Seek-and-Repair method.  It involves finding leaks and then repairing them immediately. For the Leak Tag method, a leak is identified, tagged, and then logged for repair at the next opportune time.  Instead of a log system, the tag may be a two part tag.  The leak is tagged and one part of the tag stays with the leak, and the other is removed and brought to the maintenance department. This part of the tag has space for information such as the location, size, and description of the leak.

The best approach will depend on factors such as company size and resources, type of business, and the culture and best practices already in place. It is common to utilize both types where each is most appropriate.

A successful Leak Prevention Program consists of several important components:

  • Baseline compressed air usage – knowing the initial compressed air usage will allow for comparison after the program has been followed for measured improvement.
  • Establishment of initial leak loss – See this blog for more details.
  • Determine the cost of air leaks – One of the most important components of the program. The cost of leaks can be used to track the savings as well as promote the importance of the program. Also a tool to obtain the needed resources to perform the program.
  • Identify the leaks – Leaks can be found using many methods.  Most common is the use of an Ultrasonic Leak Detector, like the EXAIR Model 9061.  See this blog for more details. An inexpensive handheld meter will locate a leak and indicate the size of the leak.

    ULD_Pr
    Using the Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector to search for leaks in a piping system
  • Document the leaks – Note the location and type, its size, and estimated cost. Leak tags can be used, but a master leak list is best.  Under Seek-and-Repair type, leaks should still be noted in order to track the number and effectiveness of the program.
  • Prioritize and plan the repairs – Typically fix the biggest leaks first, unless operations prevent access to these leaks until a suitable time.
  • Document the repairs – By putting a cost with each leak and keeping track of the total savings, it is possible to provide proof of the program effectiveness and garner additional support for keeping the program going. Also, it is possible to find trends and recurring problems that will need a more permanent solution.
  • Compare and publish results – Comparing the original baseline to the current system results will provide a measure of the effectiveness of the program and the calculate a cost savings. The results are to be shared with management to validate the program and ensure the program will continue.
  • Repeat As Needed – If the results are not satisfactory, perform the process again. Also, new leaks can develop, so a periodic review should be performed to achieve and maintain maximum system efficiency.

In summary – an effective compressed air system leak prevention and repair program is critical in sustaining the efficiency, reliability, and cost effectiveness of an compressed air system.

If you have questions about a Leak Prevention Program or any of the 16 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
Send me an email
Find us on the Web 
Like us on Facebook
Twitter: @EXAIR_BB