How to Calculate the Cost of Leaks

Leaks are a hidden nuisance in a compressed air system that can cause thousands of dollars in electricity per year. These leaks on average can account for up to 30% of the operation cost of a compressed air system. A leak will usually occur at connection joints, unions, valves, and fittings. This not only is a huge waste of energy but it can also cause a system to lose pressure along with lowering the life span of the compressor since it will have to run more often to make up for the loss of air from the leak.

There are two common ways to calculate how much compressed air a system is losing due to leaks. The first way is to turn off all of the point of use compressed air devices; once this has been complete turn on the air compressor and record the average time that it takes the compressor to cycle on and off. With the average cycle time you can calculate out the total percentage of leakage using the following formula.

The second method is to calculate out the percentage lost using a pressure gauge downstream from a receiver tank. This method requires one to know the total volume in the system to accurately estimate the leakage from the system. Once the compressor turns on wait until the system reaches the normal operating pressure for the process and record how long it takes to drop to a lower operating pressure of your choosing. Once this has been completed you can use the following formula to calculate out the total percentage of leakage.

The total percentage of the compressor that is lost should be under 10% if the system is properly maintained.

Once the total percentage of leakage has been calculated you can start to look at the cost of a single leak assuming that the leak is equivalent to a 1/16” diameter hole. This means that at 80 psig the leak is going to expel 3.8 SCFM. The average industrial air compressor can produce 4 SCFM using 1 horsepower of energy. Adding in the average energy cost of $0.25 per 1000 SCF generated one can calculate out the price per hour the leak is costing using the following calculation.

If you base the cost per year for a typical 8000 hr. of operating time per year you are looking at $480 per year for one 1/16” hole leak. As you can see the more leaks in the system the more costly it gets. If you know how much SCFM your system is consuming in leaks then that value can be plugged into the equitation instead of the assumed 3.8 SCFM.

If you’d like to discuss how EXAIR products can help identify and locate costly leaks in your compressed air system, please contact one of our application engineers at 800-903-9247.

Cody Biehle
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Intelligent Compressed Air: Estimating Your Leakage Rate

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The electricity costs associated with the generation of compressed air make it the most expensive utility within an industrial environment. In a   poorly maintained compressor system, up to 30% of the total operational costs can be attributed simply to compressed air leaks. While this wasted energy is much like throwing money into the air, it can also cause your compressed air system to lose pressure. This can reduce the ability of the end use products to function properly, negatively impacting production rates and overall quality. Luckily, it’s quite easy to estimate the leakage rate and is something that you should be including in your regular PM schedule.

According to the Compressed Air Challenge, a well-maintained system should have a leakage rate of less than 5-10% of the average system demand. To estimate what your leakage rate is across the facility, first start by shutting off all of the point of use compressed air products so that there’s no demand on the system. Then, start the compressor and record the average time it takes for the compressor to cycle on/off. The compressor will load and unload as the air leaks cause a pressure drop from air escaping. The percentage of total leakage can be calculated using the following formula:

Leakage % = [(T x 100) / (T + t)]

Where:

T = loaded time (seconds)

T = unloaded time (seconds)

The leakage rate will be given in a percentage of total compressor capacity lost. This value should be less than 10% for a well-maintained system. It is not uncommon within a poorly maintained system to experience losses as high as 20-40% of the total capacity and power.

A leak that is equivalent to the size of a 1/16” diameter hole will consume roughly 3.8 SCFM at a line pressure of 80 PSIG. If you don’t know your company’s air cost, a reasonable average is $0.25 per 1,000 SCF. Let’s calculate what the cost would be for a plant operating 24hrs a day, 7 days a week.

3.8 SCFM x 60 minutes x $0.25/1,000 SCFM =

$0.06/hour

$0.06 x 24 hours =

$1.44/ day

$1.44 x 7 days x 52 weeks =

$524.16 per year

A small leak of just 3.8 SCFM would end up costing $524.16. This is just ONE small leak! Odds are there’s several throughout the facility, quickly escalating your operating costs. If you can hear a leak, it’s a pretty severe one. Most leaks aren’t detectable by the human ear and require a special instrument to convert the ultrasonic sound created into something that we can pick up. For that, EXAIR has our Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector.

ULD_Pr
Model 9061 ULD w/ parabola attachment checking for compressed air leaks

Implementing a regular procedure to determine your leakage rate in the facility as well as a compressed air audit to locate, tag, and fix any known leaks should be a priority. The savings that you can experience can be quite dramatic, especially if it’s not something that has ever been done before!

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