Many people are surprised to discover that operating costs throughout the life of compressed air equipment greatly exceeds the initial purchase price. In most cases, the annual energy cost alone will exceed the purchase price in the first year of operation. Locating and repairing leaks, reducing inappropriate uses, adding air receivers, reducing pressures, and recovering heat are all good strategies.
Before you can decide on which strategy is best to improve your system’s energy costs, you must first baseline your system by taking measurements to quantify the efficiency of the compressed air system in its current state. The baseline figures establish your current system’s efficiency, cost, and reliability. These measurements include power, energy, pressure, leak load, flow and temperature.
Improving and maintaining peak compressed air system performance requires addressing individual components, as well as the supply and demand sides of the system. On the supply side, it’s important to calculate costs required to produce the compressed air. An analysis of the system’s demand side is critical as it’s the main overall cost driver in producing compressed air. Consider the following when looking at your system’s demand side.
- Identify the air uses, along with cfm and pressure
- Determine the power before and after making any system changes
- Determine overall leak levels
- Calculate the compressed air cost for a given process or piece of equipment using flow meters
- Operate the system at the lowest possible pressure
- Turn off the air to any idled equipment
- Verify that compressed air is the best alternative for the application
- Monitor pressure drops by installing gauges at various points in the main distribution piping
- Adjust controls after every change to optimize the savings
Baselining your compressed air system is an excellent way to calculate your potential dollar savings and report the facts to management to assist in making better decisions on new equipment selection and the mode of operation of existing equipment.