Issues and Problems with Pressure Drop

 

Super Air Knife Install Sheet

Pressure drop comes in different forms, and it causes inefficiencies within your pneumatic system.  EXAIR writes statements in the installation manuals to help find the correct pipe sizes to supply the different products.  (Reference Super Air Knife Installation Manual above).   But there are other areas that can affect the performance.  These can be fittings, tubing, valves, and accessories.  In this blog, I will cover some pitfalls that can minimize the potential of your EXAIR products.

Pressure drop by definition is a difference or loss in pressure.  A properly sized Filter Separator will typically have a pressure drop of 5 PSID (0.3 bar) at the rated conditions.  So, if you start with 100 PSIG (6.9 bar), the air pressure after the filter separator will be 95 PSIG (6.6 bar).  But what happens when a filter separator is undersized or too small?  The pressure drop will be much higher.  So, if the pressure drop is 30 PSID (2 bar), then the downstream air pressure will only be 70 PSIG (4.8 bar).  At that pressure, you may not be able to get the performance that is required to do the job.

The first thing in determining these potential issues is what I like to call forensics.  If you can install a pressure gage at the inlet of any EXAIR product, then you can deduce if a potential problem is within your setup.   For example, if the Pressure Regulator is at 100 PSIG (6.9 bar), and the pressure gauge at the inlet is reading only 60 PSIG (4.1 bar), then there is a pressure drop of 40 PSID (2.8 bar) between these two points.  You can look in this area for the problem or problems.  If the gauge on the Pressure Regulator goes down as well when you are operating, then the problem area is upstream of the Pressure Regulator.  This can be from the pipe size or the air compressor.

The most common issues are fittings and tubing.  With fittings, small openings may not allow enough air to pass through.  Above is a photo of some typical fittings.  You notice that the right side of the chart has large enough openings to decrease pressure drop.  In some instances, quick connect fittings are commonly used to easily connect or disconnect pneumatic devices; but if you use too small or too many of these fittings, they can cause a large pressure drop.

The other problem is with the inner diameter of tubing, hoses, or pipes that are not properly sized.  Russ Bowman, a colleague, created a video showing the issues with improperly sized plumbing.  It is a very interesting video that shows the effect on a Super Air Knife.

If you want to get the most from your EXAIR products, you will need to reduce the amount of pressure drop in your system.  Pressure drop is wasted energy and can affect your pneumatic system.  You can follow my recommendations above.  Or if you would like to discuss your setup with an Application Engineer, we will be happy to assist.

John Ball
Application Engineer

Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Estimating the Cost of Compressed Air Systems Leaks

Leaks in a compressed air system can waste thousands of dollars of electricity per year. In fact, in many plants, the leakage can account for up to 30% of the total operational cost of the compressor. Some of the most common areas where you might find a leak would be at connection joints like valves, unions, couplings, fittings, etc. This not only wastes energy but it can also cause the compressed air system to lose pressure which reduces the end use product’s performance, like an air operated actuator being unable to close a valve, for instance.

One way to estimate how much leakage a system has is to turn off all of the point-of-use devices / pneumatic tools, then start the compressor and record the average time it takes for the compressor to cycle on and off. The total percentage of leakage can be calculated as follows:

Percentage = [(T x 100) / (T + t)]

T = on time in minutes
t = off time in minutes

The percentage of compressor capacity that is lost should be under 10% for a system that is properly maintained.

Another method to calculate the amount of leakage in a system is by using a downstream pressure gauge from a receiver tank. You would need to know the total volume in the system at this point though to accurately estimate the leakage. As the compressor starts to cycle on,  you want to allow the system to reach the nominal operating pressure for the process and record the length of time it takes for the pressure to drop to a lower level. As stated above, any leakage more than 10% shows that improvements could be made in the system.

Formula:

(V x (P1 – P2) / T x 14.7) x 1.25

V= Volumetric Flow (CFM)
P1 = Operating Pressure (PSIG)
P2 =  Lower Pressure (PSIG)
T = Time (minutes)
14.7 = Atmospheric Pressure
1.25 = correction factor to figure the amount of leakage as the pressure drops in the system

Now that we’ve covered how to estimate the amount of leakage there might be in a system, we can now look at the cost of a leak. For this example, we will consider a leak point to be the equivalent to a 1/16″ diameter hole.

A 1/16″ diameter hole is going to flow close to 3.8 SCFM @ 80 PSIG supply pressure. An industrial sized air compressor uses about 1 horsepower of energy to make roughly 4 SCFM of compressed air. Many plants know their actual energy costs but if not, a reasonable average to use is $0.25/1,000 SCF generated.

Calculation :

3.8 SCFM (consumed) x 60 minutes x $ 0.25 divided by 1,000 SCF

= $ 0.06 per hour
= $ 0.48 per 8 hour work shift
= $ 2.40 per 5-day work week
= $ 124.80 per year (based on 52 weeks)

As you can see, that’s a lot of money and energy being lost to just one small leak. More than likely, this wouldn’t be the only leak in the system so it wouldn’t take long for the cost to quickly add up for several leaks of this size.

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.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN

 

 

 

 

 

Video Blog: Applying PTFE Tape to Compressed Air Fittings

This video illustrates the proper way to apply PTFE (Teflon*, or Plumber’s) tape to a threaded fitting in order to eliminate future problems with your compressed air system or products.

*Teflon is a registered trademark of E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company Corporation.

Have a Good Day,
John Ball, Application Engineer
1-800-903-9247
johnball@exair.com
@EXAIR_JB

3 Common Mistakes in Your Compressed Air System

Every day I speak with engineers who are having trouble using compressed air products. A common problem they have is not providing an adequate air supply to their unit. I go through a basic troubleshooting technique to ensure that their pressure and flow rate is adequate. I ask them to install tee on the inlet to the compressed air product in order to install a pressure gauge right at the inlet to the pipe. This allows us to know exactly what pressure we are supplying to the product. Customers are always surprised how the gauge on the compressor or the regulator may read 120 PSIG, but the gage on the inlet to the compressed air product is significantly less.

Last year, my colleague, Russell Bowman, made an excellent video showing how the inlet pressure at the knife will have a significant impact on the performance of the Super Air Knife.  In the video, he changes the length and ID of the compressed air supply to illustrate the difference a proper supply line will have on the performance of a compressed air products.

Not providing adequate air supply is commonly caused by these three mistakes, when plumbing compressed air systems.

1. Incorrectly Sized Piping – This can be the single biggest problem. A lack of planning before installing a compressed air product. Not all compressed air systems are created equal. Though a 1/4″ shop air hose may work for a number our products, some of our products require a larger air line because they require more volume of air to be effective. We often speak with customers an illustrate this problem by stating small air lines are like trying to feed a fire hose with a garden hose – there simply is not enough volume to create the pressure necessary to reach the fire, or solve the application in our scenarios. We publish the flow rates for all of our products and make inlet pipe size recommendation in the installation and maintenance guide furnish with the products so you may avoid this common problem. We also have air data tables in our Knowledge Base or  you may consult an application engineer who will be happy to make the proper recommendation.

2. Quick Disconnects – These handy connectors are great when operating a brad nailer, or a small blow gun, but the small through diameter can severely limit the flow rate into a long air knife, large diameter air operated conveyor, or big vortex tubes.  Due to this fact it is strongly advised to use threaded fittings or over-sized quick disconnects.

3. Adding extra hose or pipe – Extra hose is never a bad thing, right? No, an extra 30 feet of air hose can significantly drop the pressure of a compressed air system. 20 feet of ½ Pipe can flow 70 CFM with a 5 PSI pressure drop.  50 feet of ½” pipe will only flow 42 SCFM with the same 5 PSIG pressure drop. Keep your hose or pipe lengths to a minimum to improve the volume of air you can deliver to a compressed air product.

Dave Woerner
Application Engineer
DaveWoerner@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_DW