Compressed Air System Maintenance

Air Compressor and Storage Tanks

Compressed air is the life blood of a manufacturing plant, and the air compressor would be considered the heart. To keep things “fit”, it is important to check all areas and to optimize your system to keep your plant running safely and efficiently. You do not have to be a doctor to do these “operations”. If your compressor fails, the entire facility will stop working. In this blog, I will cover some simple preventative maintenance that can really help you.

As margins get tighter and cost of manufacturing climbs, industries are looking into other areas to be more economical. A big focus today is the compressed air system. Compressed air is considered to be a “forth” utility behind gas, water, and electricity, and it is a necessary to run your pneumatic systems. But it is the least efficient of the utilities. So, it is very important to use this utility as practical as possible and to use a PM program to keep it going.

If we start at the beginning of your compressed air system, this would jump us to the air compressor. This is the machine that uses an electric or gas motor to spin a crank. It compresses the ambient air into a small volume to generate stored energy to be used by your pneumatic systems. Because the air compressor is complex and intricate, I would recommend a trained service personnel to do the maintenance. But, if your staff is familiar with air compressors, I wrote a blog to help look at certain parts periodically. You can read it here: “6 Basic Steps for Good Air Compressor Maintenance (And When to Do Them)”.

The next part after the air compressor is to look at the aftercoolers, compressed air dryers, receiver tanks, filters, and condensate drains. Some facilities may only have some of these items.

The aftercoolers are designed to cool the exit air from your air compressor. It uses a fan to blow ambient air across coils to lower the compressed air temperature. It is easy to check the fan to verify that it is spinning and to keep the coils clean from debris.

The compressed air dryers can range in size and type. For the refrigerant type air dryers, you should periodically check the freon compressor with ohm and amp readings, the condensers for cleaning, and the super heat temperature as well. For desiccant type air dryers, you will need to check the operation of the valves. Valves are used to regenerate one side of the desiccant bed. The valves can fail and stick either open or closed. In either way, if the desiccant cannot regenerate, then it will allow moisture to go down stream and eventually destroy the desiccant beads.

The receiver tanks have safety relief valves that will need to be checked to make sure that they are not leaking. If they are, they should be changed.

As for the filters, they collect contamination from the compressed air stream. This will include liquid water, oil, and dirt. A pressure drop will start to increase with the contaminants, which will reduce the potential energy. If they do not have pressure drop indicators, you should have two points of references for pressure readings. You should change the filter elements when the pressure drop reaches 10 PSID (0.7 bar) or after 1 year.

With all these items above, water is created. There should be condensate drains to discard the water. The most efficient types of condensate drains are the zero loss drains. Most condensate drains will have a test button to be pressed to verify that they open. If they do not open, they should be replaced or fixed. Do not place a valve on them and partially open for draining. For float type drains, they will have a pin inside that can be pressed to open. You can verify that all the liquid has been expelled.

The distribution system are the pipes and tubes that run compressed air from the supply side to the demand side of your pneumatic system. One of the largest problems affecting the distribution system are leaks. That quiet little hissing sound from the pipe lines is costing your company much money. 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 on average of 30% of the compressor capacity is lost through air leaks.

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. Unlike a hydraulic system, compressed air is clean; so, leaks will not appear at the source. So, you have to find them by some other means.

Digital Flowmeter

 

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector

Most leaks occur where you have threaded fittings, connections, hoses, and pneumatic components like valves, regulators, and drains. EXAIR has two products in our Optimization product line that are designed to help find leaks in your compressed air system.

The Ultrasonic Leak Detectors can find air leaks, and the Digital Flowmeters can monitor your system for loss of air. When an air leaks occur, it emits an ultrasonic noise caused by turbulence. These ultrasonic noises can be at a frequency above audible hearing for human. The EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector can pick up these high frequencies to make inaudible leaks audible.

With the Digital Flowmeters, you can continuously check your system for waste and record it with a USB Datalogger.  Air leaks can occur at any time within any section of your pneumatic system.  With a Digital Flowmeter, you can also isolate an area to watch for any flow readings; telling you that the air is leaking in that section.  With both products included in your leak-preventative program, you will be able to reduce your waste and optimize your compressed air system.

Family of Nozzles

At the point-of-use areas, this is the easiest target area for compressed air maintenance. If you are using open tubes or drilled pipes for blowing, they are loud, inefficient, and unsafe. They can be easily change to an engineered blow-off product from EXAIR which are very efficient and OSHA safe. EXAIR offers a range of Super Air Nozzles and Super Air Knives to simply replace the current blow-off devices that overuse compressed air. If we go back to the beginning of your system, the air compressor is a mechanical device which will have a MTBF, or Mean Time Between Failures. The hour meter on your air compressor is like a life monitor. By using less compressed air, your air compressor will extend that time in MTBF.

Keeping your compressed air system running optimally is very important for a business to run. With a simple maintenance program, it can help you with your pneumatic operations and energy savings. Like stated above, your compressed air system is the life blood of your company, and you do not need a PhD to keep it well maintained. Just follow the target areas above. If you would like to discuss further about the health of your compressed air system, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR. We will be happy to help “diagnose” a solution.

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

EXAIR Digital Flowmeters With Wireless Capability

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure” is a well-known axiom in engineering & process improvement circles.  We talk to callers every day who are keen on conserving compressed air use in their facilities by making a few tweaks, considering a complete overhaul, or more often, some point in between.  Bottom line (literally) is, compressed air isn’t cheap, so small gains in efficiency can add up.  And large gains can be complete game-changers…following our Six Steps To Optimizing Your Compressed Air System has resulted in users being able to shut down 50 and 100 HP air compressors, saving thousands of dollar A MONTH in operating costs.

Step #1 is measurement, and that’s where the EXAIR Digital Flowmeter comes in.  They’re easy to install, highly accurate, extremely reliable, and available for just about any size pipe used for compressed air distribution.  They can output a 4-20mA signal straight from their PCB board, or serial comms (RS485) through an optional control board.  USB Data Loggers and Summing Remote Displays have proven to be value-added accessories for data management as well.

Summing Remote Display (left) for remote indication and totalizing data. USB Data Logger takes data from the Digital Flowmeter to your computer and outputs to its own software (shown above) or Microsoft Excel.

If you want to go wireless, we can do that too: using ZigBee mesh network protocol, a radio module is installed in the Digital Flowmeter with wireless gateway to transmit data to an Ethernet connected gateway.  The transmitting range is 100 ft (30 meters,) and the data can be passed from one radio module to another, allowing for multiple Digital Flowmeter installations to extend the distance over which they can communicate with the computer you’re using for central monitoring.  Advantages include:

  • Wireless monitoring of EXAIR Digital Flowmeters throughout your plant.
  • Prevents unwanted joining upon the network.
  • Monitoring software is included at no extra charge.
  • Measures & transmits both current air usage, and cumulative air usage data.
  • 128 bit encryption for wireless transmissions.
  • Comes configured & programmed, out of the box, available for installation on 1/2″ to 4″ SCH40 iron pipe, or 3/4″ to 4″ Type L copper pipe.
Digital Flowmeter w/ Wireless Capability, Gateway, and Drill Guide Kit

If you’d like to find out more about how easy it is to measure, manage, and optimize your compressed air usage, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Six Steps to Optimization: Step 1 – Measure the Air Consumption

Six Steps to Optimizing Your Compressed Air System

Since air compressors use a lot of electricity to make compressed air, it is important to use the compressed air as efficiently as possible. EXAIR has six simple steps to optimize your compressed air system. Following these steps will help you to cut electrical costs, reduce overhead, and improve your bottom line. In this blog, I will cover the first step – Measure the air consumption to find sources that use a lot of compressed air.

Information is important to diagnose wasteful and problematic areas within your compressed air system. To measure air consumption, flow meters are used to find the volume or mass of compressed air per unit of time. Flow rates are very useful data points to find problems like leaks, over-use in blow-offs, waste calculations, and comparison analysis.

There are many different types of flow meters. Many of them entail a breakdown of your current compressed air lines by cutting, welding, or dismantling for installation. This will add cost in downtime and maintenance staff. But, not with the EXAIR Digital Flowmeters. In this blog, I will share the features and benefits of the Digital Flowmeters including options for you to start measuring and optimizing your compressed air system in Step 1.

Digital Flowmeter

Overall, it only takes a few minutes to install and start measuring. The installation kit comes with a drill bit and a drill guide to properly locate the two holes on the pipe. The Digital Flowmeter uses a clamp to mount to the pipe and to seal the area around the probes. Once it is powered, the unit is ready to measure the air flow inside the pipe with a large LED display. The display can be customized to show flow readings in three different units; SCFM, M3/hr or M3/min; and, it can display the Daily Usage and Cumulative Usage.

To get started, the EXAIR Digital Flowmeter is a thermal dispersion device that can accurately measure compressed air flows. They use two sensing probes for comparative analysis. One probe is a temperature sensing probe, and the other is a flow-sensing probe. By comparing these, the Digital Flowmeter can measure precisely the mass air flow without needing to be recalibrated. They are a cost-effective, accurate, and simple way to measure compressed air flows.

EXAIR stocks a large volume of Digital Flowmeters to ship same day for U.S. and Canadian customers. We also offer a 30-day unconditional guarantee to try them out. We stock meters for pipe diameters from ½” NPT to 4″ NPT Schedule 40 black pipe. EXAIR can also offers flow meters up to 8″ NPT black pipe; copper pipes with diameters from 3/4″ to 4″, and aluminum pipes with diameters ranging from 40mm to 101mm. If you have another type of piping for your compressed air system, you can give us the material, O.D. or I.D., and wall thickness. We may still be able to get a Digital Flowmeter for you.

For measuring, all the units come standard with a 4 – 20mA analog output. Per your request, we can change this signal to a serial output for RS-485 or Ethernet connections. What more can we offer with the EXAIR Digital Flowmeter? Options. Options upgrade the flow meters to better suit your application. Here is a list below:

EXAIR’s Digital Flowmeter w/ USB Data Logger

USB Data Logger: This option allows for a recording of the flow information. With a software download, you can setup the USB Data Logger to record the flows from once a second (roughly 9 hours of storage) to every 12 hours. After the data points are recorded, you can then download the information into the software to review. Then the information can be uploaded into an Excel program to do further analysis.

Summing Remote: With compressed air pipes running along the ceiling and walls, reading the Digital Flowmeter may be difficult. The Summing Remote has a 50-foot (15 meter) cable to bring the LED display into viewing. The Summing Remote is powered by the Digital Flowmeter, and it can be positioned at eye level, inside managers’ rooms, or around large equipment for monitoring.

Digital Flowmeter w/ Wireless Capability, Gateway, and Drill Guide Kit

Wireless Capability: Our latest Digital Flowmeter now has wireless capabilities. They use a Zigbee® communications to pick up flow readings from other flow meters and the Gateway. The Gateway can detect over 100 Digital Flowmeters in your facility. From the Gateway, the information is transferred through a LAN. You can record and analyze the flow information from each meter on the network with our EXAIR® Logger Software. You can set limits to send warnings when your compressed air system is using too much or too little of compressed air. This technology makes it very easy for measuring your compressed air system in the entire facility without having to be there.

Hot Tap DFM

Hot Tap Digital Flowmeter: This option is a great way to install a Digital Flowmeter to the pipe without shutting down the compressed air line. We offer this option for 2″ and larger flow meters for steel and copper pipes. It gives a quick and easy way to attach if you have a 24-hour operation or a critical process that needs to continue to run.

Pressure Sensing Port

Pressure Sensing Digital Flowmeter: If you would like to know the compressed air flow and the air pressure, this option will be able to do this. They are available with the Digital Flowmeters for steel and copper pipes that are 2″ and larger, and for the aluminum piping that is 50mm and larger. This option can display pressure units in either PSI or Bar right on the same LED display that shows the flow readings.

Blocking Rings

Block-Off Rings: If you want to move your Digital Flowmeter, the Block-Off Rings will be able to cover the openings in your compressed air pipe. They seal around the drilled opening when the Digital Flowmeter is removed from the pipe. They are reusable; so, they can be removed if you want to remount the Digital Flowmeter in the same spot. If you want to use one flow meter in different locations, the Block-Off Rings allow you do this.

When you need to analyze your pneumatic components, flow is an important point in diagnosing the overall “health” of your compressed air system. The EXAIR Digital Flowmeter can give you that important data point. With optimization, you can cut your energy consumption, improve pneumatic efficiencies, and save yourself money. This blog is an overview of Step 1 of six steps. You may have more questions; and, that is great! You can find them in other EXAIR blogs, or you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR.

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

Compressed Air Flowmeter Overview and Options

 

EXAIR Digital Flowmeters can be an important part of your compressed air system for optimization.  Flow is a measurement that is directly related to your cost for operation; and, it can help in determining efficiency, leak rates and the overall “health” of your pneumatic system.  Th Digital Flowmeters are easy-to-read, easy-to-install, and easy-to-record devices.  You will not have to disrupt your piping system with cutting, welding, or dismantling for installation.  In this blog, I will share some product information and options that work with the EXAIR Digital Flowmeters.

The EXAIR Digital Flowmeter is a thermal dispersion device that can accurately measure compressed air flows.  They use two sensing probes for comparative analysis.  One probe is a temperature sensing probe, and the other is a flow-sensing probe. By comparing these, the Digital Flowmeter can measure accurately even in low flow regions.  Also, they do not need to be re calibrated.  They are CE and RoHS certified., and they do not have any moving part to wear.  The EXAIR Digital Flowmeters are a cost-effective, simple way to measure compressed air flows.

To get started, I will go over the design of the Digital Flowmeter.  The two sensing probes as discussed above will have to be installed in the air stream.  This is done with the Drill Guide Kit.  This kit includes a guide to properly locate the two holes in the pipe and a drill bit for the correct clearance.  The Digital Flowmeter uses a clamp design to mount onto the pipe and to seal the area around the probes.  Once it is powered, the unit is ready to measure the air flow inside the pipe with a large LED display.  The display can be customized to show flow readings in three different units; SCFM, M3/hr or M3/min.  It can also display Daily Usage and Cumulative Usage. Overall, it only takes a few minutes to install and start using.

EXAIR stocks a large volume of Digital Flowmeters to ship same day.  We also offer a 30-day unconditional guarantee for domestic and Canadian customers to try them out.  The ranges that we stock are for pipe diameters from ½” NPT to 4” NPT Schedule 40 black pipe.  For non-stocked items, EXAIR can go as large as 8” NPT Schedule 40 black pipe.  We can also get Digital Flowmeters to use with copper pipes from 3/4” to 4” sizes, and to use with aluminum pipes with the O.D. ranging from 40mm to 101mm.  If you use other types of piping for your compressed air system, you can give us the material, outside diameter/inside diameter, and the wall thickness.  We may still be able to get a Digital Flowmeter for you to use.

What sets our Digital Flowmeters apart from other types are the features and benefits.  All of the units come standard with a 4 – 20mA analog output.  We can also offer this signal as a serial output per your request for RS-485 or Ethernet connections.  The maximum pressure for the units is 200 PSIG (13.8 Bar), but we have a high pressure option to go as high as 600 PSIG (41 Bar).  If your Digital Flowmeter needs better protection for splash resistance, we can also offer units with a NEMA 4 (IP66) rating.

What more can we offer with the EXAIR Digital Flowmeter?  Options.  Options upgrade the flow meters to better suit your application.  Here is a list below.

USB Data Logger: This option allows for a record of the flow information.  With a software download, you can setup the USB Data Logger to record the flows from once a second (roughly 9 hours of storage) to every 12 hours.  Once the unit has been configured, you just plug in the unit into the Digital Flowmeter and let it record the data points.  You can then upload the information into the software program to review.  It also has the ability to transfer the information into an Excel program to do further analysis.

Summing Remote:  With compressed air piping running along the ceiling and walls, it may be difficult to see the Digital Flowmeter.  The Summing Remote has a 50-foot (15 meter) cable to bring the flow measurements from the Digital Flowmeter for viewing.  The Summing Remote is powered by the Digital Flowmeter, and it can also show the daily and cumulative readings.  They can be positioned at eye level near stations, inside managers’ rooms, or around large equipment for monitoring.

Hot Tap:  This option is for Digital Flowmeters that are 2” and larger for steel and copper pipes.  It gives a quick and easy way to attach the Digital Flowmeter to the pipe without shutting down the compressed air line.  If you have a 24-hour operation or a critical process that needs to run, this option would be a great way to install the EXAIR Digital Flowmeter without disturbing the system.

Pressure Sensing:  If you would like to know the compressed air flow and the air pressure on the same unit, this option is able to do this.  They are available with the Digital Flowmeters for steel and copper pipes that are 2” and larger, and for the aluminum piping that are 50mm and larger.  This option can display the pressure units in either PSI or Bar right on the LED display.

Block-Off Rings:  If you want to relocate your Digital Flowmeter, the Block-Off Rings will be able to cover the openings.  They seal around the area when the Digital Flowmeter is removed from the pipe.  They are reusable; so, they can be removed if you want to remount the Digital Flowmeter in the same spot.  Or if you want to use one flow meter in different locations, the Block-Off Rings allow you do this.

Wireless Capability:  Our latest Digital Flowmeter now has wireless capabilities.  They use a Zigbee® communications to pick up flow readings from different flow meters without running communication wires.  The Gateway is a system that can detect over 100 Digital Flowmeters located throughout your facility.  From the Gateway, the information is transferred through a LAN to your computer.  You can record and analyze the flow information from each meter on the network with our EXAIR® Logger Software.  You can set limits to send warning when your compressed air system is using too much or too little of compressed air.  This technology makes it very easy for measuring your compressed air system in different areas without having to be there.

When you need to analyze your pneumatic components, flow is an important point in diagnosing the overall “health” of your compressed air system.  The EXAIR Digital Flowmeter can give you that important data point.  With this overview, you may have additional questions and that is great.  An Application Engineer at EXAIR is here to help.  We can support you in determining the product and options that will work best for you.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com

Twitter: @EXAIR_jb