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.

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.

• 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

Benefits of an 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

• 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