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.

ultrasonic_2
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

Cleaning Glass After a Cutting Machine, Super Air Knives to the Rescue

Glass cutting machine

A glass cutting facility was having issues with small shards of glass leaving the cutting machine.  After scribing and breaking individual panes, small pieces of glass would come apart from the edges of the glass.  These glass fragments would go downstream causing cuts on transport wheels as well as creating blemishes in the surface of the glass.  They needed a non-contact way to clean the glass as the panes left the cutting machine.

Their operation started with a 156” (3.96m) wide sheet of glass placed at the front of the cutting machine.  The glass was moved into the machine where it would scribe different dimensions and sizes to minimize any scrap.  As the machine was scribing, a protective separator would close off the cutting machine to protect the operators.  Once finished, the protective separator would open, allowing the glass sheet to exit on the other side of the machine.  As the glass was coming out, a break device would “crack” the glass panes on the scribed lines.  They wanted to clean the surface as the glass sheet was coming out to keep the fragments in the machine.

EXAIR Super Air Knife model 1100108

EXAIR has always been the leader in manufacturing the longest air knives in the industry.  The EXAIR Super Air Knives can be manufactured up to 108” (2.74m) long in one continuous length.  But, for this application, we had to tackle it in a different manner to reach across the entire width of 156” (3.96m).  EXAIR had a solution, the model 110900 Coupling Bracket Kit.  This can combine aluminum Super Air Knives for additional length.  It has all the hardware to securely attach the Super Air Knives end-to-end to get a continuous air flow along the entire length.  With the Coupling Bracket Kit, I recommended a model 110072, 72” (1.83m) long aluminum Super Air Knife with a model 110084, 84” (2.13m) aluminum Super Air Knife.  The customer was now able to clean the entire section of glass just in front of the exit of the cutting machine.  With the air knives directed to blow at a slight angle in the counter-flow direction, this non-contact form of cleaning was able to keep the shards inside the machine without scratching the surfaces.

Air Knife Coupling Bracket Kit

The Super Air Knives are designed to be the most efficient air knives in the market place.  It has a 40:1 amplification ratio which entrains 40 parts of ambient air to every 1 part of compressed air.  So, it will save you compressed air which in turn, will save you money.  Here at EXAIR, we like to go one step further for our customers.  EXAIR offers an Optimization product line to save the customer even more money, to reduce even more waste, and to become even more energy efficient.  For this customer above, I recommended an Electronic Flow Control, EFC.  This uses a photoelectric sensor to turn on a system only when compressed air is needed.  It is a small PLC unit with a timer control.  I recommended the model 9064-2 which has two solenoid valves to operate each Super Air Knife.  The photoelectric sensor can be adjusted for light and dark object, but for glass, we had to look for an alternative way.  I was able to have the customer place it on the protective separator.  Now, the Super Air Knives will remain turned off until after the scribing was completed. When the separator moved up, it would trigger the timing operation of the EFC.  By adding the EFC to their system, they were able to reduce the amount of compressed air by one-half.

click on picture for mor information

If you have a wide area that needs to be blown off, cooled, or dried; EXAIR may have a solution for you.  For the customer above, EXAIR was able to combine Super Air Knives with optimization for an efficient and effective way to clean a wide surface.  If you would like to discuss a solution for your “wide” application, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR to discuss.

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

EXAIR Optimization Products: Ultra Sonic Leak Detector Overview

Ultrasonic Leak Detector

The Ultrasonic Leak Detector is a hand-held, high quality instrument that can locate costly leaks in a compressed air system.  When using the Ultra Sonic Leak Detector, you only need to aim it in the direction of the suspected leak and if a leak is present an audible tone can be heard through the supplied headphones and the LED will light.  This can be accomplished from up to 20′ away!

If you are not maintaining your compressed air system you can easily waste up to 30% of your compressor’s output through leaks.  We all know compressed air is expensive, so mitigating wasteful leaks should be high on your to do list!

 

ultrasonic_2
EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector

What is Ultrasound

Since most compressed air leaks emit only Ultra Sonic sound it would be next to impossible to find a leak by listening for them since the sound is above the human thresh hold.   That is where the EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector comes in.  Its sensitivity is is adjustable with 3 settings X1, X10 and X100 along with an on/off thumb wheel for fine sensitivity adjustments.  The Ultra Sonic Leak Detector also comes with both a parabola or tubular extension to aim the unit and block out extraneous background noise.

If you have an application where you need to find an ultrasonic noise, you can speak with an Application Engineer to see if the model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector could help.

If you would like to discuss the Ultra Sonic Leak Detector or any EXAIR product, I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer
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Business Benefits Of Compressed Air Efficiency

The primary business benefits of an efficient air compressor system are reduced operational costs, reduced maintenance and increased up-time.  With that being said, is your compressed air system costing you more than you think it should?  Are you having failures, pressure drops, inadequate volume and/or pressure?  You might think from these issues that your system has seen better days and is ready to be replaced.  However, it is possible that your existing tried and true compressor system has more life left in it than you think and with a few simple steps you could have it performing like a champ again!

It is estimated that typically plants can waste up to 30 percent of their generated compressed air and that cost is substantial.  Considering the average cost to generate compressed air is .25 cents per 1000 SCFM, that translates into .075 cents for every .25 cents spent!  Considering that energy costs have doubled in the last five years, it couldn’t be more timely to make your air compressor system more efficient.

So just where is all this waste occurring?  The largest source of compressed air energy waste is from unused or leaked compressed air and that is followed by line pressure drops, over pressurization and inadequate maintenance of the compressor.

So how can you identify this issues in your system?

1). Finding leaks can be accomplished by several methods such as soapy water applied to a suspected joint or connection or the EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector.   It is a high quality instrument that can locate costly leaks in your compressed air system.  When a leak is present and audible tone can be heard in the supplied headphones and the LED display will light.  This testing can be done up to 20′ away so need to get on a ladder!

Leak Detector

2). Pressure drop is caused by is caused by the friction of the compressed air flowing against the inside of the pipe and through valves, tees, elbows and other components that make up a complete compressed air piping system.  If the piping system is to small, the flow (volume) will not be sufficient and the devices will not operate properly.  The volumetric demand would need to be added up to determine if the piping is of sufficient diameter to flow the required volume.  EXAIR’s Digital Flow Meter is an easy way to monitor compressed air consumption and waste.  The digital display shows the exact amount of compressed air being used, making it easy to identify piping that may be undersized.  Installing one on every major leg of your air distribution system to constantly monitor and benchmark compressed air usage is a fast and efficient way to see what your volume through that distribution leg is.

Flow Meter

3). Over pressurization is also an issue, as the pressure is raised to account for high demand periods, system leaks and pressure drops. Unfortunately operating at higher pressures can require as much as 25 percent more compressor capacity than needed, generating wasted air which is called artificial demand.

You can reduce the leakage rate by running the compressor at lower pressures. If you’re short on air, don’t turn up the pressure. Run your compressor at no higher pressure than what you process requires. To relieve peak demands on your system consider the EXAIR Receiver Tank.  It store’s compressed air during low usage times and releases it when the demand is increased without working your air compressor system harder.

receiver_tank

4). Finally, a preventative maintenance (PM) program will need to be implemented to keep the air compressor system running properly.  Two items that are often neglected are the drive belts and filters.  Loose belts can reduce compressor efficiency and dirty filters allow dirt to get through the system and cause pressure drops.  EXAIR has replacement elements for our line of filter separators to keep you air clean and line pressure down.

By increasing your awareness of the health of your air compressor system and implementing a PM program you can significantly reduce your costs from wasted energy and avoid costly down time from an out of service air compressor.

If you would like to discuss improving your compressed air efficiency or any of EXAIR’s engineered solutions, I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer
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An Ultrasonic Leak Detector Helps with a Pressure Decay Leak Detector

Ultrasonic Leak Detector

A manufacturing company had a pressure decay leak system to check for leaks in compressed air housings.  Their detector was able to find leaks as small as 0.02 cc/min.  The leak program was designed for recording each housing with a batch/lot number and the corresponding leak data.  If the housing reached or surpassed the leak limit, the part would be marked and quarantined.  The pressure decay leak detector was a sensitive instrument, but it could not tell the operator where the leak was occurring.

How the pressure decay leak detector worked was by pressurizing the housing to a target pressure.  The flow valves would shut, isolating the housing.  After the pressure stabilized, the sensitive pressure sensors would pick up any loss in pressure over time.  If the leak limit wasn’t reached, a green light would indicate a good leak test.  If the limit was reached, a red light would indicate a failed leak test, and the housing would have to be segregated.

Reference Filter Housing

The housing design used a head, a bowl, a drain, and a differential pressure gauge.  The leak paths were numerous.  It could be at the drain, between the drain and the bowl, between the head and bowl, at the differential pressure gauge, and even in the casting of the head.  The heads were made from a die-casted aluminum.  If the process was not done properly, porosity could occur in the head.  The leak detector was sensitive enough to find any voids that would allow air to pass through the head casting.  With these many areas of potential leaks, it could be problematic if the reject rate was high.

For the application above, it is important to find where the leaks are occurring in order to create a corrective action.  In order to find the leaks, they purchased a model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector from EXAIR.  Instead of pressure decay, the Ultrasonic Leak Detector uses sound.  Whenever a leak occurs, it will generate an ultrasonic noise.  These noises have a range of frequencies from audible to inaudible.  The frequencies in the range of 20 Khz to 100 Khz are above human hearing, and the Ultrasonic Leak Detector can pick up these high frequencies, making the inaudible leaks, audible.  The model 9061 has three sensitivity ranges and a LED display; so, you can find very small leaks.  This unit comes with two attachments.  The parabola attachment can locate leaks up to 20 feet (6.1 meters) away.  And the tube attachment can define the exact location.  With this application, they used the tube attachment to locate the leaks.  After retesting the failed housings, they found that 80% of the rejects were from a sealing surface.  They were able to replace or repair the o-rings.  10% of the leaks were coming from the drain.  3% of the rejects were leaking at the differential pressure gage.  Both the drains and the pressure gages could be replaced with new units.  7% of the housings had a porosity problem in the head of the housing.  For these, they were shipped back for evaluation to create a modification for a better casting.  The production manager shared with me that an extra vent hole was required to reduce the void.  This was a huge savings for the die-caster and manufacturing plant.

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector is a great tool.  It can be used in a variety of applications including compressed air systems, bearing wear, circuit breakers, refrigerant leaks, and gas burners to name few.  For the company above, it was a great tool to improve their assembly and testing process for their housings.  If you have an application where you need to find an ultrasonic noise, you can speak with an Application Engineer to see if the model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector could help.

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

Turn The Pressure Down & Save Money

In the past your typical industrial air compressor was rated to run at 100 psi and it was not often that this pressure was exceeded.  Lately with modern advances pressures have slowly crept up and have surpassed this threshold.  Unfortunately this has proven costly to the industrial user of compressed air.

To clarify this point, if a compressed air system is set to maintain 102 psi it will cost the plant 1% more in electric costs than if the system ran at 100 psi.  Also noteworthy is that unregulated air demands consume about 1% more flow for every psi of additional pressure.

So why is the air pressure getting so high and what can you do about it?  Here are some possible causes and solutions:

Devices that do require more than 100 psi:  It may not be the pneumatic device at all. If these devices are connected with restrictive fittings or there are excessive leaks in the system this can cause up to a 30 psi increase in line pressure just to make up for the poor piping. If this can be corrected it is possible that the pressure can be reduced.

EXAIR offers the Ultrasonic Leak Detector to facilitate tracking down hard to find system leaks and a wide variety of Air KnivesAir Amplifiers, Super Air Wipes, Air Nozzles, Line Vacs, Vacuum Generators and all of them are engineered to provide peak performance at 80 psi and make efficient use of compressed air. Though it is not uncommon for these products to provide a solution at much less pressure.

9061
EXAIR 9061, Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Applications that are believed to be high pressure:  Plant workers sometimes think that a higher air pressure is required than actually necessary.  This can be caused by a lack of training or perhaps the trainers are simply repeating what they have been taught in error.  It is good practice to review all locations that are using a higher pressure to determine if it is really necessary.

Loss due to undersize pipes:  If your plants compressed air supply lines are undersized for the volume demand, this can cause a significant restriction and raise the line pressure.  The EXAIR Digital Flow Meter can assist in recording how much demand is for a given point in time which will clarify usage.

9093
EXAIR Digital Flow Meter

 

Filter/Dryer restrictions:  If the Dryer or Filter/Separators are dirty and/or undersized the compressor operating pressure is typically raised to overcome these restrictions.  EXAIR has six sizes of Filter/Separators to ensure they are properly sized for the SCFM required by the devices that are connected to them.  Five of the models feature an automatic drain system and of course we carry the replacement filter elements and rebuild kits to keep them in top operating condition.

Temporary demands: There may be occasional peak compressed air demands in the plant that may be caused by a different or special compressed air process or machine. If the demand is greater than the supply, the pressure may be pulled down to unacceptably low levels.  In an attempt to make up for the increased demand a plant may raise the operating pressures.  The best way to cope with temporary demands is to install a receiver tank that stores compressed air that can be released when the demand calls for it.

receiver_tank
EXAIR 9500-60, 60 Gallon Receiver Tank

Factory default settings:  It is common for compressor manufacturers to set the air pressure at or very near the maximum pressure rating for that compressor.  There is no reason for this other than to verify that the air compressor will perform at its rated maximum pressure.  To save on air and maintenance costs the compressor should be set only as high as the maximum pressure for approved uses in the facility.

In the compressed air industry, EXAIR provides tools and products with quick payback times.

If you would like to discuss increasing the efficiency of your compressed air usage, quieter compressed air products and/or any EXAIR product,  I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer
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