12 reasons why users should monitor air compressor data

Air compressor data monitoring can help users save money, reduce downtime and improve the efficiency of a compressed air system.

By Kaishan Compressor USA May 17, 2024
Courtesy: Kaishan Compressor USA, New Products for Engineers Database

Compressed air insights

  • There are many reasons to monitor air compressor data, including saving money, avoiding downtime, improving efficiency and optimizing performance and lifespan.
  • The critical measurements to monitor include pressure, temperatures, oil level, power use and vibration and sound.

Like so many parts of an operation, air compressors can now generate a lot of information. Unfortunately, users often feel like they’re being inundated with data. Users often get too much and much of it isn’t very helpful.

However, air compressor data can play an essential role in keeping the plant running smoothly and efficiently. It helps users monitor and control the compressed air system, often called the fourth utility (in addition to electricity, gas and water). There are many reasons why users should monitoring the data coming from a compressed air system.

1. Monitor the system remotely

Newer data monitoring systems give users 24/7 remote access to air compressor data, tracking system performance and identifying readings that are out of spec. That’s an important step in fixing a problem before it starts.

2. Get alerts and notifications

The system can be set up to notify users if pressure drops, temperature increases, electricity consumption rises too abruptly or air quality begins to drop. This gives users time to take corrective action.

3. Enhance efficiency

The data helps users identify issues that are limiting system performance. Perhaps the pressure band is set too high or the system is rapid cycling, wasting energy and shortening equipment life. Monitoring air compressor data and tracking changes in performance will help identify those kinds of issues.

4. Be proactive

By notifying users about irregularities or shortfalls in performance, a monitoring system enables preventive maintenance before an issue becomes a problem.

5. Optimize performance

Imagine having all the relevant data and working with an air compressor professional to tweak system operation and get everything running according to design. That’s the goal of a good air compressor data monitoring program.

6. Lengthen equipment life

Identifying equipment issues such as rapid cycling, when oil changes and oil sampling are required and alerting the user when the compressor is not operating within its design parameters. Good air compressor data monitoring helps keep the air compressor running as designed, ensuring a long, productive life.

7. Enhance safety

A solid air compressor data monitoring system will identify most equipment issues well before they reach the breaking point and avoid accidents that result in damage, lost production and even staff injuries.

8. Comply with regulations

Many state and local regulators require periodic system checks such as tank inspections. Plus, most manufacturers require regular maintenance procedures (e.g., oil sampling) to keep warranties in force. A monitoring system will issue notifications and alerts when it’s time to perform these required procedures.

9. Make maintenance a priority

Seeing the data right up front is a good reminder that “fix it and forget it” does not apply to industrial equipment. As with all the other equipment in the plant, the air compressor needs attention occasionally. The data monitoring system will issue alerts and notifications when maintenance is required. Good maintenance, in turn, more than pays for itself in improved performance, greater reliability and reduced downtime.

10. Improve reliability

Staying on top of system performance will improve the reliability of the air compressor and all the related equipment like receiver tanks, dryers and coolers.

11. Reduce or eliminate downtime

Better monitoring of an air compressor data gives users the opportunity to optimize operations, maintain the system to its highest level of performance and avoid costly breakdowns that damage equipment and shutdowns.

12. Save money

Last but certainly not least, a solid air compressor data monitoring program will save money by optimizing the system. Cutting downtime. Increasing equipment life. Creating a safer environment for the team, to name just a few.

Five air compressor data points to monitor

It’s also important to know what critical measurements to monitor below as well as the reasons.

1. Pressure levels

Pressure, of course, is one of the outcomes the air compressor system delivers. Users will want to measure the compressor’s output and the pressure at the various end uses in the system. An abnormal pressure drop may indicate there is a leaking problem. The larger the gap, the more money being wasted.

In North America, pressure is measured in PSIG, which stands for pounds per square inch gauge and measures the system pressure, the force the end-use application needs to perform a task. Having more PSIG available enables users to do more work with less effort. Globally, the most commonly used measurement of pressure is kilopascals (kPa).

Pressure is set by the highest use. If there are 10 tools needing 80 PSIG and one drawing 90, users will need 90 PSIG of pressure. Users also will want to set the pressure to match the tool with the highest operating pressure, allowing for a modest pressure drop (5-10 PSIG) for treatment, filtration and piping loss. The rest of the devices should be equipped—those requiring less pressure—with pressure-reducing valves or regulators. However, users shouldn’t set operating pressure higher than needed. That wastes energy, causes leaks, generates heat and increases wear.

2. Temperatures

Temperature readings can tell whether the compressor is overworked or whether it is under-performing. Air that is too hot will damage end-use tools and equipment, degrading lubricants and seal materials. Sudden spikes could point to problems with the cooling system or lubrication.

In addition, the water vapor in hot air will cause corrosion and scale buildup and may even result in freezing in colder climates. Not to mention the quality problems water vapor-laden compressed air would cause in applications like automotive painting, semiconductor and healthcare and medical device manufacturing. Moisture in compressed air moisture hazards include rust, corrosion, freezing and increased wear in most applications. And problems with color, adherence and finish in painting applications.

3. Oil levels

Oil is the lifeblood of a system. Because oil plays such a crucial role in compressor operation, it’s essential to check fluid levels, change filters and replace oil regularly.

Fluid sampling is even more critical to the life of an oil-flooded rotary screw compressor. We recommend sampling oil every 2,000 hours (1,000 hours for food-grade lubricants). We also shorten the time interval in demanding site conditions.

Oil sampling will help users learn whether the compressor is being exposed to excessive heat or is taking in contaminants. Plus, it can also detect excessive bearing wear, allowing users to be proactive. It might even help avoid an unplanned shutdown.

That’s why we consider oil sampling the most important maintenance procedure for our compressors. Users should set the air compressor monitoring system to provide alerts when it’s time to draw an oil sample.

4. Power consumption

Energy consumption readings can help users understand the supply side of the operation and what the compressor is doing in various circumstances. Users might see they don’t have enough storage to account for a sudden increase in demand. That, rather than one large-sized compressor, users can use a combination of backup and trim compressors to increase the performance and reliability of the system.

5. Vibrations and sound levels

Users will want to check sound levels and vibrations, which can indicate leaks or other problems with the system. Leaks are a constant concern, of course. Compressed air systems lose between 30 and 50% of their volume to air compressor leaks, with poorly maintained systems running as high as 80%.

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