Air compressor pressure drop is one of the costliest issues that can emerge in a pressurized air system. One of the most troubling aspects of an ongoing compressor pressure drop is the length of time it can take to pinpoint the problem. If you notice your productivity has decreased and processes have taken longer to complete with your preexisting arsenal, pressure drop would be one of the likeliest probable causes. The following article covers ways to identify and minimize compressor pressure drop.
Why Excessive Pressure Drops Can Elevate Energy Consumption and Decrease Performance
Pressure drop will hamper the performance of your air system and force your compressor to use more energy to complete essential functions. The majority of pressure drop cases occur at the demand side of the system, typically at points of use where air could leak due to faulty connections. To prevent pressurization loss between the air compressor and your pneumatic tools and machines, make sure no leaks or obstructions are present on any of the following system parts.
- Hoses: If leaks are present along any stretch of the hoses, you will lose pressure between the air compressor and your pneumatic tools. You are more likely to have leaks if a significant distance is present between the compressor itself and your end-point processes, in large part due to the length of hoses required for the whole arsenal. Leaks in hoses may exist at the connecting points on either end or anywhere along the rubber.
- Tubes: As with hoses, the metal tubes that lead outside your air compressor could easily leak at any spot between the unit itself and your end-point applications. If the tubes become rusty due to moisture, the metal in the tubing could become brittle and cracked over time, forming holes in the tubes that could cause a loss of pressure in your pneumatic processes.
- Couplings: If the couplings become loose at any point of your compressed-air system, you will inevitably lose pressure due to the loss of air at these connecting points. Couplings must be tight and free of air leaks to secure the flow of pressurized air between the air compressor and your end-point applications. Even the slightest bit of looseness could result in costly pressure loss and reduced efficiency.
- Piping tees: Some of the more vulnerable spots in a pressurized-air system are along the points where the air splits into two directions. If your system includes piping tees, you must make sure these are correctly fitted and tightly connected to avoid the possibility of air leaks. Otherwise, air could leak from these connecting points and cause pressure loss as air passes from the compressor to your pneumatic tools.
- Elbows: As with piping tees, elbow connectors can also be sources of pressure drop along a compressed-air system. If you use this type of connector at any point between your air compressor and the end-point applications, you must make sure no leaks are present on the connecting points. Since these parts are metal, rust could be a problem if too much moisture is present in the air. You should also double-check the grip on each side to make sure the fits are sealed and tight.
- Filters: You can lose pressure at the filters of a compressed-air system if you fail to inspect these parts periodically. Any part of the system where air flows between the pressurization chambers and the end-point applications could be vulnerable if leaks are present. Clean filters regularly and replace them when necessary to prevent the kind of system strain that can otherwise occur when pressurized air cannot get filtered adequately.
- Regulators: In an air compressor, the regulators must be fully functional at all times to properly control the passage of air to end-point applications. If too much pressure goes through, it could ruin some of the delicate applications that take place in a factory setting. If too much pressure gets restricted, it could ruin applications that need more pressure. Likewise, if air leaks at this point in the system, your processes will be less efficient and more costly.
- Valves: Any valves along your compressed-air system must be tight-fitting and secured correctly to prevent pressure loss. If any of the connecting points become loose or rusty, it will compromise their integrity and lead to pressure drops. These losses could be subtle at first, but the reduced efficiency will soon become apparent as your productivity plummets and your energy bills skyrocket. Therefore, check your valves for leaks and looseness periodically.
- Nozzles: The nozzles on the connecting points of your compressor system could also be places of pressure loss, especially if you fail to inspect these parts regularly. Connecting points can become loose over time, especially when you frequently use your system for high-pressure applications. Inspect the nozzle for air leaks and pressure loss each time you examine your system’s performance.
- Lubricators: If your air compressor contains a lubricating component, you will need to inspect this from time to time to make sure it functions properly. If this or any other part of your system is getting forced to work harder than average to complete essential functions, it will mean your system is straining and losing its efficiency. Pressure drop is a natural consequence of such issues.
Even with all the maintenance you could possibly perform on the demand side, certain parts on the supply side could also be sources of pressure loss in an air system. Check the following components on your air compressor if you have a problem with pressure drop.
- Air/lubricant separators: On the supply side of a lubricated rotary compressor, the air/lubricant separator could be a source of pressure loss. To prevent this from happening, you must inspect this component occasionally to ensure it functions properly and does not overwork the system. When fully functioning, the separator should prevent the spread of oil through the air that passes through your system with no expense to the pressurization.
- After-coolers: An after-cooler must work as intended at all times to keep temperatures at their proper level. If the after-cooler fails to work as designed, the gases could become too hot as they pass through the system, causing a loss of density. When you inspect your system components, make sure the after-cooler is fully functioning and free of any dirt or obstructions that could cause it to slow or become ineffective.
- Moisture separators: The purpose of an air compressor is to pressurize air for use as power on a variety of end-point applications. If the moisture separator in your compressor fails to work properly, each outgoing air supply could become compromised with an unhealthy amount of moisture. This excess moisture will weaken the air pressure and render your pneumatic processes less efficient, forcing your system to strain harder to perform its critical functions.
- Dryers: The dryers within your system must work efficiently to remove moisture from the interior components and incoming air supplies. If you allow too much moisture to linger, it will infect the mechanisms of your compressor and compromise the pressurization process. The presence of water will also hamper the air that passes through the system, contaminating each outgoing supply with moisture that will ultimately lead to costly pressure losses.
- Filters: The filters in your system must do their part to remove dust and dirt that could enter the compressor. Compressed air is supposed to be clean and pure. Otherwise, the pressure will be compromised, and your end-point applications will suffer as a result. Inspect the filters occasionally to make sure they are free of clogs or dirt buildup that would inhibit the free flow of air.
Periodic maintenance of all the components mentioned above can help you minimize compressor pressure drop and reap the benefits of a better-working air system.
Overview of Ways to Reduce Pressure Drop
If you can pinpoint pressure drop to one of the aforementioned sources, preventive maintenance might correct the issue. If not, you might have to move some things around and replace the troubled parts of your system.
1. Redesign the System Distribution
When you experience pressure drops, there is every possibility your system layout is too sprawling or sophisticated for an airtight flow or pressurized air between your compressor and the end-point tools. To redress this balance, reorganize the layout of your system components and eliminate any unnecessary go-betweens. For example, if your tools connect to an extension hose that extends across a factory floor, consider moving the tools or the compressor to eliminate this extension piece.
2. Replace Faulty Hoses
Inspect your hoses regularly for kinks, folds, bends or any other irregularities that could block the flow of air or cause the rubber to crack. Inspect the connecting points on the system itself and at each end-point tool. If the hoses are loose or emit strange noises, you might have a leak that is causing a loss of air pressure. Replace any hoses that appear defective. If possible, reduce the amount of distance between the compressor and your various pneumatic processes, as shorter hoses are easier to maintain.
3. Replace Bad Tubing
If your system features tubing between the compressor and your end-point tools, make sure each tube is airtight and appropriately sealed at each end. Inspect the length of each tube for the presence of kinks, folds or holes. Also, check for traces of rust formation, as this could slowly degrade the tubing quality and cause drops in pressure to occur during pneumatic applications.
4. Inspect Each Pipe Connector
Inspect each connecting component along the system for signs of looseness or leaks. If a connection between two parts appears to be a poor fit, replace the connectors with properly sized parts. Any parts that send pressurized air along a curb or split the air into two different streams could be a major source of pressure loss if the part is not secure. If possible, remove any complicated connecting points that may exist in your system and rewire things with a more straightforward set of connectors and hoses.
5. Clean and Replace Filters
Regularly clean your filters, and replace any that become too clogged or dirty to perform the necessary filtration functions for your pressurized air system. For best results, inspect each filter at least once per week. Even if you only use your air compressor part-time, dirt and dust within the air can still land in this area and cause the filter to become dirty unless you clean it out as needed.
6. Reset the Regulators
Check the settings on the pressure regulators and adjust if necessary to prevent your system from wasting energy. If pressure drops still occur and you cannot pinpoint the problem to any other possible cause, replace the regulator with a newer one programmed for maximum pressure-drop reduction at the highest operating intensities.
7. Change the Lubricators
Your lubricators need to be the appropriate size for the actual flow rate of your system, as opposed to the average flow rate. If your lubricators fail to work correctly within your current system, change them out with lubricators rated for maximum pressure-drop reduction at optimal levels of operation. The goal here is to achieve the best possible performance with a minimum of pressure differential.
8. Replace Your After-Cooler
If your after-cooler has failed to adequately regulate the temperature of gases within your system, replace the part. When you change out the after-cooler, make sure the incoming one is designed for the lowest possible pressure drop at the maximum operating conditions specified for your compressor. Therefore, when your compressor handles high-intensity operations in the future, it won’t force the after-cooler to strain to cool the air in your system.
9. Replace the Separators
The separators in your air compressor must do their job to filter moisture from incoming and outgoing air supplies. You must also extract any presence of oil from the pressurized air before things proceed through the hoses to your pneumatic tools. If none of these processes are working effectively, swap out your filters with replacements graded for maximum pressure-drop reduction at the highest operating specs of your air compressor.
10. Replace the Dryers
On the supply side of your system, you must have a dryer that can keep moisture levels as low as possible. If your current dryer has failed in this regard, change it out for a newer unit rated for the lowest possible pressure drops at maximum operating conditions. Remember, if your dryer fails to work correctly, the air in your system will not get sufficiently pressurized as it exits the system. A failing dryer will also affect interior components by allowing rust-causing moisture buildup.
11. Reduce the Distance Air Must Travel
One of the biggest causes of pressure drop is the lengthy travel time between an air compressor and the various pneumatic tools and machines in a factory setting. Even if all the parts are in perfect working condition, you could still suffer pressure loss if the air must pass through dozen-foot tubes, connectors, hoses, connectors and further hoses before connecting to your pneumatic tools. If the distances are overly long, do whatever it takes to reduce the number of connecting points in your pressurized air system.
Benefits of Monitoring and Reducing Pressure Drops
Pressure drop is one of those issues that can slowly increase and gradually reduce the quality of your operations. Consequently, you might not notice the difference until you have a major problem at hand. On the upside, you could see some drastic improvement once you minimize compressor pressure drop.
1. Improved Performance
If you manage to minimize air compressor pressure drop in your system, the overall performance of your pneumatic processes could improve twofold. You could finish processes that may have once taken minutes to complete in a matter of seconds, thanks to the smother airflow and pressurized consistency. With reduced pressure drop, there will also be fewer instances of system downtime and other costly setbacks.
2. Reduced Maintenance
Minimal pressure drop goes hand-in-hand with a low-maintenance, trouble-free system. Therefore, if you make improvements to your system that drastically reduce pressure drop, compressor maintenance intervals will be longer and less costly. When you first commit to reducing the amount of pressure drop that occurs during your pneumatic processes, one of the best things you can do is invest in newer, better equipment to facilitate the passage of air between the start and end points, as this will make your system less trouble-prone for the foreseeable future.
3. Lower Operating Costs
With reduced compressor pressure drop, you can also bring operating costs down to more manageable levels. Once your system performs more efficiently, it will take less time to complete tasks. As such, you will win both ways by having a system that requires less maintenance and requires less money to operate, as well as a system that can be more productive, thus allowing you to get more return on your investments.
4. Increased Productivity
If you operate compressed-air equipment for commercial purposes, you could easily boost your productivity and profit margin once you lower the pressure drop in your air system. Even if you manage to speed up each rotation by a couple of seconds, that difference could add up if you are producing 15 copies of a product per minute. The benefits of increased productivity might even lead to further insights that could help you boost product volumes at your facility, improving your image in the minds of partnered entities.
5. Customer Satisfaction
As your productivity improves, so too will your reputation among customers. With a better-functioning air system, your facility could ultimately turn out products of considerably higher quality. Depending on the product, you could increase your production loads to the point where you can now produce scarce products from your factory inventory in higher volumes, thus making those products available to more people.
6. Cleaner Air
If your air system works more efficiently, it will consume less energy and reduce the amount of gases in the air at your facility. Therefore, the working environment will be cleaner and healthier for the people on your workforce, whether you use a rotary screw compressor or a reciprocating compressor to power your pneumatic processes.
7. Reduced Emissions
As the air within your work facility becomes cleaner, your factory will reduce its carbon footprint. A factory that consumes less energy will burn fewer fossil fuels, thus lowering the volume of greenhouse gases that stem from it.
8. Improved Brand Image
As your company improves its productivity and environmental practices, your brand image could easily enjoy a boost in the minds of consumers. The benefits of reduced pressure drop could go a long way toward improving your operations on multiple fronts.
Air Compressors and Parts From Quincy Compressor
Pressure drop is generally a non-issue at factories equipped with new arsenals of advanced, high-powered air compressors, pneumatic tools and connectors. If your system has repeatedly displayed costly performance issues like pressure drop, it may be time to replace some of your older parts of your air system. At Quincy Compressor, we carry a range or reciprocating and rotary screw air compressors for a variety of industrial uses and smaller operations. Contact us today or browse our catalog to learn more about the compressors and parts in our inventory.