How Much $$$ are Compressed Air Leaks Costing You?!

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

If you walk through your facility, how many leaks can you hear? These are only the REALLY bad ones!!  So if we know that a large amount of compressed air is leaking, 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 by converting the ultrasonic signature into an audible sound.

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.

9061 ULD

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 some other methods to save on your compressed air supply.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer

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The Sixth Sense: Pressure Sensing Digital Flowmeters

Pressure profiles and flowrates of a compressed air system are essential parts in understanding and maintaining an industrial compressed air system. Understanding what the pressure is coming out of the compressor, what it is in your header system, and then down into the drops of your machines and points of use are all beneficial to building an efficient compressed air system. Of course, this will take some monitoring.

In a perfect system, the compressor outlet pressure and the point of use line pressure will be the same. Due to factors such as friction loss, unregulated demands (leaks), and inefficient pipe sizing, it is difficult to produce in a real life scenario. This results in a pressure drop across the compressed air system, a decline in pressure from the compressor outlet to the end use devices. Understanding the full pressure and flow layout of a system can be used to zero in on artificial demand on the system which is a result of a leaks or inefficient use of compressed air.

The Pressure Sensing Digital Flowmeters provide the ability to see both the flow on a pipe as well as the operating pressure. When coupled with other items such as our Wireless Communication network they can easily be setup to generate alerts to operators as well. This would look like a message stating that operating pressure has dropped and that would result in the operator halting production to determine the cause. While a production halt is less than desirable, a crashed machine or loss of clamping a part due to pressure drop can be worse.

Pressure Sensing Port on the Pressure Sensing Digital Flowmeter gives the added benefit of tracking more information.

By using the Pressure Sensing Digital Flowmeters you will be able to build a pressure profile throughout your system. This can all build back into an efficient compressed air system by tying directly into the information gathered for the overall system.

For instance, If a compressor set point is 90 psig, and at the point of use you are seeing 70 psig, you have a 20 psig drop in piping, fittings and/or artificial demand. If the operator needs 80 psig to maintain their process then that means someone will want to bump the compressor set point to 100 psig to compensate. First off, that pressure drop should never be present in a system as it is excessive. Second, if this is a positive displacement compressor then for every 2 psig added, the compressor itself will increase by 1% of energy demand from the drives.

If you would like to dig into your system and start building a pressure/flow profile to start off your path to an optimized system, please contact an Application Engineer.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

Compressed Air Safety

At EXAIR, we have a statement, “Safety is everyone’s responsibility”.  And as a corporation, EXAIR builds our name around this by manufacturing safe and protective compressed air products.  In the United States, we have an organization called Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, that enforces governmental directives for safe and healthy working environments.  They do training, outreach programs, and educational assistance for manufacturing plants.  They can also enforce these directives with heavy fines for violations.  With compressed air, the two most common violations are air guns and blow-off devices are described in 29CFR 1910.242(b) for dead-end pressure/chip shielding and 29CFR 1910.95(a) for maximum allowable noise exposure.

Here is an example of a nozzle that is dangerous.  As you can see, there is only one opening where the air can pass through from the nozzle.  Other similar types of blow-off devices that would fall into this same group would include copper tube, extensions, and open pipes.

Unsafe Nozzle

They are dangerous as the compressed air cannot escape if it is blocked with your body or skin.  If operated above 30 PSIG (2 bar), these nozzles could penetrate the skin and create an air embolism within the body which can cause bodily harm or death.  This is a hazard which can be avoided by using EXAIR Super Air Nozzles and Safety Air Guns.  The nozzles are designed with fins which allows the air to escape and not be blocked by your skin.  So, you can use the EXAIR Super Air Nozzles safely even above 30 PSIG (2 bar).

Unsafe Air Gun

To counteract the dead-end pressure violation, some nozzle manufacturers create a hole through the side of the nozzle (Reference photo above).  This will allow for the compressed air to escape, but now the issue is noise level.  With an “open” hole in the nozzle, the compressed air is very turbulent and very loud.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH, states that 70% to 80% of all hearing loss within a manufacturing plant is caused by compressed air.  OSHA created a chart to show the maximum allowable noise exposure.  This chart shows the time and noise limits before requiring hearing protection.  The EXAIR Super Air Nozzles, Super Air Knives, Super Air Amplifiers are designed to have laminar flow which is very quiet.  As an example, the model 1210 Safety Air Gun has a sound level of only 74 dBA; well under the noise exposure limit for 8 hours.

Hearing loss is the best known, but not the only, ill effect of harmful noise exposure. It can also cause physical and psychological stress, impair concentration, and contribute to workplace accidents or injuries.

NIOSH created an overview of how to handle hazards in the workplace.  They call it the Hierarchy of Controls to best protect workers from dangers.  The most effective way is by eliminating the hazard or substituting the hazard.  The least effective way is with Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE.  For unsafe compressed air nozzles and guns, the proper way to reduce this hazard is to substitute it with an engineered solution.

One of the last things that companies think about when purchasing compressed air products is safety.  Loud noises and dead-end pressure can be missed or forgotten.  To stop any future fines or purchasing additional personal protective equipment (PPE), it will be less expensive to purchase an EXAIR product.  And with the Hazard Hierarchy of Controls, EXAIR products are that engineered solution.  If you would like to improve the safety in your facility with your current blow-off devices, an Application Engineer at EXAIR can help you.  Remember, safety is everyone’s responsibility. 

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Picture:  Safety First by Succo.  Pixabay License

OSHA Says Keep Compressed Air Use Safe and Quiet: EXAIR Does Just That

The Occupational Safety and Health Act was signed by Richard Nixon in 1970. Under the United Sates Department of Labor, shortly thereafter; OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was born. OSHA is a large regulatory agency tasked to assure safe and healthy working environments by setting and enforcing standards as well as to provide training, outreach and assistance. Although some people’s first response is to cringe at the word OSHA, they have been instrumental in dramatically reducing injury rates and injury costs without negative effects on employees or companies.

Sure we can all cringe by looking up OSHA horror stories on YouTube. And many of us have a story about that one company that was fined 10’s of thousands of dollars for x, y, or z violations… But in reality, OSHA are not the bad guys. They are not looking for fines, in fact they generally give warnings and timelines to fix possible issues, prior to an incident. The fines typically are generated when companies fail to comply. Yes, I know there are always exceptions, but exceptions are not the rule. We hear and hold on to the radical stories, and the day to day, mundane stories fall to the wayside. Regardless of how we feel, we all must comply.

When it comes to EXAIR products, there are two OSHA standards that we must adhere to. One is related to “sound” and one is related to “dead end pressure“.

First let’s look at the dead end pressure. OSHA Safety requirement 29 CFR 1910.242 (b) discusses the possibilities for air embolisms when more than 30 psi is “dead ended” into your skin. EXAIR products have pathways for air to exhaust so that they cannot be “dead ended”. Each product has a way for the air to exhaust to avoid danger. Here are a couple of examples:

Air nozzles have multiple paths to exhaust pressure
Air Knives exhaust the entire path, as well as out each end

Take note that when being used properly (no horseplay) the airflow will have some path to escape and cannot be blocked. They are designed so that air will escape prior to any danger.

Next we will take a look at OSHA requirement 29 CFR-1910.95 (a). This regulation deals with occupational noise exposure. Measuring sound in decibels (dBA) the magic number is 90. Anything under 90 dBA has no limitations on how long you can be exposed to it. For a reference 60 dBA is about the sound level of a normal conversation, or an air conditioner. 70 dBA is about the noise of a washing machine, 80-85 is like city traffic. Then we start getting loud like a motorcycle around 95, shouting or barking is about 110, and standing near a siren is about 120dBA.

Hearing loss is the best known, but not the only, ill effect of harmful noise exposure. It can also cause physical and psychological stress, impair concentration, and contribute to workplace accidents or injuries.

As mentioned, 90 dBA or less is our target to avoid needing alternative solutions such as noise barriers or PPE. Nearly all EXAIR products are compliant at or under 90 dBA. The few exceptions are with some of our high force / extensive reach products such as our High Force Air Nozzles.

Please reach out at anytime if you have any questions, or want to discuss EXAIR and OSHA compliance, or any EXAIR questions at all.

Thank you for stopping by,

Brian Wages

Application Engineer

EXAIR Corporation
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