Minimising compressed air leaks boosts efficiency and saves money

Monday, October 29, 2018

According to The Carbon Trust, of the total energy supplied to a compressor, as little as 8-10 per cent may be converted into useful energy that can be used at the point of use. 

Compressed air

According to The Carbon Trust, of the total energy supplied to a compressor, as little as 8-10 per cent may be converted into useful energy that can be used at the point of use. Unknown to many businesses is the opportunity to boost the energy efficiency of their compressed air systems, which can save over 30% of the energy used in some cases.

 

One area where there are significant efficiency savings to be made is in minimising air leaks. All compressed air systems have them – even if the compressor is new. A well-maintained system might leak by as much as 10%, but the reality is that many currently being used will be higher. In some cases, this might account for up to 50% of the generated output.

 

To put the cost of air leaks into perspective, one 3mm hole could cost over £1,000 per year in wasted energy.

 

So, how can you minimise lost energy and reduce costs? The first step is to conduct an audit. This will identify each and every leak. This can be achieved through ultrasound detection. When compressed air escapes, friction develops between the gas molecules and the pipe wall. This friction produces a high-frequency ultrasound inaudible to the human ear.  A compressed air leak detector can register the ultrasound, transform it into an audible sound and indicate it optically.

 

Once leaks have been identified, the next step is to take action. The most common air losses occur due to microcracks, worn-out flange joints, defective sealing rings or loosened connections – and all are easily remedied.

 

Some compressed air service providers offer continued leak management and monitoring as part of their equipment maintenance agreements. This is worth considering when evaluating one such provider’s offering against another that does not offer the same service.

 

A new trend in maintenance management is for some manufacturers to offer compressors with built-in leakage monitoring devices. These devices automatically calculate losses through system leaks and give an estimate of their actual cost in a visual display. Monitoring losses on an ongoing basis in this way makes it very easy for the compressed air user to manage the system, and if costs start to escalate the data provided will prompt the user to conduct a thorough survey to determine the source of the leaks.

 

Getting leaks under control – both through corrective maintenance and leakage monitoring devices – is essential. The result is not only a reduction in wasted energy but also reduced demand on installed compressor performance, which reduces compressor wear and tear.

 

Learn more about improving energy efficiency with this selection of compressed air guides.