Compressed air is an important system in many industrial applications, including operating certain pneumatic tools and air-operated control valves and fabric filter cleaning systems. While it is a necessity in manufacturing, power plants, and healthcare industries, improper use of the compressed air systems could result in staggering amounts of wasted energy and high utility bills. In most cases, as much as 70% of the electricity powering the system winds up as waste heat.
Due to the high consumption of energy required to compress air, it is considered the 4th most expensive utility following electricity, water, and gas. The total energy cost of a typical air compressor system is several times higher than its purchase price. For an air compressor to generate 1 hp worth of work, it would require about 8 hp of electricity.
However, conserving energy is possible. To operate and maintain an energy-efficient air compressor system, it’s vital to perform detailed assessments to identify and address problem areas.
Here are some quick tips to reduce the cost and save money and energy when using compressed air:
- Analyze Air Consumption
Only 50% of the total compressed air generated by the system is used for the intended process; the other 50% is lost due to misuse, artificial demand, and leaks. Artificial demand is caused by the extra margins on sizing compressed air systems for pressure and flow requirements. It consumes about 10 to 15% of compressed air, which translates to wasted money.
Inspect the system regularly to detect any signs of incorrect usage. Luckily, using a fan, blowing, or vacuum pump helps minimize energy consumption and maximize the efficiency of several applications, including cabinet cooling, liquid stirring, and vacuum generation. Knowing where the air goes helps you create an effective action plan to lower any unnecessary consumption of compressed air.
- Check the inside of its piping system
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” they say. Be proactive in checking the health and internal condition of the pipes. A dry, clean pipe ensures good quality and prevents potential corrosion. When dust accumulates and clogs the filter, it causes a drop in pressure, risking the contamination.
Sludge and a clogged filter are bad news and need to be repaired immediately. These can cause corrosion in the compressed air piping system and increase the risk of leaks. Dried and filtered compressed air ensures the pipes are clean.
- Reduce Pressure
One of the most common mistakes made in power plants is running air compressors at high pressure to satisfy the demand of a single device or application. This wastes a significant amount of compressed air, especially when each device or application has unique pressure requirements.
Using a separate compressor or booster helps conserve the amount of compressed air during operations. Air compressor systems will operate at reduced pressure, minimizing the risk of leakage and lowering overall energy consumption. Before purchasing a separate compressor, make sure to do the following:
- Check the validity of compressor control settings.
- Inspect for any signs of pressure drops through piping systems, dryers, and filters.
- Ascertain if there is artificial demand.
- Check for Leaks
Check for any signs of pipe leaks, inspect air pressure distribution, and evaluate pipe sizing. Leakage and incorrect pipe size are the usual culprits for unwanted pressure drops, which causes the system to work harder and use more energy. Depending on the type of system, leaks account for 20 to 30% of air consumption.
- Optimize Moisture Drains
Draining moisture from the air systems maintains the right air quality for system loads. Most power plants no longer use manual drain valves. If your plant still does, upgrade to a drain trap to remove water from the system.
Timer-based air compressor systems are designed to open at scheduled intervals to drain moisture on a regular basis. However, seasonal humidity changes can affect moisture accumulation throughout the year. Although you can adjust the scheduled intervals to compensate for the seasonal changes, the timers can only be set once for the most humid time of the year. Each cycle of drain valve results in wasted compressed air.
A no-loss drain trap uses a valve and float mechanism that prevents unnecessary air wastage. This type of drain trap enables the float to automatically open the drain valve each time the water level rises and closes as the level drops.
- Use the Right Dryer and Filter
Understanding how compressed air is filtered and dried will allow you to piece together a more efficient system that minimizes energy waste. When selecting a dryer and filter, you may be asking the following questions:
- Whether a desiccant or refrigerant dryer would work best for your compressed air needs
- What the right level of filtration is
- Whether it’s necessary or not to acquire various filters, lubricants, and regulators
Whatever question you have in mind, the answer remains the same — it depends on the application. Consider these helpful tips when using dryers and filters to minimize compressed air costs:
- Never exceed drying the compressed air more than the application requirement.
- Consider using a refrigerant-type dryer for initial drying and dry compressed air further only to meet its standard requirement.
- Each filter can cause a drop in pressure, costing you more money. Make sure to avoid excessive filtering.
- Proper Care and Maintenance
Like other industrial machinery, air compressors operate more efficiently when given proper care and maintenance. Regular maintenance reduces energy costs by 1%. It can also prevent potential breakdowns that may result in decreased production and unexpected downtime.
- Recover Heat
According to simple physics, heat is the result of compressing air, and you can recover as much as 90-95% of heat from certain compressor systems. A radiator-cooled unit is designed to provide air for space heating in the building, while a water-cooled unit is often used in power plants to produce hot water.
Before you purchase an air compressor system, make sure to do some research to know which best fits your operations, pressure, and capacity requirements. Start by considering these helpful tips and commit to implementing energy and cost-saving strategies.
Commercial Air Compressor Ltd. is your go-to store for commercial and industrial air compressor systems. Talk to our all-round customer support professionals and we will help determine the right compressor for the unique demands of your facilities.
Call Commercial Air today at (905) 415-7744, and let us know all about all your compressed air needs.