Leaks and Why They Matter

Leaks can be discussed quite frequently around industrial environments. These can be refrigerant leaks, water leaks, gas leaks, even information leaks. All of these leaks have one thing in common, they all cost the company money in the end. I often think about several classic cartoons when I hear about leaks being fixed as they are found. They can become a little overwhelming like the “Squirrel” from the movie Ice Age 2.

When it comes down to it, not many leaks create good results, that is why I want to take a second and educate on the costs your facility may be seeing from compressed air leaks. The leaks within an industrial environment can often account for up to 30% of the total compressed air generated.

So let’s take a look at that, the cost of compressed air is derived from the kWh cost the facility pays to the utility company. Here in the Midwest the average cost is around \$0.08 / kWh. The equation to convert this to cost per cubic foot of compressed air is shown below. This formula assumes that the compressor generates four standard cubic feet of compressed air per horsepower of compressor. Again this is an industry acceptable assumption.

The size of a leak will determine how much compressed air is wasted, most of these leaks are not even to the audible range for the human ear which leads them to be undetected for long periods of time. A leak that is equivalent to a 1/16″ diameter orifice can result in an annual loss of more than \$836.50 USD. While the scale of this number when compared to the annual revenue of a company may be small, the fact remains that this single leak would more than likely not be the only one. This isn’t the only way leaks will cost money though.

Leaks can also generate false demand which can result in pressure drops on a system. When the pressure on a production line drops this could result in unscheduled shutdowns. Often, when a pressure drop is observed the quick answer is to increase the header pressure which causes even more energy to be utilized and even more compressed air will be pushed out of these leaks. That increase in system pressure comes at a price as well. When increasing a system pressure by 2 psi the compressor will consume an additional percent of total input power. This again will hit the bottom line and result in lower efficiency of operation for the facility.

If you hear that distinct hiss of compressed air leaks when you are walking through your facility, or even if you don’t hear the his and you know that a leak detection action plan is not being practiced and want to find out the best ways to get one in place, contact us. We are always willing to help you determine how to lower the leaks in your facility as well as reduce the system pressure required to keep your lines up and running by implementing engineered solutions at the point of use.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

1 – Ice Age 2 – Mission Impossible Scrat – retrieve from YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-HniegbnFs

Step 1: Understanding The Demand On Your Compressor

The Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed air System are all based from the demand side of your compressed air system.   These all lead to saving money by reducing the energy demanded from your supply side of the system. The first step in understanding your demand side is to figure out how much compressed air is currently asked for and why are you asking the supply side for that air. This will allow you to gather information on where the savings are possible in order to make educated adjustments within your compressed air system.

So you would first want to start documenting your demand with a Usage Chart.   You will want to start a spreadsheet that has each point of compressed air use and quantify the volumetric flow, as well as operating pressure of the compressed air products in your system.  You will want to start at your compressor and follow the compressed air lines in to each drop that has a point of use, whether it is a Safety Air Gun being used by an operator, or a Super Ion Air Knife that is automated inside of the machine.  An example of the Usage Chart is below

One note to add is that you can break the demand column into several different columns in case you have a variable demand location, such as a Non-Hazardous Purge Cabinet Cooler System where there is always a slight demand, but then there is a short burst peak demand when the enclosure needs to be cooled.

Once you have all of the point of use devices mapped out and charted on your Usage Chart, you can then begin to look at the areas you have for improvement.  For example, if you only have one location that needs a 5 psig higher pressure than everything else in the plant, that would be an ideal location to look at why you need the higher pressure.   If you can reduce your system pressure by 5 psig then you will save on average, 2.5% of the electricity used to drive your compressor.

If you see that you have a few areas with similar point of use devices but the usage is higher, then that is a prime location to start inspecting for leaks, a tool like the Ultrasonic Leak Detector makes this part easier than using soapy water to spray down each joint in a pipe.   On the same note, if you are able to reduce your system pressure by 5 psig then that is also going to reduce the amount of leakage throughout the system.

In order to determine what the usage of each point of use device can also easily be viewed and even recorded using one of our Digital Flowmeters w/ Summing Remote Display and Data Logger.   This device is offered in a range of sizes 1/2″ to 6″ iron pipe or copper pipe.

If you want to take the first step in optimizing your compressed air system and ensure that you are saving as much air as possible while compressing the least amount demanded by your system then feel free to contact us.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF