How to Save Money on Compressed Air

Compressed air can be one of the more expensive utilities to use in a facility, but a compressed air system is full of simple opportunities to increase efficiency and minimize the cost. Much like how you can take multiple steps to save electricity at your house there a few simple steps you can take to save your compressed air. These steps include finding and repairing leaks, compressor maintenance, minimizing pressure at the point of use, and turning the compressed air off when not in use. Implementing these steps and using the right tools to achieve them can lead to significant dollar savings – in fact our website case studies, other blog articles and catalog are filled with example after example of air (and dollar) savings success! And let’s be honest here, who doesn’t like saving money.

First off is finding your leaks. Leaks are one of the major wastes of compressed air in a system that could happen. Leaks in a compressed air system can account for wasting 20-30% of a compressors output. These leaks can commonly be found in pipe joints, devices that use the compressed air, quick connect fittings, and storage tanks. All of this compounds to wasting air much like a leaky faucet wastes water – little by little it grows until it simply needs to be addressed. One of the ways to help find leaks in your system is EXAIR’s affordable Ultrasonic Leak Detector. This leak detector uses ultrasonic waves to detect where costly leaks can be found so that they can be patched or fixed.

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Choose efficient end-use products. Engineered air knives, air amplifiers, air nozzles and safety air guns can dramatically outperform (use less air) than commercial air nozzles and in-house solutions such as drilled pipes, open air lines and other creative “fixes”. We have seen some very nice in-house solutions from customers who have put in some significant time and effort, but they all have one thing in common – they use more air than any of EXAIR’s engineered solutions.

Minimizing your pressure can also save you money by limiting the amount of compressed air that is being used. Pressure and volume go hand and hand, the higher the pressure the higher the volume of air and vice versa. By minimizing the pressure that you are using you are also minimizing the amount of air that is being used which means savings. Each CFM used can be associated with a certain price value so the less you use the more you save. You also cut down on the amount of work the compressor has to do and how often the compressor has to cycle. Pressure can be minimized using one of EXAIR’s Pressure Regulators to cut down on the amount of air being used.

EXAIR’s Pressure Regulators come in 4 different sizes

Turn off the compressed air when it is not in use. Just like how you wouldn’t leave the faucet running or lights on in a room that is not being used, don’t leave your compressed air running (insert bad dad joke). Constantly using compressed air even when not in use will cause the compressor to cycle more often wasting money. Each CFM has a price to it so don’t waste CFM’s blowing it back into the air and doing nothing. This can simply be done by adding one of EXAIR’s ball valve or solenoid valves to turn off when you are done using it. Also, if you want to take it another step farther you can look at using one of EXAIR’s Electronic Flow Controllers (EFC). The EFC uses a photo eye attached to a timer that will open a solenoid valve for a set amount of time when it detects an object within 3’ of the photo eye. This will turn the air on only when your product is in the air path and turn it off during any spaces in between.

EXAIR’s EFC in use

Compressor maintenance is another important step to minimizing the cost of compressed air. Neglected air compressors can cause a lot of issues ranging from expensive repairs to a decreases in efficiency. Wear and tear placed on the motor of an air compressor can cause the compressor to produce less compressed air (SCFM) at the same power consumption. This means you are paying the same amount of money and getting less out of it. Making sure that your compressor or any machine is always running at its optimal performance and should always be a priority for any facility.

There are many different ways to save on compressed air, these are just a few of them. Reducing air use will save money and reduce the demand on your compressor which in turn can prolong the life of your air compressor. If you have questions about how to save on compressed air or any of our engineered Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR or any Application Engineer.

Cody Biehle
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Centrifugal Air Compressors: How Do They Work?

Centrifugal air compressors are one example of dynamic style air compressors. The dynamic type of compressors have a continuous flow of air that has its velocity increased in an impeller that is rotating at a higher speed. The kinetic energy of the air is increased due to the increase in velocity and then becomes transformed into pressure energy through the use of a volute chamber, or a diffuser. The volute chamber is a curved funnel that increases in surface are as it approaches the discharge port. This converts the kinetic energy into pressure by allowing the velocity to reduce while the pressure increases. Approximately 1/2 of the energy is developed in the impeller and the other half is developed in the volute chamber or diffuser.

1 – Basic Centrifugal Air Compressor

The most common centrifugal air comppressor has between two and four stages in order to generate pressures up to 150 psig. A water cooled inter-cooler and separator is placed between each stage in order to remove condensation and cool the air down prior to being passed on to the next stage. These compressors still have advantages and some disadvantages. The list below showcases just a few.

Advantages:

  • Lubricant-free air is generated
  • Complete packages up to 1,500 hp
  • Initial costs decrease with increase in compressor size
  • No special foundations or reinforcements needed

Disadvantages:

  • Specialized maintenance requirements
  • Higher initial investment
  • Unloading/waste of air required to drop system pressures

To determine which type of compressor may be best suited for your facility, we suggest to locate and contact a compressor sales company in your geographic area. When it comes to determining the volume of air required to operate the EXAIR products and even some other point of use compressed air applications, EXAIR’s Application Engineers can help you determine the volume you will need to ensure the compressor is sized appropriately. If you would like to discuss any other point of use application, please contact us.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

1 – Dugan, Tim PE – Basic Centrifugal Air Compressor, Compressed Air Best Practices; retrieved from https://www.airbestpractices.com/technology/air-compressors/centrifugal-air-compressor-controls-and-sizing-basics

Six Sigma and The Compressor Room

Throughout my undergrad courses as well as during my professional career I have encountered Six Sigma or Lean Manufacturing in many facilities.  There is at least one component to the theory that can be implemented into any facility with a compressor room. That component is the practice of the 5 S’s.

The 5 S’s of Lean Manufacturing come from the Japanese terms  listed below with their English translations:

Seiri – Sort (Organize)
Seiton – Set in Order (Orderliness)
Seiso – Shine (Cleanliness)
Seiketsu – 
Standardize
Shitsuke –  Sustain (Discipline)

These 5 points can aid in keeping any air compressor room in a facility efficient, safe, and effectively supplying the company with compressed air. How you may ask.

Sort – Keeping a compressor room as originally laid out and preventing it from being a catch-all for items that have nothing to do with the compressed air system. This can easily happen when it is actually a room that has unused floor space in a small facility. By keeping the area clean and free of unrelated materials, maintenance and troubleshooting can be done quickly. Clear labeling of anything kept in the room is also ideal to make items easily identified.

Set in Order – To deliver the air in a single path/direction as well as keeping equipment in locations where they can be easy to maintain and clearly labeled eases the troubleshooting and understanding of how the system is laid out. Rather than having a spaghetti bowl of piping running all around the room to different components it is wiser to keep a flow that matches the process. From the compressor(s) to the receivers, dryers, filter, and regulators, out to the point of use. This shouldn’t be a tangled web of piping that introduces air to a process which bypasses key components such as the dryer or receivers.

Block diagram of a compressor room layout.

Shine – The compressor room shouldn’t be a dirty grungy area. The compressor pulls the air in from this environment. Any exposed components easily collect airborne debris. By keeping the equipment clean again makes labels easy to read and a clean machine is always easier to perform maintenance and sometimes even troubleshoot. If there are puddles of oil or other liquids on the floor and no surfaces are clean then any leak may not be easily spotted.

Standardize – The layout and processes used within the room should be repeatable. Maintenance tasks should be performed on a schedule, per a process that doesn’t allow for much differentiation on methods and end results. This mitigates errors and is always the desired result when focusing on lean manufacturing. LOWER THAT DELTA!

Sustain – This is sometimes the hardest part of any process. Getting the program up and running, starting with a fresh build is always the easiest.  Everything is fresh, new and you want to keep it shiny. Years later the desire to dust and maintain piping as well as keep receiver tanks and floors clean isn’t always at the top of the desired list.  It should always be a priority because cleanliness also promotes safety and reduces overhead by lowering downturns due to housekeeping related failures.

If you want to discuss how we can help lean out your compressed air usage, maintenance costs, and help to standardize the use of compressed air in your facility, contact an Application Engineer today.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer – Green Belt Certified
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

O-Rings, Seals, Gaskets, Maintenace, Filtration – They All Matter

I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll say it again. You can’t teach experience. This was told to me by a mentor at a previous job and of course, younger me thought, “Yeah, yeah I know all I need to know.”  Well, younger me was an idiot and learned many things through experience. Sometimes I am still a slow learner and eventually, I remember those experiences and make decisions based on them. So what does this have to do with o-rings, seals, and gaskets?

I’m in the midst of a light construction project in my house and have reached a stage where some tools that I do not have would come in handy and make the job faster. Younger me would have justified purchasing a new one, experienced me understands a budget and reached out to my network of friends and a good friend said they had the tool I needed. This was a compressed air powered framing nail gun. Straight through nailing, no-problem, toe-nailing, no-problem, this thing won’t break a sweat and your arms will be stronger by the time you are done using it while your thumbs are screaming thank you for not smashing me a hundred times.

The Framing Nail Gun in question

This loan did come with two conditions, one was, he didn’t have any nails to give with it. This was not a problem as I wouldn’t expect a friend to give me free fasteners with a tool loan. The second is the one that concerned me, he said, it does leak a little air but it should still shoot just fine. After working in the compressed air industry for over a decade I have experienced this many times. At that point I knew if you could hear it, chances were it was a bad leak. Upon further inspection, there was a cylinder gasket and rubber spring that were in pieces.

Old Spring Bumper and Main Cylinder Gasket

Gasket pieces and dirty air can result in catastrophic failures.

Nothing that a trip to a local business couldn’t take care of.  A few new parts and discussion with their knowledgeable staff and I had the information needed to rebuild this nail gun to functioning status.

New vs. Old

Oddly enough, my experience and expertise with how the EXAIR products like the No-Drip Air Atomizing Liquid Spray Nozzles operate and how to rebuild them, provided a good foundation about how this tool worked. This repair ended up being very similar to the rebuild on a No-Drip Spray Nozzle.

This story is two-fold, filtration could have prevented a lot of the damage to this gun. This gun uses a good amount of air volume at an expedient pace so keeping it clean and clear of debris helps extend the lifetime of internal parts.  See my video on what happens without filtration below.

The second part is that maintaining and understanding processes to clean/rebuild are crucial to sustainable function of a machine. The cleaning process for this gun was fairly straightforward and using the correct lubricant for reassembly was another critical role. This culminated in a framing nail gun that can now be used to further my project and will more than likely live another decade before needing a rebuild again. That is if filtration and proper lubrication are followed.

Had I not obtained experiences throughout my career that helped me to understand how this tool functioned, the worth of a reliable network of vendors, and the necessity to complete tasks that take me out of my comfort zone I wouldn’t be in the place I am today. Because I have the experience and the network to ask for help it enables me to keep machines running that could have cost valuable production hours had this been a production environment.

EXAIR stocks rebuild kits, gaskets, shims, and parts for all of our product lines which may require a repair. For products which need to be cleaned in order to return back to new performance, we have the instructions or can do it for you here. From time to time they may need a repair or refurb in order to keep functioning at peak performance. If you want to build your trusted network or learn more about how to rebuild or clean EXAIR products, contact us.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF