Do you have air leaking from your pipes?

In many facilities, one of the prime culprits for energy waste is compressed air or compressed gas leaks. Although these are very common, they are often difficult to detect through a visual inspection.


Courtesy: L&S ElectricTo measure the efficiency of any operation, observe the amount of power produced by the energy input, which can be true of electrical power going into a motor, but it is also true of any factor that could waste energy. In many facilities, one of the prime culprits for energy waste is compressed air or compressed gas leaks. Although these are very common, they are often difficult to detect through a visual inspection.

Locating and repairing leaks provide multiple benefits for the facility. Fixing leaks not only results in financial savings, due to the increased efficiency of the machine, it also produces a safer working environment, especially in the case of a gas leak. Repairing leaks could result in environmental benefits as well.

The table below illustrates how much a leak costs a facility, assuming the air is at 100 psi (based on a nozzle coefficient of .79) and an air cost of 25 cents per 1,000 cubic feet.

Compressed air leak survey

One of the most popular and efficient ways to detect a gas or air leak is from a compressed air leak survey using an ultrasound machine. When a leak exists, the fluid or gas is going to move from high-pressure to low-pressure. As it passes through the area where the leak exists, it creates turbulent flow.

An ultrasound leak inspection provides an easy way to identify that turbulence. The turbulence produces an ultrasonic noise that may not be heard by the human ear, but when wearing a headset while using an ultrasonic leak detector, it can be heard.

The ultrasonic leak detector allows the user to listen to the strength of the high-frequency signal. Since those ultrasound emissions are going to be localized near the area of the leak, scanning the entire area is possible, and the operator can simply follow the sound of the leak to the point where it is the loudest. After identifying the position of the leak, it can be noted, and suggestions can be made for repairing the leak in the most efficient way possible.

Among the many benefits of using an ultrasonic leak detector is the fact that they can often identify issues when they are not known to exist. A massive leak is easy to identify, perhaps because of an audible sound or because you can smell the gas escaping. Before that time, however, the leak may exist and be undetected for quite some time.

As the name would suggest, the ultrasonic sound that is produced from the gas or air leak is at a frequency above the ability of the human ear to detect. The types of ultrasonic detection used include Heterodyning, in which a narrow range of sound is detected and converted into an audible source.

The other type of ultrasonic detection uses Dynamic Noise Discrimination. This technique does not require a range of frequencies. It can detect any ultrasonic sound although the intensity level can be selected. Using ultrasonic leak detection as part of your preventative maintenance program allows you to find any leak before it becomes a major problem. It is a way of saving both time and money before any large issue exists.

Air leak surveys save you a lot of money

An air compression system with many leaks gets expensive to run over time. If your facility operates compressors of 50 HP or higher, an ultrasonic air leak survey will save you a significant amount of money. For purposes of illustration, we assume the air is at 100 psi (based on a nozzle coefficient of .79) and an air cost of 25 cents per 1,000 cubic feet.

- David Manney is a marketing administrator at L&S Electric. This article originally appeared on L&S Electric Watts New Blog. L&S Electric Inc. is a CFE Media content partner.

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