Starting a Leak Prevention Program

Since all compressed air systems will have some amount of leakage, it is a good idea to set up a Leak Prevention Program.  Keeping the leakage losses to a minimum will save on compressed air generation costs,and reduce compressor operation time which can extend its life and lower maintenance costs.

SBMart_pipe_800x

There are generally two types of leak prevention programs:

  • Leak Tag type programs
  • Seek-and-Repair type programs

Of the two types, the easiest would be the Seek-and-Repair method.  It involves finding leaks and then repairing them immediately. For the Leak Tag method, a leak is identified, tagged, and then logged for repair at the next opportune time.  Instead of a log system, the tag may be a two part tag.  The leak is tagged and one part of the tag stays with the leak, and the other is removed and brought to the maintenance department. This part of the tag has space for information such as the location, size, and description of the leak.

The best approach will depend on factors such as company size and resources, type of business, and the culture and best practices already in place. It is common to utilize both types where each is most appropriate.

A successful Leak Prevention Program consists of several important components:

  • Baseline compressed air usage – knowing the initial compressed air usage will allow for comparison after the program has been followed for measured improvement.
  • Establishment of initial leak loss – See this blog for more details.
  • Determine the cost of air leaks – One of the most important components of the program. The cost of leaks can be used to track the savings as well as promote the importance of the program. Also a tool to obtain the needed resources to perform the program.
  • Identify the leaks – Leaks can be found using many methods.  Most common is the use of an Ultrasonic Leak Detector, like the EXAIR Model 9061.  See this blog for more details. An inexpensive handheld meter will locate a leak and indicate the size of the leak.

    ULD_Pr
    Using the Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector to search for leaks in a piping system
  • Document the leaks – Note the location and type, its size, and estimated cost. Leak tags can be used, but a master leak list is best.  Under Seek-and-Repair type, leaks should still be noted in order to track the number and effectiveness of the program.
  • Prioritize and plan the repairs – Typically fix the biggest leaks first, unless operations prevent access to these leaks until a suitable time.
  • Document the repairs – By putting a cost with each leak and keeping track of the total savings, it is possible to provide proof of the program effectiveness and garner additional support for keeping the program going. Also, it is possible to find trends and recurring problems that will need a more permanent solution.
  • Compare and publish results – Comparing the original baseline to the current system results will provide a measure of the effectiveness of the program and the calculate a cost savings. The results are to be shared with management to validate the program and ensure the program will continue.
  • Repeat As Needed – If the results are not satisfactory, perform the process again. Also, new leaks can develop, so a periodic review should be performed to achieve and maintain maximum system efficiency.

In summary – an effective compressed air system leak prevention and repair program is critical in sustaining the efficiency, reliability, and cost effectiveness of an compressed air system.

If you have questions about a Leak Prevention Program or any of the 16 different EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product lines, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or any of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer
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Intelligent Compressed Air: Estimating Your Leakage Rate

waste

The electricity costs associated with the generation of compressed air make it the most expensive utility within an industrial environment. In a   poorly maintained compressor system, up to 30% of the total operational costs can be attributed simply to compressed air leaks. While this wasted energy is much like throwing money into the air, it can also cause your compressed air system to lose pressure. This can reduce the ability of the end use products to function properly, negatively impacting production rates and overall quality. Luckily, it’s quite easy to estimate the leakage rate and is something that you should be including in your regular PM schedule.

According to the Compressed Air Challenge, a well-maintained system should have a leakage rate of less than 5-10% of the average system demand. To estimate what your leakage rate is across the facility, first start by shutting off all of the point of use compressed air products so that there’s no demand on the system. Then, start the compressor and record the average time it takes for the compressor to cycle on/off. The compressor will load and unload as the air leaks cause a pressure drop from air escaping. The percentage of total leakage can be calculated using the following formula:

Leakage % = [(T x 100) / (T + t)]

Where:

T = loaded time (seconds)

T = unloaded time (seconds)

The leakage rate will be given in a percentage of total compressor capacity lost. This value should be less than 10% for a well-maintained system. It is not uncommon within a poorly maintained system to experience losses as high as 20-40% of the total capacity and power.

A leak that is equivalent to the size of a 1/16” diameter hole will consume roughly 3.8 SCFM at a line pressure of 80 PSIG. If you don’t know your company’s air cost, a reasonable average is $0.25 per 1,000 SCF. Let’s calculate what the cost would be for a plant operating 24hrs a day, 7 days a week.

3.8 SCFM x 60 minutes x $0.25/1,000 SCFM =

$0.06/hour

$0.06 x 24 hours =

$1.44/ day

$1.44 x 7 days x 52 weeks =

$524.16 per year

A small leak of just 3.8 SCFM would end up costing $524.16. This is just ONE small leak! Odds are there’s several throughout the facility, quickly escalating your operating costs. If you can hear a leak, it’s a pretty severe one. Most leaks aren’t detectable by the human ear and require a special instrument to convert the ultrasonic sound created into something that we can pick up. For that, EXAIR has our Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector.

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Model 9061 ULD w/ parabola attachment checking for compressed air leaks

Implementing a regular procedure to determine your leakage rate in the facility as well as a compressed air audit to locate, tag, and fix any known leaks should be a priority. The savings that you can experience can be quite dramatic, especially if it’s not something that has ever been done before!

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

Ultrasonic Leak Detector: Because Leaks Won’t Find (Or Fix) Themselves

I once worked in an equipment repair shop with a small and simple compressed air system…just a 5HP single acting piston compressor that sat atop a 50 gallon tank, in the corner by “The Big Truck”. The majority of our work was field service, and management was big on maintaining our service trucks, so we checked tire pressures every Monday morning as we rolled out, and kept a tire chuck handy to ensure proper inflation. It was also used to supply a couple of air guns that were used at our drill press and soldering/assembly station. One morning, I noticed the air compressor was running when I arrived…I thought it was odd, because I knew for a fact it hadn’t been used in at least 16 hours, but that compressed air went someplace, right? We had a leak. Well, at least one.

This was mid-December, and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day was characteristically slow, and typically devoted to a thorough shop cleaning. We also took the opportunity to get some bottles of soapy water and check for leaks at the handful of pipe fittings that comprised the system…for the uninitiated, if you have a leaky fitting, the escaping air blows bubbles in the soapy water (a cheap, messy way in other words). We found some bubbling, undid those fittings, cleaned them, and applied fresh pipe thread sealant (I don’t want to start any arguments, but I was taught that tape is more of a thread protectant than an effective sealing agent) and, in addition to replacing a couple of well-worn hoses, we were up and running.  And we never heard the compressor running first thing in the morning again.

Not all compressed air systems are as simple as that, though.  Many go from a room with several large & sophisticated air compressors, to corners of every building on the grounds.  Through valves & manifolds, to cylinders, machinery and blow offs, with more connections than you could soap-and-water check in a month.

In those cases, the EXAIR Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector makes short(er) work of finding the leaks.  With both visual (LED’s on the face) and audible (headphones) indications, even very small leaks are easy to detect with the parabola installed.  The precise location can then be found with the tubular extension.

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector “hones in” on the exact location of a leak in a compressed air line.

You’ll still have to fix the leaks yourself, but finding them is oftentimes more than half the battle.  And, once fixed, it can be worth a million (cubic feet of compressed air, that is.)

EXAIR’s Ultrasonic Leak Detectors are not only useful for finding compressed air leaks; they’re popular in a variety of other areas:

Additionally, they can be used to identify faulty bearings, brake systems, tire & tube leaks, engine seals, radiators, electrical relay arcing…anything that generates an ultrasonic sound wave.  If you’d like to find out more, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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How to Estimate Leaks and the Impact upon a Compressed Air System

In today’s age where compressed air is often referred to as the 4th utility in an industrial manufacturing facility, leaks throughout the system can add up to serious financial losses. It has been estimated that leaks can waste as much as 20-30 percent of an air compressor output.

waste

Not only are leaks a source of wasted energy, they can also contribute to other losses such as:

  • Causing a drop in system pressure, resulting in air tools to function less efficiently
  • Increasing the air compressor on/off cycles which shortens the life of it and other components in the system
  • Increased maintenance costs and more planned downtime for the maintenance to be performed
  • A need to install of additional compressors to make up for the inefficiencies caused by leaks

For compressors that have start/stop controls – the below formula can be used to estimate the leakage rate in the system-

Leakage Equation 1

To use the above formula, the compressor is started when there is no demand on the system –  all air operated equipment and devices are turned off.  As the air escapes the system through the leaks, the system pressure will drop and the compressor will turn on and cycle to bring the pressure back up to the operating level. Measurement of the average time (T) of compressor run duration, and time (t) of the system pressure to drop to the set-point can be plugged into the formula and a Leakage Percentage established.

Another method to estimate the leakage rate is shown below-

Leakage Equation 2

The above method requires knowledge of the total system volume, which includes downstream air receivers, air mains, and all piping.  To perform the check, bring the system pressure up the normal operating pressure (P1) and then measure the time (T) it takes for the system to drop to pressure (P2) which is generally around half the operating pressure.  The 1.25 is a correction factor to normal system pressure, since the leakage rate will be less as the system pressure is lowered.

A leakage rate greater than 10% typically shows that there are areas of improvement (leaks that can be identified and repaired)

Any leakage testing and estimating should be preformed regularly, at least each quarter, so as to minimize the effect of any new system leaks. The tests are only one part of a leak detection and repair program. The best way to detect leaks is the use of ultrasonic leak detector (shown below.)  To learn more about the EXAIR model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector, check out this blog that was previously published.

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If you have questions about compressed air systems, or would like to talk about any of the EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or any of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Optimizing Your Current Compressed Air System Is Simple

A few weeks ago, we posted a blog discussing how artificial demand and leaks can lead to poor performance and expensive waste.  Today, I’d like to review how following a few simple steps can help optimize your current compressed air system and reduce compressed air usage.

The first step you want to consider is measuring the air usage in the system. To do this, you want to start at the compressor and check individual leads to each drop point to a blowoff device, record your findings to track the demand. By measuring your compressed air usage, you can locate the source of high usage areas and monitor the usage on each leg of the system. If the demand exceeds the supply, there is potential for problems to arise, such as lowered pressure and force from compressed air operated devices leading to irregular performance.

Digital Flowmeter with wireless capability

EXAIR’s Digital Flowmeters are designed to measure flow continuously and accurately to give you real-time flow measurements of your compressed air system to help identify problems areas.

Step 2 is to locate the source of waste. Again, compressed air leaks can result in a waste of up to 30% of a facility’s compressor output. A compressed air leak detection and repair program can save a facility this wasted air. Implementing such a program can be used as a way for a facility to “find” additional air compressor capacity for new projects. Whenever a leak occurs, it will generate an ultrasonic noise.

Model # 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Our Ultrasonic Leak Detector is designed to locate the source of ultrasonic sound emissions up to 20’ away. These ultrasonic sound emissions are converted to a range that can be heard by humans. The sound is 32 times lower in frequency than the sound being received, making the inaudible leaks, audible through the included headphones and the LED display gives a visual representation of the leak.

The 3rd step involves finding the source of noisy and wasteful blowoffs, like open pipes or homemade blowoffs, and replacing them with an energy efficient, engineered solution. By replacing these devices, you are not only reducing the amount of waste but also improving operator safety by complying with OSHA safety requirements.

Model # 9104 Digital Sound Level Meter

EXAIR’s Digital Sound Level Meter is an easy to use instrument that measures and monitors the sound level pressure in a wide variety of industrial environments. The source of loud noises can be quickly identified so that corrective measures can be taken to keep sound levels at or below OSHA maximum allowable exposure limits.

The easiest way to reduce compressed air usage and save on operating expense is to turn off the compressed air to a device when it isn’t needed, step 4 in the process. Not only will this save money, in many cases, it can also simplify a process for the operator.

 

Sizes from 1/4″ NPT up to 1-1/4″ NPT are available

A simple manual ball valve and a responsible operator can provide savings at every opportunity to shut down the air flow.

 

120VAC, 240VAC or 24VDC

 

For automated solutions, a solenoid valve can be operated from a machine’s control. For example, if the machine is off, or a conveyor has stopped – close the solenoid valve and save the air.

 

 

Model # 9040 Foot Valve

A foot pedal valve offers a hands free solution to activate an air operated device only when needed, such as being implemented in an operator’s work station.

 

EFC – Electronic Flow Control

For even more control, you can use a device like our EFC or Electronic Flow Control. This helps minimize compressed air usage by incorporating a programmable timing controlled (0.10 seconds to 120 hours) photoelectric sensor to turn off the compressed air supply when there are no parts present. It is suited for NEMA 4 environments and can be easily wired for 100-240VAC.

 

 

Step 5, intermediate storage. Some applications require an intermittent demand for a high volume of compressed air. By installing a receiver tank near the point of high demand, there is an additional supply of compressed air available for a short duration. This will help eliminate fluctuations in pressure and volume.

Model # 9500-60

EXAIR offers a 60 gallon, ASME approved vertical steel tank with mounting feet for easy installation near high demand processes.

Many pneumatic product manufacturers have a certain set of specifications regarding performance at stated input pressures. In many applications, or in the case of using a homemade blowoff device like open pipe, these wouldn’t necessarily require the full rated performance of the device or full line pressure. Controlling the air pressure at the point-of-use device will help to minimize air consumption and waste, step 6.

Pressure Regulators permit easy selection of the operating pressure

By simply installing a pressure regulator on the supply side, you can start off at a low pressure setting and increase the pressure until the desired result is achieved. Not only will this help to conserve energy by only using the amount of air required for the application, it also allows you to fine tune the performance of the point-of-use device to match the application requirements.

If you have any questions, please contact an application engineer at 800-903-9247.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN

 

 

Finding Leaks and Saving Money with the Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Locate costly leaks in your compressed air system!  Sounds like the right thing to do.

The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector is a hand-held, high quality instrument that is used to locate costly leaks in a compressed air system.

Ultrasonic sound is the term applied to sound that is above the frequencies of normal human hearing capacity.  This typically begins at sounds over 20,000 Hz in frequency.  The Ultrasonic Leak Detector can detect sounds in this upper range and convert them to a range that is audible to people.

When a leak is present, the compressed air moves from the high pressure condition through the opening to the low pressure environment.  As the air passes through the opening, it speeds up and becomes turbulent in flow, and generates ultrasonic sound components. Because the audible sound of a small leak is very low and quiet, it typically gets drowned out by by surrounding plant noises, making leak detection by the human ear difficult if not impossible.

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Detecting a Leak with the Ultrasonic Leak Detector

By using the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, the background noise can be filtered out and the ultrasonic noises can be detected, thus locating a leakage in the compressed air system. There are (3) sensitivity settings, x1, x10, and x100 along with an on/off thumb-wheel for fine sensitivity.  The unit comes with a parabola and tubular extension for added flexibility.

ULD_Kit
Model 9061 – Ultrasonic Leak Detector and Included Accessories

Finding just one small leak can pay for the unit-

A small leak equivalent to a 1/16″ diameter hole will leak approx 3.8 SCFM at 80 PSIG of line pressure.  Using a reasonable average cost of $0.25 per 1000 SCF of compressed air generation, we can calculate the cost of the leak as follows-

Capture

It is easy to see that utilizing the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, and identifying and fixing leaks is the right thing to do.  It is possible to find and fix enough leaks that a new compressor purchase can be avoided or an auxiliary back-up is not needed any more.

If you have questions regarding the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, or would like to talk about any EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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An Ultrasonic Leak Detector Helps a Fire Marshal With a Dry Sprinkler System

A dry sprinkler system? How will that help in a fire? The fire marshal snickered as he told me that this type of system was designed for cold weather fire protection.  Most sprinkler systems that we see in the ceiling are designed with water in the lines.  But, if you have areas that get below 40 deg. F (4 deg. C), the fire department will have you install a dry sprinkler system.  It uses compressed air to hold a valve shut to not allow the water to be inside the cold pipes. So, if you have an unheated crawl space, uninsulated attics, or an outside storage facility, you won’t have to worry about the water freezing and bursting your pipes or sprinkler heads.

The reason that the fire marshal contacted me was to help find a leak in a dry sprinkler system. A facility in his jurisdiction noticed that the air compressor that was assigned to the dry sprinkling system was cycling more often.  This was an indication of a leak, and just like any compressed air system, leaks occur over time at the connection points.  This facility had their pipes located in a crawl space, and there wasn’t much room for maneuvering.  Typically the normal protocol for a leak would be to go to each joint and spray it with soapy water.  If they saw bubbles, then they would fix that connection.  With the small space and the number of connections, he had to find a better way.

Model 9061

Whenever a leak occurs, it will generate an ultrasonic noise. The model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector can pick up these high frequencies in the range of 20 Khz to 100 Khz, above human hearing.  This device makes the inaudible leaks, audible.  With three sensitivity ranges and LED display, you can find very small leaks, and with the two attachments, it can locate them up to 20 feet (6.1 meters) away.  When he started using it, he was amazed with the performance.  The Ultrasonic Leak Detector cut his time in the field and ensured that all the leaks were found.  In this instance, he was able to use the parabola attachment to locate the area of the leak from a distance.  He then crawled to that area and used the tube attachment to locate the exact location.  He found the leak and had it fixed.  If he did not have the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, he would have to maneuver his way throughout the small crawl space and spray soapy water on each fitting.

If you ever get stuck with a huge task with your compressed air system, like our fire marshal above, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR to see if we can improve your situation.

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