Compressed air is not only an integral part of the manufacturing process, but it is often referred to as the “fourth utility” at facilities. From small machines shops to paper and pulp mills, every industrial plan uses some kind of compressed air (pneumatic) system. In fact, in many cases, facilities can’t operate without compressed air systems. These can vary in sizes, ranging from a 5 horsepower (hp) unit to a 50,000 hp huge system.
These systems power a wide range of equipment, like machine tools, spray painting equipment, separation and material handling equipment.
While compressed air is a free commodity, by the time air is compressed, dried, cooled and regulated, it ends up being one of the most expensive energy expenses in a manufacturing plant—accounting for nearly 30% of the total energy bill. Approximately 8 hp of electrical power is needed for 1hp of compressed air. Hence, inefficiencies in compressed air systems can result in thousands of dollars!
System improvements in a compressed air system can reduce maintenance, increase production throughput, improve product quality, and most importantly, save energy.
Let’s look at some key principles that can help you achieve an efficient compressed air system and keep the costs down in the long run:
1. Test and Fix Leaks
All compressed air systems are likely to have leaks—with large ones being the most audible. Make a continuous effort to evaluate for air leaks and fix them as soon as they are found. Test your system annually when your system isn’t in production.
Many consultants offer energy audits and leak-detection services to carry out no-load tests for leaks. Since a 1/8 inch diameter hole can cost you over $1,200/year in wasted energy, quick response and maintenance is critical.
What’s more is that ultrasonic leak detectors can help you hone in on air leaks even in a noisy environment.
2. Reduce Pressure at Low-Usage Points
In a multi-use system, the pressure level of the compressed air matches the highest pressure tool in the system. This means that air pressure is being wasted for low pressure tools.
A 10% reduction in pressure can result in 5% savings in energy!
It’s important to mention here that you should always make small, incremental reductions in pressure, all the while making sure the systems’ operations remain unaffected.
3. Improve System Design
Let’s look at some ways that you can improve system design in order to improve efficiency:
Replace Ill-Fitting Accessories
Ill-fitting pipes, in addition to sharp bends and narrow delivery lines can cause pressure drops and increased friction.
A better design ensures adequate pressure reaches the point of use.
Utah Pneumatic push to connect fittings tube
Use Alternatives Where Possible
A large storage tank can buffer short-term demand fluctuations and consequently reduce on/off cycling. Moreover, a tank can prevent pressure drops below minimum requirements.
Remember, a pressure drop can increase overall system pressure, resulting in wasted air pressure. Tanks should be sized based on the compressor’s power.
Our Pneumatic Fittings Ensure Maximum Air Efficiency!
Here, at Utah Pneumatic, we offer push to connect fittings, quick-connect couplings and air filter regulators available in a wide range of sizes, materials and ports to satisfy almost every pneumatic application.
Get in touch with us today for more details!
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