Find It, Tag It, Fix It: Addressing Parasitic Draw

Leeks, and not the compressed air kind!

Leaks, and not the kind you see on a cooking show, are never good. Before you comment, yes I know the vegetable is spelled leek, that’s just the strength of my dad jokes. The point of this post is actually discussing leaks, mainly of the compressed air variety. All leaks cost. I recently found a leak within my home which was accounting for around a 20% increase in my water bill. Sad to say that it took a few months to locate, and solve the issue. Over the years, I’ve seen many facilities deal with common leak problems like being unable to leave their compressed air pipes energized over night because the parasitic draw will drain the entire system. That’s a problem!

Burst pipes and leaks are ALWAYS costly!

If the leaks are present when nothing is being utilized, then that means parasitic draw is happening on the system. This is when energy that is being converted into compressed air isn’t used but instead, leaking out to atmospheric conditions. These parasitic draws are not always easy to locate, so over the years I’ve had to help a few customers address this problem. One in particular stands out, so I am going to share how we honed in on the leak and ultimately gave them days without a shutdown.

The conversation all started with a customer asking about how our Digital Flowmeters work, and if they could be used to determine which production line is using the most air, and more importantly why their production line shuts down for low air pressure. After I explained how we would select their infeed pipe size as well as size a meter that would fit each machine infeed, we got to talking about the shut down sequence.

The approach they took to solving the issue was to first capture the flowrate of the entire system and then to evaluate the flowrates of each segment of their plant. From there, we would install flowmeters on the higher usage sectors, and drill down to each machine for the finite analysis. They could then go through all the other production lines and generate a full facility consumption profile. To start, they found one packaging line that was using a considerably higher volume of air throughout their first shift than any other line and than any other shift.

Once they started breaking down the high demand production line they found one leg of the production line which had a spike in usage at the same time every day. The trick was they couldn’t find a machine with high usage, that is until they traced all of the piping and found a filter bag house on the roof that had been added to the line at some point. This wasn’t documented and had a piece of pipe that had failed causing an open dump during the cleaning cycle every day at 2:30 in the afternoon.

This was all made possible by setting up multiple flowmeters with wireless capabilities so they could document and compare the usages between machines and production lines ultimately giving them a considerable amount of production time back into the day by fixing a broken pipe that caused daily shutdowns.

If you would like to discuss how to layout a compressed air monitoring system in your facility or the best way to track down the cause of some leaks and high compressed air demand, contact an Application Engineer.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

1 – Leeks on shelf – Jeffery Martin, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons – retrieved from – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/user:Veronicasgardentracker

Methods, Patterns, and Continuous Improvement

I’ve blogged about the fact that I am married to an amazing woman and we have been blessed with three incredible daughters before. My wife and I are constantly being reminded of just how different raising kids in this digital and rapidly changing world is compared to when we were kids. And, just writing those statements makes me realize I have truly entered the next (I’m old) chapter of my life.

My oldest, who is 12, is at that point where she is gaining some independence at middle school, and at the same time is getting sucked into social norms where she can easily be consumed by social media and screen time. The challenge I took on was to find something analog that we could both pick up and enjoy, maybe even challenge each other with. Enter a classic that I was never able to master, and still can’t without the aid of another (my 12 year old), the Rubik’s Cube. I was honestly shocked when she took the time to review a video from our library and learned the patterns to solve the cube. Turns out a few of her friends are even able to solve them and thus the education began.

A traditional 3×3 Speed Cube in a solved state then converted to a checkerboard pattern.

What I once thought was an impossible task was broken down into patterns and a logical path to correct and straighten out the tangled squares. The are a number of methods to solve the standard 3×3 cube. No matter what, the pattern has to be recognized, implement the steps to solve, and then improve through repetition. Not many people pick something like this up, solve it once and then sit it down. It becomes a process of continuous improvement and that is exactly what my daughter took on. For me, it reminded me of Lean Manufacturing and every process I have ever looked at professionally. It was truly rejuvenating for me to see her take on the challenge and then have an urge to improve her process time.

When I came into work the next day, it clicked. That same process of methodical movements could all connect to our Six Steps to Compressed Air Optimization. Each of these steps is solving another layer of a mixed up cube. While at first, the process of optimizing a compressed air system can easily seem out of reach it is easily broken down into steps that result in a solution. Then, instead of taking all of that new found knowledge to only conduct the six steps once, you can easily make this a recurring event. Because even though your facility may not change, the air system will, new leaks may appear, items on the supply side may wear, demand side application may change as processes are added or modified.

Processes lead to continuous improvement.

Continuous improvement is a method that propels a system forward toward efficiency and improved outcomes and it is something that is needed to stay relevant. Even with the methods of solving a 3×3 cube, those methods continue to evolve and the main level of improvement is often on the person spending time with the process. If you want to discuss a compressed air application in your facility that could stand some improving or maybe you want to share your solve times on the 3×3 cube, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

EXAIR Calculators for ROI

EXAIR.com

At EXAIR, we want to ensure our customers have access to as much technical data and information as possible. When visiting www.EXAIR.com be sure to review our “Resources” tab where you will find; 3D models and CAD Library, Case Studies, FAQ’s, Applications, PDF Library, Calculator Library, Slide Presentations, Videos, Efficiency Lab, Webinars, Air Data, Cabinet Cooler Sizing Guide and Application Assistance. Let us take a look at the “Calculator Library”.

EXAIR wants you to be fully aware of the benefits of our products so inside the “Calculator Library” we have calculators that help you understand the savings you will obtain from purchasing and using EXAIR products. Using the calculator resources will give you the confidence of knowing your Return on Investment and help to justify your time and purchase of our products – just in case our word is not enough.

The “Cost Savings Calculator” will help you, just as the title suggests, to calculate the savings you gain from using an EXAIR product compared to your current product. Simply put in the data and you will easily see the savings that will help you justify any purchase. The savings can be calculated in USD or Euro.

The “EFC Calculator or Electronic Flow Control is an EXAIR Optimization product that will turn your compressed air off when not needed. This calculator can be used to determine the air and USD (or Euro) savings potential for your application when an EFC is installed.

These calculators and other resources located on www.EXAIR.com will help answer your questions. But if needed, please contact us directly and ask for Application Engineering.

Eric Kuhnash
Application Engineer
E-mail: EricKuhnash@exair.com
Twitter: Twitter: @EXAIR_EK

The cost of compressed air leaks – the need to find and fix them

As margins get tighter and cost of manufacturing climbs, industries are looking for ways to be more economical.  A big focus today is in the compressed air systems.  Compressed air is considered to be the “fourth” utility behind gas, water, and electricity.  Air compressors are necessary to run 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.  So, it is very important to use this utility as resourceful as possible. 

One of the biggest problems affecting compressed air systems are leaks.  That quiet little hissing sound from the pipe lines is costing your company much money.  For the amount of electricity required to produce compressed air, 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 that 30% of the compressor capacity is lost through air leaks on average.  Majority of companies do not have a leak prevention program; so, they will fall into the “poorly maintained” category.  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 larger leaks, you can tell by the chart below 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 be visible at the source.  You have to find them by some other means. 

**Note 1

Most leaks occur where you have threaded fittings, connections, hoses, and pneumatic components like valves, regulators, and drains.  The Optimization products that EXAIR offers are designed to help optimize your compressed air system, and the most effective way is to find and stop leaks.  The Ultrasonic Leak Detectors can find inaudible air leaks, and the Digital Flowmeters can check your system to find leakage rates.  With both products included in a leak prevention program, you will be able to keep your compressed air system running optimally and reduce the cost caused by wasting compressed air. 

Ultrasonic Leak Detector

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector:

When a leak occurs, it emits an ultrasonic noise caused by turbulence.  These ultrasonic noises can be at a frequency above that which is audible 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 find 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 watch 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 watching 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 computers 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 preventive 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 prevention 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.  If you need more information, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR.  Once you find and fix all your leaks, you can then focus on improving the efficiency of your blow-off devices with EXAIR products.  It will 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