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How do I reduce the running costs of my compressed air system?

How can I reduce the running costs of my compressed air system?

There are a number of things you can do to reduce the electrical costs of creating your compressed air. Some of these are easy to achieve with little or no incremental costs some are more complex and strategic which require planning and investment. All should be built into your business plans and company regular maintenance procedures. In this article we are looking at the more expensive or more complex things that can help you save electrical costs. Click here to see the first article in this series that looks at the quick, easy and low cost things you can do.

 

Now lets look at the low cost fixes

 

Check and fix air leaks in your pipework / attached equipment

This sounds a completely obvious fix but practically every compressed air system over a year old will have some degree of leaks. The leaks may be in the pipework or may be in the fittings connected to the pipework or may be within the machines that use the compressed air.

There are lots of ways of checking pipework for leaks. One of the best methods is using an ultrasonic tester which listens for the sound of an air leak. There are also systems that use leak detection fluid (a bit like putting a bike inner tube into a bucket of water) and looking for bubbles. However, the key is that even a very small leak, maybe a leak that is too small to hear with your ear will be wasting several cfm.

 

See our compressed air leak chart below

 

Leak noise level (dB)                           Sounds like                         leak size (cfm @100psi)            approx cost (per hour)

10                                                             normal breathing               0.5                                                 £0.01

20                                                             mosquito                             0.7                                                  £0.01

30                                                             whisper                                1.3                                                  £0.03

40                                                             domestic fridge                  1.5                                                   £0.03

50                                                             quiet office                          2.5                                                   £0.05

 

 

A typical small compressed air system that is several years old will have between 10 and 30 separate leaks equating to a cost of leaks of between £2 and £7 per day.

 

Air Equipment can come and do a ultrasonic leak test on your compressed air system to identify and repair the significant leaks in your compressed air system. The cost of this can easily be saved in a few months by the energy saved.

 

 

Use the heat generated by your compressor for space or water heating

This is a slightly different approach to saving energy costs. You compressor creates a lot of heat as part of the compression process. Typically over 80% of the energy used in the compression process is given off as heat. For our 11KW compressor this means about 9KW of the input energy is given off as heat, this heat is usually released to the atmosphere and wasted. It is usually easy to duct this heat into a building to help keep the building warm. This reduces the amount of other heating required, saving energy costs.

 

 

Hot air heat recovery system diagram | reduce the running costs of my compressed air system

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alternatively it is a relatively easy add a heat exchanger to the air compressor cooling system and then this can be used to pre-heat water for the central heating system, showers or warm process water etc. Again this is a relatively low cost approach that can save money used for heating elsewhere in the business.

 

Water heat recovery diagram | reduce the running costs of my compressed air system

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strategic / higher cost fixes

These ways of saving electrical costs are quite expensive to implement, usually requiring replacement of capital plant, however, they are things that need to be considered when looking at replacing worn out equipment or when purchasing new equipment for a new factory extension or new production line etc.

 

Replace pipework with leak free smooth bore systems

This part of the article is still being written. Please come back later to see the finished article

 

 

 

Pipework tends to evolve rather than be designed!

This part of the article is still being written. Please come back later to see the finished article

 

 

Replace you current fixed speed compressor with a variable speed unit

This part of the article is still being written. Please come back later to see the finished article

 

 

The British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) the UK trade body for Compressed Air Manufacturers and Distributors have produced a white paper on saving energy costs on compressed air systems. Click here to download the BCAS efficiency white paper