Intelligent Compressed Air®: Common Compressor Room Mistakes, And How To Avoid Them

While we don’t sell, install, or service air compressors, EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products run on compressed air, so helping you get the most out of your compressed air system is important to us. Today, we’re starting where it all begins: the compressor room.

Some of the mistakes that are commonly made in the compressor room are by design, and others are operational. My colleague Tyler Daniel wrote a great blog on design considerations recently, so I’m going to focus on the operational aspects, which include maintenance…and maybe some minor design stuff:

  • Poor ventilation: Air compressors get hot. They’ve got a lot of moving parts, and many of those parts are moving under a great amount of force (pressure is literally defined as force per unit area), and at a high rate of speed. Add in the heat of compression (it takes energy to compress air, and that energy has to go somewhere, something another colleague, John Ball, explains here), to all that friction and you come up with a TREMENDOUS amount of heat. An industry thumbrule, in fact, states that over 2500 Btu/hr of heat is generated, PER HORSEPOWER, by a typical industrial air compressor. If the compressor room isn’t big enough, you’ll need an exhaust fan capable of removing all that heat.
  • Lack of filtration: Take a good, full breath in through your nose, right now. Did you smell anything unpleasant or irritating? I hope not…clean air is a “must” for your lungs (and the rest of your body), and the same is true for your air compressor (and the rest of your compressed air system). Keeping up with the maintenance on the intake filter is literally “starting where it all begins”…from the 1st paragraph.
  • Not removing moisture: Water & water vapor will have an adverse effect on many components of your compressed air system: it’ll cause rust in iron pipes, damage the seals in air cylinders, motors, tools, etc., and if you use it for blow off or conveying, it’ll contaminate your product. We’ve writtenagain and again…about the importance of dryers, and which type might be best for you.
  • Tolerating leaks: The compressor room is loud, so leaks are going to be pretty big before you can hear them. And to add insult to injury, the vibration of a running compressor makes the compressor room a prime location for them to occur. Even one small leak that you couldn’t hear in a quieter area will cost you over $100 over the course of the year, and maybe only take minutes to fix. Good news is, even if you can’t hear them, they ALL make an ultrasonic signature, and we’ve got something for that.
EXAIR Model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector “finds them all, big or small!”
  • Ignoring maintenance. If you don’t schedule planned maintenance, your equipment will schedule corrective maintenance for you…oftentimes at greater expense, and with no regard to your schedule.
    • Moving metal parts that make metal-to-metal contact (or that have very tight spacing tolerances) HAVE to be lubricated properly. If you run low on oil, or let it get dirty or emulsified, severe damage will follow. Keeping an eye on the oil level, and changing it (and the filter) at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals, is critical.
    • Emulsified or otherwise contaminated oil can damage seals, gaskets, and o-rings. That’s obviously a big problem for the compressor, and when it carries over into the header, it’s a big problem for pneumatic cylinders & tools as well. Periodic sampling & analysis of your oil can provide timely notice of issues that can be corrected before they become catastrophic failures.
    • Depending on the type of compressor, and its drive system, the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations may also include:
      • Checking coupling or belt alignment of the drive.
      • Checking bolts for loosening due to vibration (a “necessary evil”, especially with reciprocating compressors).
      • Adjusting the pistons to maintain valve plate clearance.
      • Tightening or replacing the mounts & vibration pads.

If you’d like to find out more about how EXAIR Corporation can help you get the most out of your compressed air system, give me a call.

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Image courtesy of PEO ACWA Some rights reserved Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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

EXAIR Mini Cooler™: Overview 

EXAIR Mini Coolers

EXAIR offers a line of spot cooling devices to blow cold air to remove heat.  Heat can cause premature failures and shortened tool life.  We use the Vortex Tube phenomenon to make very cold air without any moving parts or Freon.  They only need compressed air as the “engine” to spin the air streams into two parts; hot air and cold air.  They are maintenance free and can supply cold air down to a temperature of -50oF (-46oC).  EXAIR “dresses up” a Vortex Tube to make a more functional device for spot cooling.  In this blog, I will cover the smallest of our spot coolers; the Mini Cooler™.   

The EXAIR Mini Cooler was designed for tight areas to cool small objects.  It has a cooling capacity of 550 BTU/hr (139Kcal/hr).  It only uses 8 SCFM (227 SLPM) at 100 PSIG (6.9 bar).  The system will come with a manual drain Filter Separator with mounting bracket, a Swivel Magnetic Base with 100 lb. (45.5Kg) pull magnet, and a flexible hose kit.  We offer two options for the flexible hose kit; a Single Point Hose Kit, model 3808, and a Dual Point Hose Kit, model 3308.  The Single Point Hose Kit will give you one flexible outlet to easily position the cold air stream near the target point.  It will also include a round point tip and a flat-fan tip.  The Dual Point Hose Kit adds a split to have two separate cold outlets; still including the round and flat-fan tips.  With these features, the Mini Cooler is easy to mount, use, and move for optimal cooling and blowing. 

Model 3308

When using the Mini Cooler, the flexible cold outlets can easily bend around fixtures, spindles, and welding horns.  The swivel magnetic base gives extra adjustment at the base of the cooler to aid in “hard to reach” places.   To further the benefits of the cooler, the operating pressure can be changed to lower or raise the cooling capacity to meet your demands.  At 100 PSIG (6.9 bar), the cold air flow can reach a temperature as low as 20oF (-7oC).

Some applications for the Mini Cooler would include small diameter milling and drilling where the cold air can keep the tool cool and remove the chips.  It can also be used for soldering, industrial sewing, ultrasonic welding, or even small punching applications to list a few.  With the dual point hose kit, it is ideal for targeting two sides of a cutter, aiming at multiple blades where material is being slit, or cooling multiple ultrasonic points for faster cycle times.

If you believe that you have an application where spot cooling could increase production rates and/or extend tool life, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR.  We can offer the Mini Cooler for smaller targets; or, larger versions like the Adjustable Spot Cooler and Cold Gun Aircoolant System™.  We are looking forward to hearing from you.

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

How to Save Money on Compressed Air

Compressed air can be one of the more expensive utilities to use in a facility, but a compressed air system is full of simple opportunities to increase efficiency and minimize the cost. Much like how you can take multiple steps to save electricity at your house there a few simple steps you can take to save your compressed air. These steps include finding and repairing leaks, compressor maintenance, minimizing pressure at the point of use, and turning the compressed air off when not in use. Implementing these steps and using the right tools to achieve them can lead to significant dollar savings – in fact our website case studies, other blog articles and catalog are filled with example after example of air (and dollar) savings success! And let’s be honest here, who doesn’t like saving money.

First off is finding your leaks. Leaks are one of the major wastes of compressed air in a system that could happen. Leaks in a compressed air system can account for wasting 20-30% of a compressors output. These leaks can commonly be found in pipe joints, devices that use the compressed air, quick connect fittings, and storage tanks. All of this compounds to wasting air much like a leaky faucet wastes water – little by little it grows until it simply needs to be addressed. One of the ways to help find leaks in your system is 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.

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Choose efficient end-use products. Engineered air knives, air amplifiers, air nozzles and safety air guns can dramatically outperform (use less air) than commercial air nozzles and in-house solutions such as drilled pipes, open air lines and other creative “fixes”. We have seen some very nice in-house solutions from customers who have put in some significant time and effort, but they all have one thing in common – they use more air than any of EXAIR’s engineered solutions.

Minimizing your pressure can also save you money by limiting the amount of compressed air that is being used. Pressure and volume go hand and hand, the higher the pressure the higher the volume of air and vice versa. By minimizing the pressure that you are using you are also minimizing the amount of air that is being used which means savings. Each CFM used can be associated with a certain price value so the less you use the more you save. You also cut down on the amount of work the compressor has to do and how often the compressor has to cycle. Pressure can be minimized using one of EXAIR’s Pressure Regulators to cut down on the amount of air being used.

EXAIR’s Pressure Regulators come in 4 different sizes

Turn off the compressed air when it is not in use. Just like how you wouldn’t leave the faucet running or lights on in a room that is not being used, don’t leave your compressed air running (insert bad dad joke). Constantly using compressed air even when not in use will cause the compressor to cycle more often wasting money. Each CFM has a price to it so don’t waste CFM’s blowing it back into the air and doing nothing. This can simply be done by adding one of EXAIR’s ball valve or solenoid valves to turn off when you are done using it. Also, if you want to take it another step farther you can look at using one of EXAIR’s Electronic Flow Controllers (EFC). The EFC uses a photo eye attached to a timer that will open a solenoid valve for a set amount of time when it detects an object within 3’ of the photo eye. This will turn the air on only when your product is in the air path and turn it off during any spaces in between.

EXAIR’s EFC in use

Compressor maintenance is another important step to minimizing the cost of compressed air. Neglected air compressors can cause a lot of issues ranging from expensive repairs to a decreases in efficiency. Wear and tear placed on the motor of an air compressor can cause the compressor to produce less compressed air (SCFM) at the same power consumption. This means you are paying the same amount of money and getting less out of it. Making sure that your compressor or any machine is always running at its optimal performance and should always be a priority for any facility.

There are many different ways to save on compressed air, these are just a few of them. Reducing air use will save money and reduce the demand on your compressor which in turn can prolong the life of your air compressor. If you have questions about how to save on compressed air or any of our engineered Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR or any Application Engineer.

Cody Biehle
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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