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
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How to Estimate Leaks and the Impact upon a Compressed Air System

In today’s age where compressed air is often referred to as the 4th utility in an industrial manufacturing facility, leaks throughout the system can add up to serious financial losses. It has been estimated that leaks can waste as much as 20-30 percent of an air compressor output.

waste

Not only are leaks a source of wasted energy, they can also contribute to other losses such as:

  • Causing a drop in system pressure, resulting in air tools to function less efficiently
  • Increasing the air compressor on/off cycles which shortens the life of it and other components in the system
  • Increased maintenance costs and more planned downtime for the maintenance to be performed
  • A need to install of additional compressors to make up for the inefficiencies caused by leaks

For compressors that have start/stop controls – the below formula can be used to estimate the leakage rate in the system-

Leakage Equation 1

To use the above formula, the compressor is started when there is no demand on the system –  all air operated equipment and devices are turned off.  As the air escapes the system through the leaks, the system pressure will drop and the compressor will turn on and cycle to bring the pressure back up to the operating level. Measurement of the average time (T) of compressor run duration, and time (t) of the system pressure to drop to the set-point can be plugged into the formula and a Leakage Percentage established.

Another method to estimate the leakage rate is shown below-

Leakage Equation 2

The above method requires knowledge of the total system volume, which includes downstream air receivers, air mains, and all piping.  To perform the check, bring the system pressure up the normal operating pressure (P1) and then measure the time (T) it takes for the system to drop to pressure (P2) which is generally around half the operating pressure.  The 1.25 is a correction factor to normal system pressure, since the leakage rate will be less as the system pressure is lowered.

A leakage rate greater than 10% typically shows that there are areas of improvement (leaks that can be identified and repaired)

Any leakage testing and estimating should be preformed regularly, at least each quarter, so as to minimize the effect of any new system leaks. The tests are only one part of a leak detection and repair program. The best way to detect leaks is the use of ultrasonic leak detector (shown below.)  To learn more about the EXAIR model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector, check out this blog that was previously published.

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If you have questions about compressed air systems, or would like to talk about any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, 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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Intelligent Compressed Air: Maintaining an Efficient Compressor System

compressor

The electrical costs associated with generating compressed air make it the most expensive utility in any industrial facility. In order to help offset these costs, it’s imperative that the system is operating as efficiently as possible. I’d like to take a moment to walk you through some of the ways that you can work towards making your compressed air system more efficient.

The first step you should take is to identify and fix any leaks within the distribution piping. According to the Compressed Air Challenge, up to 30% of all compressed air generated is lost through leaks. This ends up accounting for nearly 10% of your overall energy costs!! To put leaks in perspective, take a look at the graphic below from the Best Practices for Compressed Air Systems handbook.

air leaks cost

Compressed air leaks don’t just waste energy, but they can also contribute to other operating losses. If enough air is lost through leaks, this can also cause a drop in system pressure. This can affect the functionality of other compressed air operated equipment and processes. This pressure drop can affect the efficiency of the equipment causing it to cycle on/off more frequently or to not work properly. This can lead to anything from rejected products to increased running time. With an increase in running time, there’s also the need for more frequent maintenance and unscheduled downtime.

You can perform a compressed air audit in your facility using an EXAIR Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector. If you’d prefer someone come in and do this for you, there are several companies that offer energy audit services where this will be a focal point of the process.

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EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Speaking of maintenance, proper compressor maintenance is also critical to the overall efficiency of the system. Like all industrial equipment, a proper maintenance schedule is required in order to ensure things are operating at peak efficiency. Inadequate compressor maintenance can have a significant impact on energy consumption via lower compressor efficiency. A regular preventative maintenance schedule is required in order to keep things in good shape. The compressor, heat exchanger surfaces, lubricant, lubricant filter, air inlet filter, and dryer all need to be maintained. This can be done yourself or through a reputable compressor dealer. The costs associated with these services are outweighed in the improved reliability and performance of the compressor. A well-maintained system will not cause unexpected shutdowns and will also cost less to operate.

The manner in which you use your compressed air at the point of use should also be evaluated. Inefficient, homemade solutions are thought to be a cheap and quick solution. Unfortunately, the costs to supply these inefficient solutions with compressed air can quickly outweigh the costs of an engineered solution. An engineered compressed air nozzle such as EXAIR’s line of Super Air Nozzles are designed to utilize the coanda effect. Free, ambient air from the environment is entrained into the airflow along with the supplied compressed air. This maximizes the force and flow of the nozzle while keeping compressed air usage to a minimum.

Another method of making your compressed air system more efficient is actually quite simple: regulating the supply pressure. By installing pressure regulators at the point of use for each of your various point of use devices, you can reduce the consumption simply by reducing the pressure. This can’t be done for everything, but I’d be willing to bet that several tasks could be accomplished with the same level of efficiency at a reduced pressure. Most shop air runs at around 80-90 psig, but for general blowoff applications you can often get by operating at a lower pressure. Another simple, but often overlooked, method is to simply shut off the compressed air supply when not in use. If you haven’t yet performed an audit to identify compressed air leaks this is even more of a no-brainer. When operators go to lunch or during breaks, what’s stopping you from just simply turning a valve to shut off the supply of air? It seems simple and minute, but each step goes a long way towards reducing your overall air consumption and ultimately your energy costs.

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mail: TylerDaniel@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

 

Image taken from the Best Practices for Compressed Air Systems Handbook, 2nd Edition

Finding and Fixing Leaks in Your Compressed Air System

I had to find and fix some leaks this week – in my yard. See, my underground storm sewer pipe, that carries my basement sump pump discharge and my house’s gutter drains to the street, was leaking.

The evidence was clear…swampy puddles were developing in my neighbor’s yard.

The location was clear…several patches of grass in MY yard were WAY more green and vibrant than the rest.

The cause was NOT clear…until I dug up those patches of the best looking grass my lawn has ever seen. Turns out, my maple tree’s (the showpiece of my front yard) root system found a way to penetrate one of the couplings in the sewer pipe, where it prospered into this:

That’s about 8ft worth of root growth that was clogging my drain pipe, and causing leaks upstream. My maple tree is not shown in the picture because my maple tree is a real jerk.

Two days worth of digging up and reinstalling pipe later, and all is well.  I mean, except for filling the trench, sowing some new grass seed, watching the birds eat it, sowing some more, etc.  Ah, the joys of home ownership…

I tell you all this, dear reader, so you know that I. Don’t. Like. Leaks…whether they be in my storm sewer pipe or in your compressed air system…which brings me to the (real) subject of my blog today.

Unlike the visual indications of my yard leak, compressed air system leaks don’t really draw much attention to themselves.  Unless they grow quite large, they’re typically invisible and very quiet…much too quiet to be heard in a typical industrial environment, anyway.  Good news is, they’re not all that hard to find.

One way is to use a soap-and-water solution.  You just need a spray bottle, some dish soap, and water.  Spray it on the piping joints, and all but the smallest, most minute, of leaks will create soap bubbles…instant indication of air leakage.  This method is inexpensive and simple, but it does tend to leave little puddles all over.  Plus, if your header runs along the ceiling, you’re going to have to get up there to do it.  And unless you can easily maneuver all the way around the pipe, you can miss a leak on the other side of the joint. If you have a small and relatively simple compressed air system, and all your piping is accessible though, this method is tried and true.

For many industrial compressed air systems, though, the limitations of the soap bubble method make it impractical.  But I’ve got more good news: those silent (to us) air leaks are making a real racket, ultrasonically speaking.  And we’ve got something for that:

EXAIR Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector discovers and pinpoints leaks, quickly and easily.

See, when a pressurized gas finds its way through the narrow (and usually torturous) path out of a slightly loosened fitting, worn packing on a valve, etc., it creates sound waves.  Some of those ARE in audible frequencies, but they’re often so low as to be drowned out by everything else that’s happening in a typical industrial environment.  Those leaks, however, also create sound waves in ultrasonic frequencies…and EXAIR’s Ultrasonic Leak Detector takes advantage of that ultrasonic racket to show you where those leaks are, as well as give you a qualitative indication of their magnitude.  Here’s how it works:

Find leaks and fix them.  This is Step #2 of our Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System.  If you’d like to find out more, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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A Unique Application for the Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Here on the EXAIR blog we post a ton of different applications for our products. We typically see similar applications each day and write about them so that you may identify potential points in your various processes that may benefit from an engineered compressed air solution. Many of these are typical blowoff or cooling applications that we see day in and day out. Sometimes, though, we see some applications that are outside the realm of typical operation. This can sometimes require the manufacturing of a specialized part or just getting a little creative with a stock product.

Our distributor in Argentina recently contacted me about a unique application for an Ultrasonic Leak Detector. The Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector is a hand-held instrument that allows you to locate costly leaks in a compressed air distribution system. As pressurized air exits a small orifice, an ultrasonic sound that is above human hearing is created. The Ultrasonic Leak Detector is able to pick up on these sound emissions and can convert it to an audible range that is able to be heard by the human ear. Typically, this product is used in conjunction with a leak prevention program to help save money and compressed air by identifying leaks in the distribution system.

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Model 9061 ULD detecting a leak

The customer is a manufacturer of plastic bottles used to hold a wide variety of different personal care products. The bottles were molded in two separate pieces, then brought together and sealed. After the two pieces of the bottle were sealed, they had to test each one to ensure that they remained watertight. Their current method involved filling the cavities with water and inspecting for leaks.

While this method was effective, when a leak was present water would get all over the machine and floor and needed to be cleaned up. This to them was considered a nuisance and they began to explore alternative methods of checking the seals on the bottles. They found EXAIR’s Ultrasonic Leak Detector and wondered if they could use it to detect leaks on the bottles if they were to pressurize them with compressed air instead of filling them with water. We’ve handled similar applications in the past, this one here a customer used the ULD to detect leaks from poor welds on the roof of buses. They ordered one for testing and were very pleased with the results. The ULD had no problem detecting leaks in the bottles and allowed them to eliminate the mess and annoyance associated with using water.

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Operator testing for leaks using the ULD

Just because you can’t find a particular application in our Application Database on the website or here on the blog, doesn’t mean that it can’t be done! With our unconditional 30 day guarantee for all stock products you have plenty of time to test it out in your specific application. If for any reason it won’t work for you, just send it back and we’ll try something else.

If you have a unique application that could be served by an Intelligent Compressed Air Product, give us a call. Trust me when I say we absolutely LOVE tackling a new and exciting challenge with a creative solution!

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mail: TylerDaniel@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

Keys to an Efficient Compressed Air System

How do I make our compressed air system efficient?

This is a critical question which plagues facilities maintenance, engineering, and operational personnel.  There are concerns over what is most important, how to approach efficiency implementation, and available products/services to assist in implementation.  In order to address these concerns (and others), we must first look at what a compressed air system is designed to do and the common disruptions which lead to inefficiency.

The primary object of a compressed air system is to transport the compressed air from its point of production (the compressors) to its point of use (applications) in sufficient quantity and quality, and at adequate pressure for proper operation of air-driven devices.[1]  In order for a compressed air system to do so, the compressed air must be able to reach its intended destination in proper volume and pressure.  And, in order to do this, pressure drops due to improper plumbing must be eliminated, and compressed air leakage must be eliminated/kept to a minimum.

But, before these can be properly addressed, we must create a pressure profile to determine baseline operating pressures and system needs.  After developing a pressure profile and creating a target system operating pressure, we can move on to the items mentioned above – plumbing and leaks.

Proper plumbing and leakage elimination

The transportation of the compressed air happens primarily via piping, fittings, valves, and hoses – each of which must be properly sized for the compressed air-driven device at the point of use.  If the compressed air piping/plumbing is undersized, increased system (main line) pressures will be needed, which in-turn create an unnecessary increase in energy costs.

In addition to the increased energy costs mentioned above, operating the system at a higher pressure will cause all end use devices to consume more air and leakage rates to increase.  This increase is referred to as artificial demand, and can consume as much as 30% of the compressed air in an inefficient compressed air system.[2]

But, artificial demand isn’t limited to increased consumption due to higher system pressures.  Leaks in the compressed air system place a tremendous strain on maintaining proper pressures and end-use performance.  The more leaks in the system, the higher the main line pressure must be to provide proper pressure and flow to end use devices.  So, if we can reduce leakage in the system, we can reduce the overall system pressure, significantly reducing energy cost.

 

How to implement solutions

Understanding the impact of an efficient compressed air system is only half of the equation.  The other half comes down to implementation of the solutions mentioned above.  In order to maintain the desired system pressure we must have proper plumbing in place, reduce leaks, and perhaps most importantly, take advantage of engineered solutions for point-of-use compressed air demand.

The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector being used to check for leaks

Once proper plumbing is confirmed and no artificial demands are occurring due to elevated system pressures, leaks in the system should be addressed.  Compressed air leaks are common at connection points and can be found using an ultrasonic noise sensing device such as our Ultrasonic Leak Detector (ULD).  The ULD will reduce the ultrasonic sound to an audible level, allowing you to tag leaks and repair them.  We have a video showing the function and use of the ULD here, and an excellent writeup about the financial impact of finding and fixing leaks here.

The EXAIR catalog – full of engineered solutions for point-of-use compressed air products.

With proper plumbing in place and leaks fixed, we can now turn our attention to the biggest use of compressed air within the system – the intended point of use.  This is the end point in the compressed air system where the air is designed to be used.  This can be for blow off purposes, cleaning, conveying, cooling, or even static elimination.

These points of use are what we at EXAIR have spent the last 34 years engineering and perfecting.  We’ve developed designs which maximize the use of compressed air, reduce consumption to absolute minimums, and add safety for effected personnel.  All of our products meet OSHA dead end pressure requirements and are manufactured to RoHS, CE, UL, and REACH compliance.

If you’re interested in maximizing the efficiency of your compressed air system, contact one of our Application Engineers.  We’ll help walk you through the pressure profile, leak detection, and point-of-use engineered solutions.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer
LeeEvans@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_LE

 

[1] Compressed Air Handbook, Compressed Air & Gas Institute, pg. 204

[2] Energy Tips – Compressed Air, U.S. Department of Energy

Finding Leaks and Saving Money with the Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Locate costly leaks in your compressed air system!  Sounds like the right thing to do.

The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector is a hand-held, high quality instrument that is used to locate costly leaks in a compressed air system.

Ultrasonic sound is the term applied to sound that is above the frequencies of normal human hearing capacity.  This typically begins at sounds over 20,000 Hz in frequency.  The Ultrasonic Leak Detector can detect sounds in this upper range and convert them to a range that is audible to people.

When a leak is present, the compressed air moves from the high pressure condition through the opening to the low pressure environment.  As the air passes through the opening, it speeds up and becomes turbulent in flow, and generates ultrasonic sound components. Because the audible sound of a small leak is very low and quiet, it typically gets drowned out by by surrounding plant noises, making leak detection by the human ear difficult if not impossible.

ULD_Pr
Detecting a Leak with the Ultrasonic Leak Detector

By using the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, the background noise can be filtered out and the ultrasonic noises can be detected, thus locating a leakage in the compressed air system. There are (3) sensitivity settings, x1, x10, and x100 along with an on/off thumb-wheel for fine sensitivity.  The unit comes with a parabola and tubular extension for added flexibility.

ULD_Kit
Model 9061 – Ultrasonic Leak Detector and Included Accessories

Finding just one small leak can pay for the unit-

A small leak equivalent to a 1/16″ diameter hole will leak approx 3.8 SCFM at 80 PSIG of line pressure.  Using a reasonable average cost of $0.25 per 1000 SCF of compressed air generation, we can calculate the cost of the leak as follows-

Capture

It is easy to see that utilizing the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, and identifying and fixing leaks is the right thing to do.  It is possible to find and fix enough leaks that a new compressor purchase can be avoided or an auxiliary back-up is not needed any more.

If you have questions regarding the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, or would like to talk about any EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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