Leaks and Their Impact on Your Compressed Air System

Leaks are one of the major wastes of compressed air that could happen in a system. But what affect can leaks have on your system and how can these leaks be found? Total leaks in a compressed air line can account for wasting almost 20-30% of a compressors output. These leaks can commonly be found in areas were a pipe comes in contact with a joint, connections to devices that use the compressed air, and storage tanks.

There are four main affects that a leak in your compressed air system can have and they are as follows; 1) cause in pressure drop across the system, 2) shorten the life of almost all supply system equipment, 3) increased running time of the compressor, and 4) unnecessary compressor capacity.

  • A pressure drop across your compressed air system can lead to a decreased in efficiency of the end use equipment (i.e. an EXAIR Air Knife or Air Nozzle). This adversely effects production as it may take longer to blow off or cool a product or not blow off the product well enough to meet quality standards.
  • Leaks can shorten the life of almost all supply system components such as air compressors, this is because the compressor has to continuously run to make up for the air loss from the leak. By forcing the equipment to continuously run or cycle more frequently means that the moving parts in the compressor will wear down faster.
  • An increased run time due to leaks can also lead to more maintenance on supply equipment for the same reasons as to why the life of the compressor is shortened. The increase stress on the compressor due to unnecessary running of the compressor.
  • Leaks can also lead to adding unnecessary compressor size. The wasted air that is being expelled from the leak is an additional demand in your system. If leaks are not fixed it may require a larger compressor to make up for the loss of air in your system.
EXAIR’s Ultrasonic Leak Detector

All of these effects are an additional cost that is tacked onto the already existing utility cost of your compressed air. But luckily there are ways to find these leaks and patch them up before it can get to out of control. One of the ways to help find leaks in your system is the EXAIR’s affordable Ultrasonic Leak Detector. This leak detector uses ultrasonic waves to detect were costly leaks can be found so that they can be patched or fixed.

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.    

Cody Biehle
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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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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General Good Ideas For The Compressor Room

When considering your compressor room all too often the phrase applies “out of sight and out of mind”.  Of course, we all know that is not a good approach to the compressor room or really anything in life.  Unfortunately, many of us take for granted that very system that delivers the power to keep our machines, equipment and tools operating.

Air Compressor
Compressor Room Located Outdoors

So, what can we do keep the ‘lungs” of our plants performing reliably and efficiently?  Since this Blog is about “General Good Ideas For The Compressor Room”, I have some points below for your consideration.

  • Ideally the compressor room should be centrally located to minimize the length of the pipes and allows for easier noise control. With long piping runs leaks become more likely and frictional losses are increased.
  • The compressor room should be sized to allow for easy maintenance and future expansion.
  • For efficient operation air compressors need clean intake air. Intake air that is dusty, dirty or contains gaseous contamination will reduce the efficiency and possibly the longevity of your equipment.
  • The compressor room needs adequate ventilation since air compressors generate significant heat. If excessive heat is allowed to build up it reduces the efficiency of the air compressor raising utility costs, causes compressor lubricant to break down prematurely that could possibly result in increased maintenance and compressor failure.
  • What is the velocity of the air through the main headers? If the speed is above 1200 FPM many dryers have reduced efficiency and speeds greater than this can also carry moisture past the drainage drop legs.
  • Excess friction caused by too small of a diameter piping creates pressure loss, which reduces efficiency and if the compressor is ran above its pressure rating to overcome the frictional losses increases energy consumption, maintenance costs and down time.

Now that your compressor room is shipshape in Bristol fashion, you might think that all is well.  While that may be true, chances are there are other significant additional savings to be had.  EXAIR specializes in point of use compressed air products that are highly efficient and quiet!  If you have any blow-offs that are open tube or howl as loud as the ghost of Christmas yet to come, check out EXAIR’s Super Air Nozzles.  They are highly efficient and quiet, in fact they meet OSHA Standard 29 CFR – 1941.95 for maximum allowable noise and OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.242 (b) for higher than 30 PSIG blow-off pressure.  All of EXAIR’s compressed air products are engineered to minimize compressed air consumption and take advantage of the Coanda effect.  Simply stated EXAIR’s highly engineered, intelligent designs entrain (combine) ambient air with the compressed air supply which saves you money!

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EXAIR Super Air Nozzle entrainment

EXAIR also offers the Ultra Sonic Leak Detector.  Simply point the device at a suspected leak which are typically found at unions, pipes, valves and fittings from up to 20’ away.   Plants that are not maintaining their plumbing can waste up to 30% of their compressors output through undetected leaks.

ultrasonic_2
EXAIR Ultra Sonic Leak Detector

EXAIR has a complete optimization product line that the Ultra Sonic Leak Detector is in that includes the Electronic Flow Control, Digital Flowmeter’s and a Digital Sound Level Meter.  All designed to either increase the safety or efficiency of your compressed air usage.

EXAIR has 15 other product lines all designed to increase your process efficiency and save you money by using you compressed air supply efficiently.  Why not visit the EXAIR website or call and request a free catalog?

When you are looking for expert advice on safe, quiet and efficient point of use compressed air products give us a call.   We would enjoy hearing from you!

Steve Harrison
Application Engineer
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Image taken from the Best Practices for Compressed Air Systems Handbook, 2nd Edition

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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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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Discharge of Air Through an Orifice

My Application Engineer colleagues and I frequently use a handy table, called Discharge of Air Through an Orifice. It is a useful tool to estimate the air flow through an orifice, a leak in a compressed air system, or through a drilled pipe (a series of orifices.) Various tables and online calculators are available. As an engineer, I always want to know the ‘science’ behind such tables, so I can best utilize the data in the manner it was intended.

DischargeThroughAnOrifice

The table is frequently found with values for pressures less than 20 PSI gauge pressure, and those values follow the standard adiabatic formula and will not be reviewed here.  The higher air pressures typically found in compressed air operations are of interest to us.

For air pressures above 15 PSI gauge the discharge is calculated using by the approximate formula as proposed by S.A. Moss. The earliest reference to the work of S.A. Moss goes back to a paper from 1906.  The equation for use in this table is-EquationWhere:
Equation Variables

For the numbers published in the table above, the values were set as follows-

                  C = 1.0,      p1 = gauge pressure + 14.7 lbs/sq. in,    and T1 = 530 °R (same as 70 °F)

The equation calculates the weight of air in lbs per second, and if we divide the result by 0.07494 lbs / cu ft (the density of dry air at 70°F and 14.7 lbs / sq. in. absolute atmospheric pressure) and then multiply by 60 seconds, we get the useful rate of Cubic Feet per Minute.

The table is based on 100% coefficient of flow (C = 1.0)  For well rounded orifices, the use of C = 0.97 is recommended, and for very sharp edges, a value of C = 0.61 can be used.

The table is a handy tool, and an example of how we use it would be to compare the compressed air consumption of a customer configured drilled pipe in comparison to that of the EXAIR Super Air Knife.  Please check out the blog written recently covering an example of this process.

If you would like to talk about the discharge of air through an orifice or any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, 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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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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