Undersized Regulators Create Performance Problems with Compressed Air

“I have a Cabinet Cooler installed on my panel but it isn’t getting the temperature down cold enough. Can you quote me for a duplicate system to install on this panel?” This was a recent inquiry from a customer regarding an electrical enclosure that they had installed in their plant. The Cabinet Cooler was producing cold air, but not enough to keep the cabinet at their desired temperature. It would seem logical that they need additional capacity, right? While that could be the case, in this instance it most definitely was not.

When we get questions like this, we first want to take a closer look at the current installation. The cooling capacity for each system is published in our catalog. BUT, in order to rate a cooling capacity for any type of cooling system, some assumptions must be made. All Cabinet Coolers are specified with 70°F compressed air fed to the Cabinet Cooler at a pressure of 100 PSIG. In addition, each cooler has a specified volume of air that it must utilize in order to produce that rated cooling capacity. If any one of those parameters change, so does the overall cooling power.

In this particular case, the customer had installed a non-EXAIR pressure regulator just upstream of the cooler. Upon looking at the specifications for this regulator, it was found that the overall volume of air it can deliver was just 10% of the overall volume needed to produce the rated 1700 Btu/hr. They didn’t need another Cabinet Cooler System, they just needed to remove that restriction! Upon learning that it needed 100 PSIG, they removed the regulator and supplied full line pressure. No more heat alarms for that shift!

CC undersized valve

Rather than purchasing and installing an unnecessary system, they were able to get back up and running just by removing the problem upstream. At EXAIR, we want to make sure that you’re getting the most out of our products. Just because you call and inquire about a new purchase doesn’t necessarily mean that you need it. We’re here to help you determine if something is afoul with the current setup and make sure you have all of the knowledge necessary to rectify it.

We’re right in the middle of summer, and boy is it hot out there. If you have panels that are overheating and creating problems for you in your processes, give us a call. With Cabinet Cooler Systems ready to ship same day from stock (with properly sized regulators) you can have it fixed by tomorrow.

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

Back To The Basics: Process Improvement Basics

We understand that it is more important than ever to realize savings within manufacturing processes. EXAIR can reduce compressed air consumption and provide simple ROI in a matter of weeks in MANY cases.

In the hustle and bustle of the daily grind wherever you are, there are certain processes that become muscle memory for you and certain processes that just work and don’t need any attention. Whether it be a login process for your computer network, the number of steps it takes to fill your coffee cup, or the compressed air applications in your facility.

You know what I am talking about, these items begin to get glanced over and often become overlooked. When going through process improvements or troubleshooting, it is easy to overlook processes which are not causing trouble or that have become “acceptable” because they are producing. EXAIR firmly believes compressed air applications are ripe for improvement, and our product lines are built to replace inefficient compressed air products with engineered and efficient solutions.

When evaluating a process for improvement creating a baseline is the necessary start. With this, we can then start to draw a realistic target of where the process needs to be in order to be optimized and document the changes from our starting baseline.

Much like the 6 Steps to Compressed Air Optimization, which starts with measuring compressed air consumption to provide a baseline.  Sometimes, this may require the installation of a Digital Flowmeter, others it may include taking advantage of our Efficiency Lab service for us to get a baseline of what air consumption and other key performance indicators are for your application.

Looking to “go green?” We can help.

Once we have the baseline and a target, we can then begin to design an improvement process. Whether this is implementing better controls for the air, such as pressure regulators, or implementing controllers such as the Electronic Flow Control, it may even be simply installing an engineered solution.  Once an improvement has been implemented we can then go on to the next testing phase to again gather data to see how much air was saved from the baseline.

EXAIR’s Free Efficiency Lab

Once the performance of the new process is determined then we can take the new cost of ownership numbers and give a simple return on investment back to determine what the actual savings by implementing these process improvements have amounted to.

The below example is from a customer who had already improved their static elimination application by using our Super Ion Air Knife instead of a homemade pipe with drilled holes. They further optimized the application with our Electronic Flow Control.

If you would like to talk through methods for process improvement or how we can help you determine these costs, please reach out.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer


Applying a Vortex Tube and Adjusting Temperature

Throughout my tenure with EXAIR there are may days where I have tested different operating pressure, volumetric flow rates, back pressures, lengths of discharge tubing, generator compression, and even some new inquiries with cold air distribution all on a vortex tube.  These all spawn from great conversations with existing customers or potential customers on different ways to apply and applications for vortex tubes.

Many of the conversations start in the same spot… How exactly does this vortex tube work, and how do I get the most out of it?  Well, the answer is never the same as every application has some variation.  I like to start with a good idea of the area, temperatures, and features of exactly what we are trying to cool down.  The next step is learning how fast this needs to be done.  That all helps determine whether we are going to be looking at a small, medium, or large vortex tube and which cooling capacity to choose.   After determining these factors the explanation on how to adjust the vortex tube to meet the needs of the application begins.

This video below is a great example of how a vortex tube is adjusted and what the effects of the cold fraction have and just how easy it is to adjust.  This adjustment combined with varying the air pressure gives great versatility within a single vortex tube.

The table below showcases the test points that we have cataloged for performance values.  As the video illustrates, by adjusting the cold fraction lower, meaning less volumetric flow of air is coming out of the cold side and more is exhausting out the hot side, the colder the temperature gets.

EXAIR Vortex Tube Performance Chart

This chart helps to determine the best case scenario of performance for the vortex tube.  Then the discussion leads to delivery of the cold or hot air onto the target.  That is where the material covered in these two blogs, Blog 1, Blog 2 comes into play and we get to start using some math.  (Yes I realize the blogs are from 2016, the good news is the math hasn’t changed and Thermodynamics hasn’t either.)  This then leads to a final decision on which model of vortex tube will best suit the application or maybe if a different products such as a Super Air Amplifier (See Tyler Daniel’s Air Amplifier Cooling Video here.)is all that is needed.

Where this all boils down to is, if you have any questions on how to apply a vortex tube or other spot cooling product, please contact us.  When we get to discuss applications that get extremely detailed it makes us appreciate all the testing and experience we have gained over the years.  Also, it helps to build on those experiences because no two applications are exactly the same.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer


Troubleshooting Vortex Tube Performance

This Vortex Tube was not operating properly when initially connected to compressed air

One of the fun parts of Application Engineering at EXAIR is explaining the operation of Vortex Tubes to our customers.  Sometimes they’re described as a “reverse tornado” inside of a tube, spinning a pressurized airstream and converting it into a hot and cold flow.  Other times we describe it through the generation of two vortices with differing diameters, and the difference in diameters results in one vortex shedding energy in the form of heat.

But, no matter the way we explain their operation, we always stress the importance of proper compressed air plumbing.  If the compressed air piping/hoses/connections are not properly sized, performance problems can arise.  (This is true for any compressed air driven device.)

This fundamental came to light when working with one of our customers recently.  They were using a medium sized Vortex Tube to provide spot cooling in an enclosed space, but were not seeing the flow and temperature drop they knew to be possible with an EXAIR Vortex Tube.  And, after looking at installation photos of the application, the root cause was quickly spotted.

The red arrow in the bottom right corner of this image shows the beginnings of a reduction in compressed air supply.

I noticed what looked to be a very small hose connected to the inlet of the Vortex Tube in the image above.

In this additional image, the small compressed air line is in full view. This was the root cause for performance problems in this application.

After further inspection of another photo, the small diameter tube was in full view.  This small hose serves as a restriction to compressed air flow, which in turn limits both flow and operating pressure of the downstream devices.  What that meant for this application, was poor performance from the Vortex Tube, all stemming from this reduction in piping size.

When looking to find the root cause of a performance issue with a compressed air driven unit, things aren’t always as easy as they were with this application.  A visual inspection is always a good idea, but if everything looks correct, here is a list of troubleshooting steps to consider:

  1. Check for quick-disconnects in the plumbing system.  Quick-disconnects are great from an operator’s perspective, but they can wreak havoc on compressed air flows due to small inside diameters and air volume restriction.
  2. Determine the operating pressure at the device.  This is imperative.  In order to make proper decisions to correct the performance concern, good information is required.  Knowing what is happening at the device is crucial for proper understanding.  There may be 100 PSIG at the main compressed air line, but only 60 PSIG at the device due to plumbing problems. A pressure gauge at the inlet of the compressed air product can provide this information.
  3. Check that the compressed air system has enough volume to properly supply the device.  A compressed air driven unit without the correct volume of compressed air is just as bad as having a lack of pressure.
  4. Check for leaks.  The US Department of Energy estimates that 20-30% of compressor output in industrial facilities is lost as leaks.  If your system and devices aren’t operating as they’re supposed to, check for leaks.  They may be contributing to the poor performance.  (Don’t know where your leaks are coming from?  Use our Ultrasonic Leak Detector!)

Fortunately for this customer, after improving the size of this tubing performance was on par with our published specifications and this customer was back in operation.  If you have a question about how to improve the utilization of the compressed air devices in your application, contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer