6 Steps to Air Savings: Step 1 – Measure!

Six Steps to Optimizing Your Compressed Air System

If you’re a follower of the EXAIR Blog, you’re probably well aware that compressed air is the most expensive utility in an industrial environment. The average cost to generate 1000 Standard Cubic Feet of compressed air is $0.25. If you’re familiar with how much air you use on a daily basis, you’ll understand just how quickly that adds up. To make matters worse, many compressed air systems waste significant amounts of compressed air just through leaks. According to the Compressed Air Challenge, a typical plant that has not been well maintained will likely have a leak rate of approximately 20%!! Good luck explaining to your finance department that you’re carelessly wasting 20% of the most expensive utility. Step 1 of the 6 steps to optimizing your compressed air system is to measure the air consumption to find sources that consume a lot of air.

In order to have an understanding of your compressed air usage across various processes and in your entire facility, you have to measure. Without a measurement of usage, there’s no way to determine your actual costs or evaluate opportunities for savings. To do so, EXAIR offers a range of Digital Flowmeters in sizes from as small as ½” Schedule 40 iron pipe and up to 4” Schedule 40 pipe from stock. Larger sizes and pipes calibrated for use on copper or metric pipe are also available.

The Digital Flowmeter provides a digital readout of the exact amount of compressed air being used. Many companies will install the DFM on each major leg of their air distribution system to allow for constant monitoring and provide a benchmark of compressed air usage.

Each meter has a built in LED display that provides the volume of air moving through the pipe in SCFM, m3/hr, or m3/min. Two small probes are inserted into holes in the pipe (drill guide kit w/ drill bit included) to detect the airflow. The unit seals to the pipe once the clamps are tightened. (If the DFM ever needs to be removed, EXAIR also offers blocking rings to seal off the holes) No cutting, welding, adjustments or calibrations are ever required.

In addition to the standard Digital Flowmeter itself, it’s also offered with wireless capability to transmit the data back to your PC, or via USB Data Logger. Both of these options will allow you to track usage over time and upload that data into an Excel spreadsheet.

EXAIR’s Digital Flowmeter w/ USB Data Logger

If you’re “flying blind” when it comes to understanding your costs of compressed air in your facility, this is the first step. Contact an EXAIR Application Engineer today to get started. We’ll be happy to help you identify areas where you could take advantage of simple savings.

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

Turn It Off: Saving Compressed Air The Easy Way

A major benefit to utilizing compressed air is the speed at which it can be shut off and re-energized for use – in fact, this can be done instantaneously. Shutting down the supply of compressed air to an application while it is not needed can drastically reduce the compressed air consumption of the process. This is an easy remedy that can produce significant savings.

Think about a place where you have a compressed air blow off with spaces between the parts or dwell times in conveyor travel. What about break times, do operators continue to keep the air on when they leave for a break or even worse, for the day?

Step number four in EXAIR’s Six Steps to Optimization is:

A simple manual ball valve and a responsible operator can provide savings at every opportunity to shut down the airflow. But an automated solution is a no-brainer and can provide significant savings.

Quarter Turn Ball Valves are low-maintenance and easy to install/use.

For a more automated approach, you can add a solenoid valve that would tie into your existing PLC or e-stop circuit, into your compressed air supply lines to aid in turning the compressed air on and off.

For an automated on/off solution can be found by using the EXAIR EFC (Electronic Flow Control). The EFC is made to accept 110V or 220V AC, and convert it to 24V DC to operate a sensor, timer, and solenoid valve. Its multiple operating modes allow you delay on, delay-off, and delay on/off among others. The operating mode can then be set to the specific time necessary for a successful application.

The spaces between parts can be turned into money saved. Every time you reach the end of a batch run, the EFC can turn the air off. You can also add solenoid valves and run them from your machine controls. If the machine is off, or the conveyor has stopped – close the solenoid valve and save the air. The modes are all defined in the video below.

So, take a look, or even better a listen, around the plant and see what you can find that could benefit from turning the air off; even if it is just for a moment it will help put money back into your bottom line.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

 

Six Steps to Compressed Air Optimization: Step 3 – Use Efficient and Quiet Engineered Products

Compressed air is expensive, and you should treat it that way.  Frequent readers of the EXAIR Blog are familiar with our Six Steps to Compressed Air Optimization, and you may have seen these recent installments on Steps 1 and 2:

Six Steps to Optimization: Step 1 – Measure the Air Consumption

Six Steps to Compressed Air Optimization: Step 2 – Find and Fix Leaks

Now, there isn’t a strict order in which you MUST perform these steps, and they’re not all applicable in every air system (looking at you, Step 5: Use Intermediate Storage,) but these are likely the steps that a certified auditor will take, and the order in which they’ll take them.  If you’re looking for immediate, quantifiable results, though, Step 3 is a great place to start.  Consider:

  • A 1/4″ copper tube blow off can consume as much as 33 SCFM when supplied with compressed air at 80psig.  It’ll give you a good, strong blow off, for sure.  You can crimp the end and get that down to, say, 20 SCFM or so.  Or, you can install a Model 1100 Super Air Nozzle with a compression fitting, and drop that to just 14 SCFM.
    • If you’re tracking your compressed air usage, you’ll see that replacing just one of them saves you 45,600 Standard Cubic Feet worth of compressed in one 5 day (8 hour a day) work week.  That’s $11.40 in air generation cost savings, for a $42 (2020 List Price) investment.
    • If you spend time in the space where it’s installed, you’ll notice a dramatic improvement in the noise situation.  That sound level from the copper tube is likely over 100 dBA; the Super Air Nozzle’s is only 74 dBA.

This user was only a handful of compression fittings & nozzles away from over $800 in annual compressed air savings.

  • Drilled pipes are another common method to create a blow off.  They’re easy & cheap, but loud & expensive to operate.
    • A pipe drilled with 1/8″ holes and supplied @80psig will consume 13 SCFM per hole, and the holes are typically drilled on 1/2″ centers.
    • An EXAIR Super Air Knife consumes only 2.9 SCFM per inch of length, and because it’s an engineered product, it’s a LOT quieter as well.  Drilled pipes are, essentially, open ended blow offs just like the copper tube mentioned above.  When you let compressed air out of a hole like that, all the potential energy of the pressure is converted to force…and noise.
    • Drilled pipes are among the worst offenders; almost always well in excess of 100 dBA.  Super Air Knives generate a sound level of only 69 dBA with 80psig compressed air supply.  They are, in fact, the quietest compressed air blowing product on the market today.

This Model 110048 48″ Aluminum Super Air Knife replaced a drilled pipe for over $5,000 annual compressed air savings.

These aren’t just theoretical “for instances” either – the data, and the photos above, come from actual Case Studies we’ve performed with real live users of our products.  You can find them here, and here (registration required.)

These are two examples of EXAIR product users who only used Step 3 of our Six Steps, although BOTH of them were already practicing Step 4 (Turn off the compressed air when it isn’t in use)…they had their blow offs supplied through solenoid valves that were wired into the respective machine controls, and the Air Knife user HAD to do Step 6 (Control the air pressure at the point of use) to keep their product from being blown clear off the conveyor..

But we’ll be happy to help you with optimizing your compressed air system using any or all of the Six Steps. Give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Six Steps to Compressed Air Optimization: Step 2 – Find and Fix Leaks.

Since air compressors use a lot of electricity to make compressed air, it is important to use the compressed air as efficiently as possible.  The compressed air system is considered to be the “forth” utility behind gas, water, and electricity.  It is necessary for pneumatic systems, but it is the least efficient of the utilities.  For every $1.00 that is put into making compressed air, you only get roughly 5¢ of work from it.  EXAIR has six simple steps to optimize your compressed air system.  Following these steps will help you to cut electrical costs, reduce overhead, and improve your bottom line.  In this blog, I will cover the second step – find and fix leaks.

One of the largest problems affecting compressed air systems is leaks.  That quiet little hissing sound from the pipe lines is costing your company much money.  A study was conducted by a university to determine the percentage of air leaks in a typical manufacturing plant.  In a poorly maintained system, they found on average that 30% of the compressor capacity is lost through air leaks.  For a 100 hp compressor, you are losing 30 hp into the ambient air.  To put a dollar value on it, a leak that you cannot physically hear can cost you as much as $130/year.  That is just for one inaudible leak in hundreds of feet of compressed air lines.  For the leaks that you can hear, you can tell by the chart below (**Note 1) the amount of money that can be wasted by the size of the hole.  Unlike a hydraulic system, compressed air is clean; so, leaks will not appear at the source.  You have to locate them by some other means.

Most leaks occur where you have threaded fittings, connections, hoses, and pneumatic components like valves, regulators, and drains.  The Optimization product line from EXAIR are designed to help improve your compressed air system, and the most effective way is to eliminate leaks.  The Ultrasonic Leak Detectors can find the air leaks, and the Digital Flowmeters can monitor your system for air leaks.  With both of these products included in your leak preventative program, you will be able to keep your compressed air system running optimally and reduce the “hidden” cost of leaks.

Ultrasonic Leak Detector

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector:

When a leak occurs, it emits an ultrasonic noise caused by turbulence from the gas escaping.  This ultrasonic noise can be at a frequency above the audible level for human hearing.  The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector can pick up these frequencies and make the leaks audible.  With three sensitivity ranges and LED display, you can find very minute leaks.  It comes with two attachments; the parabola to locate leaks up to 20 feet away, and the tube attachment to define the exact location in the pipe line.  Once you find a leak, it can be marked for fixing.

EXAIR’s Digital Flowmeter w/ USB Data Logger

EXAIR Digital Flowmeter:

With the Digital Flowmeters, you can continuously monitor for waste.  Air leaks can occur at any time within any section of your pneumatic area.  You can do systematic checks by isolating sections with the Digital Flowmeter and watch for a flow reading.  Another way to monitor your system would be to compare the results over time.  With the Digital Flowmeters, we have a couple of options for recording the air flow data.  We have the USB Datalogger for setting certain time increments to record the air flows.  Once the information is recorded, you can connect the USB to your computer, and with the downloadable software, you can view the information and export it into an Excel spread sheet.  We also offer a wireless capability option with the Digital Flowmeters.  You can have multiple flow meters that can communicate with your computer to continuously log and record the flow information.  Once the flow information starts trending upward for the same process, then you can use the Ultrasonic Leak Detector to find the leak.  It can also give you a preventative measure if a pneumatic system is starting to fail.

Compressed air leaks will rob you in performance, compressor life, and electrical cost.  It is important to have a leak preventative program to check for leaks periodically as they can happen at any time.  The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector and the Digital Flowmeters will help you accomplish this and optimize your compressed air system.  Once you find and fix all your leaks, you can then focus on improving the efficiency of your blow-off devices with EXAIR products and save yourself even more money.

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

 

**Note 1: Chart was published by Compressed Air Challenge in April 1998 – Rev. 0