On November 2, 2017 at 2 PM EDT, EXAIR Corporation will be hosting a FREE webinar titled “Optimizing Your Compressed Air System In 6 Simple Steps”.
During this short presentation, we will explain the average cost of compressed air and why it’s important to evaluate the current system. Compressed air can be expensive to produce and in many cases the compressor is the largest energy user in a plant, accounting for up to 1/3 of the total energy operating costs. In industrial settings, compressed air is often referred to as a “fourth utility” next to water, gas and electric.
Next we will show how artificial demand, through operating pressure and leaks, can account for roughly 30% of the air being lost in a system, negatively affecting a company’s bottom line. We will provide examples on how to estimate the amount of leakage in a system and ways to track the demand from point-of-use devices, to help identify areas where improvements can be made.
To close, we will demonstrate how following six simple steps can save you money by reducing compressed air use, increasing safety and making your process more efficient.
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.
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.
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-
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.
The generation of compressed air accounts for approximately 1/3 of all energy costs in an industrial facility. According to the Compressed Air Challenge, about 30% of that compressed air is lost through leaks. This means nearly 10% of your facility’s energy costs are simply wasted through poor connections, faulty air valves, improper installation, etc. In addition to simply wasting money, compressed air leaks can also contribute to a variety of other operating losses. A leak can cause a drop in system pressure. When this occurs, end users may not operate as efficiently, having an adverse effect on production. This same drop in system pressure will also cause the equipment to cycle on/off more often, shortening the life of your compressor and other equipment. If the leaks cause an issue in supply volume, it may lead to the belief that more compressor capacity is necessary, further increasing your operating costs.
To put leaks in perspective (assuming energy costs of .10/ kWh), the Compressed Air Challenge states this:
A $200/year leak cannot be felt or heard
A $800/year leak can be felt, but not heard
A $1,400/year leak can be felt and heard.
If you walk through your facility, how many leaks can you hear?
We know that a large portion of the compressed air is being wasted, but what do we do about it? A proper leak prevention plan is the key to success. Since these leaks are impossible to see and some cannot even be heard, you need a tool to help assist you. EXAIR’s model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector is the right tool for the job. When compressed air leaks through a pipe, it creates an ultrasonic signature due to turbulence. While this sound is not always detectable by the human ear, this meter will allow you to locate leaks up to 20’ away.
The first step will be locating the leaks using an Ultrasonic Leak Detector and tagging them throughout the facility. Don’t let this overwhelm you!! If you have a larger facility, break it up into sections that can be completed in 1 day. This will allow you to decide which areas of the plant should be looked at first. Once you’ve located and tagged all of the leaks, rate them under two separate criteria so that you can prioritize what to fix first. Rate them based on the difficulty that it will take to fix them and also by the severity of the leak. Those that are severe yet easy to fix would make sense to begin fixing first. Those that may require a period of shutdown can be planned to fix at a more appropriate time.
When you’ve had the opportunity to fix them, don’t just forget about it. When new piping is installed, new lines are added, or anything involving compressed air is installed there is the potential for new leaks to develop. Set this as one of your regular PM activities and complete your own compressed air audit once a year. Implementing the process and maintaining it are the keys to your success.
If you have questions about developing a leak program or how to use the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, give us a call. An Application Engineer will be happy to help with the process and recommend additional methods to save on your compressed air supply.
As margins get tighter and cost of manufacturing climbs, industries are looking into other areas to be more economical. A big focus today is in the compressed air systems. Compressed air is considered to be the “forth” utility behind gas, water, and electricity. It is a necessary system to run 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. So, it is very important to use this utility as efficiently as possible.
One of the largest problems affecting compressed air systems is leaks. That quiet little hissing sound coming from the pipe lines is costing the company much money. A university study was conducted to find 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. In relation to the amount of electricity required to make compressed air, for every ten power plants producing electricity, there is one power plant producing electricity just for air leaks. A majority of companies do not have a leak prevention program; so, many of these companies have poorly maintained systems. This creates a large amount of waste caused by simple air leaks. 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 the amount of money that can be wasted by the size of the hole. Unlike a hydraulic system, compressed air will not leave a tell-tale sign of a leak. 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 products from EXAIR are designed to help optimize your complete compressed air system. The most effective way is to find and eliminate air leaks, and EXAIR has two products that can help do this. 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 a leak prevention program, you will be able to keep your compressed air system running optimally and reduce the wasted cost in air leaks and overusing the air compressor.
When a leak occurs, it emits an ultrasonic noise caused by turbulence. These ultrasonic noises can be at a frequency above that which is audible 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 in your compressed air system. 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.
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 watching 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 communicating through a gateway to monitor and record the flow information onto your computer system. If you find that the flow starts trending upward for the same process, then you know that you have a leak. It can also give you a preventive measure if your 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 prevention 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.
One of the best features of EXAIR products is the engineering behind the designs. For example, our nozzles are designed to generate a maximum force possible per CFM of compressed air. This means that the compressed air consumed by the device is at its maximum possible efficiency, which in turn reduces the compressed air demand in an application, reducing the cost of the solution.
But, how do you determine the cost of a compressed air driven product?
Step 1 – Quantify flow
The first step to determine compressed air cost is to quantify the flow rate of the product. Most pneumatic equipment will have a spec sheet which you can reference to determine air consumption, but open pipe blowoffs and drilled holes won’t provide this type of information. In those cases, or in any case where the compressed air flow is unknown or questionable, a compressed air flow meter can be used. (We have Digital Flowmeters for use on compressed air piping, with or without data logging capability, and with serial or wireless communication.)
Step 2 – Calculate flow over time
Once the flow rate is known, it’s time to determine flow rates per day/week/month/year. To do so, we will perform a bit of short and easy math. What we will do, is use the known flow rate of the device, and multiply this by the total time in operation to determine daily, weekly, monthly, and annual usage rates. For example:
A 1/8” open pipe blowoff will consume 70 SCFM. In an 8 hour shift there are 480 minutes, resulting in a total consumption of 33,600 SCFM per 8 hour shift.
Step 3 – Determine cost
With a quantified flow rate, we can now determine the cost. Many facilities will know the cost of their compressed air per CFM, but for those which don’t, a cost of ($0.25/1000 standard cubic feet) can be used. This value is then multiplied by the total compressed air consumption from above, to give a quantified dollar amount to the compressed air driven device.
Using the flow rate from above:
If (1) shift is run per day, 5 days per week and 52 weeks per year, this open pipe blowoff will have an annual cost of $2,184.00.
Step 4 – Compare
At this point we know the real cost of the device. The benefit to quantifying these flow rates, is when making a comparison to an alternative such as an engineered solution. For example, if we were to replace the open pipe blowoff reference above with an EXAIR 1010SS 1/8” NPT nozzle, the compressed air demand would drop to 13 SCFM, yielding the following flow rates and costs:
If (1) shift is run per day, 5 days per week and 52 weeks per year, this open pipe blowoff will have an annual cost of $405.60.
Comparing these two solutions on an annual basis yields a difference of $1,778.40. This means an air savings which correlates to $1,778.40 per year – just by replacing ONE open pipe blowoff with an engineered solution. Replacing multiple open pipe blowoffs will yield repeat savings.
Determining the cost of a compressed air driven device can clarify the impact of a truly engineered solution. If you have an interest in determining the cost of the compressed air devices in your facility, contact an EXAIR Application Engineer. We’ll be happy to help.
When you take your car into the service shop for an oil change, you notice that they will check all the fluids, air filter, the belt, tire pressure, etc. The reason that they do this is twofold. They want to make sure that your car will not run into any potential safety problems and to get the maximum performance from your vehicle.
EXAIR has been in the forefront of selling efficient, safe, and effective products since 1983. In that time, we wanted to become more than a manufacturer. We wanted to also provide a way to improve your compressed air system. We developed this into our Optimization product line. By design, these products are also twofold. First, it shows the importance of saving compressed air, improving safety and refining processes. Second, it helps to improve the performance of your compressed air system to get the most out of it. I am going to discuss a few points of each product below:
Electronic Flow Control: The EFC is designed to save compressed air. If there are any time gaps in a blowing or cooling application, then we should turn off the compressed air. The EFC is a miniature timing PLC that uses a photoelectric sensor to turn off the compressed air. By using less compressed air, you will be able to save a bunch of money. This is why the light bulb in your refrigerator goes off when the door is closed (or does it?).
Digital Sound Level Meter: This device is used for measuring sound level. For safety reasons, OSHA sets a decibel ratings for work environments. The Digital Sound Level Meter is calibrated to a NIST standard to accurately measure noise level. If you have poor nozzles on your air guns or open pipes for blow-offs, you could be violating the OSHA standard 29CFR 1910.95(a), which will result in fines. EXAIR products are designed to meet this standard.
Ultrasonic Leak Detector (ULD): Many compressed air systems have leaks. If they go unnoticed, this will affect the overall capacity of the compressed air system as well as costing a lot of money. Leaks can account for one-third of your compressed air output. The ULD can find these leaks to optimize your system and to improve the “health” of your compressor.
Digital Flowmeter (DFM): If you can measure flow, then you can find many ways to optimize. The DFM is able to show and record the amount of flow that you are using in your compressed air system. You can also use the Digital Flowmeters to find leaks, diagnose pneumatic problems, and use the recorded information for preventative maintenance. In comparing to an open pipes or competitive products, you can easily see the air savings with EXAIR products and easily determine the payback period (which is generally in weeks). EXAIR does offer options that are wireless, serial, or USB type of recording, so, you can continuously monitor your compressed air system 24/7.
With the Optimization products, it can “service” your compressed air system; so that, you can get the most from it. It can save you money, make your system safe, and keep things pneumatically maintained. If you would like discuss one or more of these products, you can contact an EXAIR Application Engineer for more details.
As we started this journey on improving the processes with this medical device company, I wanted to touch base on one more area that EXAIR was able to help: Saving Money. In the previous two blogs, I showed how EXAIR’s products helped the machining process by reducing scrap with the Stay Set Ion Air Jet (you can read it here: Phase 1) and by increasing production rates with the Mini Chip Vac (you can read it here: Phase 2). But now I want to show you how EXAIR was able to save them money by reducing their compressed air usage; Phase 3. Our goal at EXAIR is to use the least amount of compressed air to solve your process problems. It costs a lot of money to make compressed air. So, if you can reduce the amount being used, then your overhead costs are reduced.
A process with time delays or gaps is usually a candidate for wasting compressed air. This is a hidden profit-reducing culprit that is not well recognized. I like to correlate it to why the refrigerator light goes out when you shut the door. When it is not required, then it shouldn’t be on. With the previous discussions about the machining center, I did recognize that they did have time gaps in their process. They could turn off the compressed air during loading and unloading of the parts to save money. This may not seem like a lot of time, but during an 8 hour shift, it can really add up. My suggestion was to use the Electronic Flow Control (EFC).
The EFC is a miniature PLC that controls a solenoid valve with 8 different timing sequences. It utilizes a photo-sensing eye to trigger the timing cycle when it detects the part. The timing is selectable from milliseconds to hours to optimize the on/off time of the solenoids. I recommended the model 9055-2 which is an EFC that has two solenoids attached. The customer attached one solenoid to the Mini Chip Vac and the other to the Stay Set Ion Air Jet. They knew the timing sequence of the machining operation, so they were able to input that time into the EFC. The photo-sensing eye was attached near the door of the machine to trigger the EFC. Once the door was closed, the machining operation started as well as triggering the EFC. This would turn on both solenoid valves to operate the Stay Set Ion Jet and the Mini Chip Vac. When the operation was over, both of the EXAIR products would turn off. This cycle would repeat for each operation throughout the day. Since the EXAIR products do not have any moving parts, the instant on and off would not affect the operation of the EXAIR Stay Set Ion Air Jet and Mini Chip Vac.
With the addition of the EFC, they were able to project a savings of $6,000 a year, just by turning off the compressed air between cycles. With a pay back of only 4 months, this was a nice bonus for the medical company, as this additional money was not appropriated. Not only did they see their cost of operation reduced by less scrap and faster production rates; but, they could add this hidden gem of money right to the bottom line. If you have stop gaps in your operation, you could get that added bonus to your profits by turning your compressed air off with the EFC.