Saving Compressed Air – The Fourth Utility

We all know the value of electric, water and gas but what about compressed air? Your compressed air system has an annual cost and deserves to be treated as a cost center. In my previous career, I was guilty of not having a budget for compressed air in my business plan and wish I knew then what I needed for a more efficient compressed air system. Compressed air carries a significant value and deserves to be a cost center with aggressive annual efficiency planning.

Unfortunately, several misconceptions about how to reduce energy costs through increased compressed air efficiencies have prevented many industrial operations from taking control of their compressed air energy costs. There are 2 main focuses about compressed air systems that can begin to reduce expenditures, improve the reliability of your systems and generate savings for future equipment improvements. First, you can look at energy savings in the compressor motors but this is a more complicated and more expensive endeavor that can be a next step when tackling compressed air savings head on. Second, the demand side of the compressed air system is where many efficiencies can be gained. A focus on leaks, storage, pressure and inefficient use are generally simple and inexpensive to address.

Increasing the pressure isn’t always the answer. In fact, frequently it is not. An efficient compressed air system is characterized by stable pressure levels. Steady pressure levels are achieved by addressing two things: air demand patterns and the minimum acceptable pressure level required for reliable production. Unfortunately, many operators who fail to properly diagnose the causes of system problems simply increase pressure to improve performance. Arbitrary increases to the pressure without understanding the root causes of performance issues can lead to increased energy costs. An audit completed by your compressed air specialist will reveal which aspects of your compressed system can be fine-tuned in order to reduce energy costs and increase reliability. Use of the “Six Steps to Optimizing Your Compressed Air System” will help achieve your goals for cost savings and efficiencies.

Begin with establishing a baseline for your system and learn what your typical air use looks like. This can be done with a flow meter installed at the compressor outlet. A flow meter is also useful at each machine or process demanding compressed air because they can (1) indicate if a machine or process is operating atypically and consuming more air than usual and (2) identify where high demand machines or processes are located in your facility.

It is estimated that up to 20% of compressed air produced by industrial air compressors is wasted due to leaks in typical facilities.¹ Approximately 20% of the air produced for industrial applications ends up being lost through leaks. The use of EXAIRs’ model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector will enhance your efforts in finding leaks.

Choose engineered products to apply compressed air, these product have a focus on efficiency and outperform commercial products which do not concern themselves with air reduction.

When moving around your facility, look for applications of compressed air which can be turned off when personnel are on break or can be turned off in between parts. This step is very simple and can reap big savings.

Be sure to store compressed air close to high demand applications, this will prevent peaks and valleys in your compressed air demand which contributes toward less maintenance for your compressor.

Also lower your pressure at compressed air points of use. Keeping the pressure at the minimum pressure required for a successful application can also help keep system wide pressure to a minimum, which will increase lifetime of your compressor.

The good news is that, in most cases, lower energy costs are completely attainable for industrial operations that have not optimized their compressed air systems. To begin saving please contact EXAIR about compressed air products that can lower your compressed air costs today.

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

  1. Best Practices for Compressed Air Systems, second edition. From The Compressed Air Challenge.

The Basics of a Compressed Air Leak Detection Program

It is no surprise that compressed air can be a costly utility for industrial facilities. It can easily chip away at the bottom line finances if used carelessly and without planning. This is one of the leading reasons we have educated continuously on how to ensure this vital utility is used with safety and conservation in mind. If we have installed all engineered solutions at the point of use throughout a facility, there is still more to be saved. One of the easiest things to do with a utility system inside of a facility is to leave it unchecked and undocumented until something goes wrong. This does not have to be the scenario and in fact, starting a leak detection program in a facility can help to save up to 30% of the compressed air generated.

Leaks cost money!

That’s right, up to 30% of the compressed air being generated in an industrial facility can be exhausting out to ambient through leaks that run rampant throughout the facility. When the point of use production is still working fine, then these sorts of leaks go unnoticed. Another common occurrence goes something like this example: Maybe there is a leak bad enough to drop the packaging line pressure slightly, this may get fixed by bumping up a pressure regulator, production is back up and it is never thought of again. In all actuality this is affecting the production more and more with each leak.

The leaks add additional load onto the supply side. The compressor has to generate more air, the dryer needs to process more air, the auto drains dump more moisture, it all ads up to additional wear and tear also known as false load. All of this additional load on the system can add more maintenance which if left undone can result in system shut downs. One way to begin to eliminate this false load is to deploy a leak detection program. The steps are fairly easy.

Similar to our 6 Steps to Compressed Air Optimization, you start with a baseline of how much air the system is seeing and operating pressures. This begins the documentation process which is critical to the success of the program. Next, acquire an ultrasonic leak detector (ULD) and a layout of your compressed air system piping. Utilizing the ULD, test all compressed air piping along with equipment, and tag each leak that is detected. Next, begin to repair all of the tagged leaks and document the amount of compressed air savings with each repair. This again, is more documentation which leads to giving a quantitative value to the return on investment of the program. Lastly, schedule a follow up scan that recurs on a pre-determined basis to prevent the system from returning to it’s original leaky state.

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector

If you would like to discuss starting a leak detection program in your facility or have questions about the ULD or any point of use compressed air product, please reach out to an Application Engineer today.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

Compressed Air Leaks and the Problems They Cause

Over the Fourth of July I had a great opportunity to do some backpacking in the backwoods of the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. “That sounds awesome!” is what most people would think; looking back on it, it was awesome. BUT, at the time it was the very definition of complete and total suffer fest. During my time on the trail, I learned three life lessons. First, always thoroughly study up on every bail out point along the trail. Second, water proofing has its limits; and thirdly, when things leak it is dreadful. After 7 miles of crawling over rocks and traversing lakes and streams in the pouring down rain everything was soaked and water was leaking through our rain jackets, leaving me and my girlfriend cold, wet, and sore as all get out – all on day one.

Heading up the Algonquin Mountain trail starting Colden Lake

Leaks don’t just stink when they appear in your rain coat, they are dreadful all around whether it is leaking faucets, a leaky basement or compressed air line leaks. Unlike the fact that I currently have no solution for the leaking rain coat, I do have a solution for your leaking air lines. Leaks are costly and an all-around waste of money that can have severe implications on how the air is being used and the entire system itself.

There are four main affects that a leak in your compressed air system can have and they are as follows; 1) leaks can cause a pressure drop across the system, 2) leaks shorten the life of almost all air supply system equipment, 3) leaks demand increased running time of the compressor, and 4) leaks produce unnecessary compressor capacity by demanding more and more air.

  • A pressure drop across your compressed air system can lead to a decreased efficiency of the end use equipment (i.e. an EXAIR Air Knife or Air Nozzle). This adversely effects production as it may take longer to blow off or cool a product or not blow off the product well enough to meet quality standards.
  • Leaks can shorten the life of almost all supply system components such as air compressors. This is because the compressor has to continuously run to make up for the air lost from leaks. By forcing the equipment to continuously run or cycle more frequently means that the moving parts in the compressor will wear down faster.
  • An increased run time due to leaks can also lead to more maintenance on supply equipment for the same reasons as to why the life of the compressor is shortened. The increase stress on the compressor and supply side components due to unnecessary running of the compressor.
  • Leaks can also lead to adding unnecessary compressor size. The wasted air that is being expelled from the leak is an additional demand in your system. If leaks are not fixed it may require a larger compressor to make up for the loss of air in your system.
EXAIR’s Ultrasonic Leak Detector

It is fairly easy to find these leaks, simply use EXAIR’s affordable Ultrasonic Leak Detector. This leak detector uses ultrasonic waves to detect where costly leaks can be found so that they can be patched or fixed. So don’t get stuck in some rainy day with your compressed air leaking everywhere; find those pesky leaks, mark them for maintenance and seal them up.

If you have any questions or want more information on EXAIR’s Ultrasonic Leak Detector or like products. Give us a call, we have a team of application engineers ready to answer your questions and recommend a solution for your applications.

Cody Biehle
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Find Compressed Air Leaks with an Ultrasonic Leak Detector

The Ultrasonic Leak Detector (ULD) is a hand-held, high quality instrument that can locate costly leaks in a compressed air system. The definition of Ultrasonic as defined by Merriam-Webster is: “having a frequency above the human ear’s audibility limit of about 20,000 hertz —used of waves and vibrations.” The human hearing range depends on pitch and sound. Sound is a measure of how low or high the volume of loudness in terms of decibels (dBA) and “Pitch” is measured in Hertz (Hz).The overall spectra of the emitted ultrasonic sound is “white noise”, white noise is the broad band emission of sound.

Humans can detect sounds in a frequency range from about 20 Hz to 20 kHz. (Human infants can actually hear frequencies slightly higher than 20 kHz, but lose some high-frequency sensitivity as they mature; the upper limit in average adults is often closer to 15–17 kHz.)

The Model 9061 ULD is designed to locate the source of ultrasonic sound emissions and is used to find compressed air leaks. These ultrasonic sound emissions are converted by the ULD to a range that can be heard by humans. All this being said, the EXAIR ULD makes finding your air leaks fast and efficient.

The Model 9061 comes complete with with a hard shell plastic case, headphones, parabola, tubular adapter, tubular extension and a 9 volt battery. The ULD can be adjusted to filter out background noise typically heard in manufacturing environments by using the X1, X10 and X100 sensitivity settings. The “on/off” thumb wheel can be used for sensitivity adjustment within each of theses settings. The parabola or tubular extension can be attached to the ULD masking out background noise and finding the ultrasonic sounds being generated from the leaks.

Compressed air is an expensive cost center so using the ULD to detect and fix air leaks can not only be fun but also show a payback on investment with just one leak detection. The illustration below demonstrates just how a payback occurs.

EXAIR has many tools and accessories for your intelligent air needs and want to hear from you as we have Application engineers ready to assist your projects and compressed air challenges.

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