Stopping small air leaks saves energy long-term

Air leaks in facilities are common and regular maintenance can help stop them before they become a major drain on energy costs.

By David Manney, L&S Electric November 1, 2016

There are many ways in which commercial businesses spend money on energy. However, in many cases up to 10% of the energy can be directly attributed to the use of compressed air. This significant expenditure is one that should be looked at carefully to determine ways to reduce energy usage in order to save money and increase profitability.

Although there is a significant investment in purchasing large air compressors for commercial businesses, the vast majority of the cost to use compressors is going to be seen in electrical power. There are a number of different ways to reduce the cost spent on energy. Some important factors to consider are turning idle compressors off, reducing pressure, ensuring the compressors are not used inappropriately, and maintaining the compressors properly.

Another factor that should not be overlooked is the possibility for leaks. This is a common problem in many facilities, especially if they are not maintained properly and on a routine basis. It is not out of the question to have about 20% of your total energy expenditure for compressed air directly related to these leaks.

The primary reason to look for air leaks would be the financial savings that are available. Even small air leaks of 1/16″ in size could cause a business to spend hundreds of dollars extra every year in operating costs. As the size of the leak increases, the money spent on operating costs will rise significantly.

Other benefits of looking for an air leak and fixing it include the way the tools that use compressed air operate. Air tools are going to work less efficiently, and it can impact productivity. Additionally, the equipment may need to cycle more frequently. This can shorten the lifespan of any tool that is attached to the equipment, including the compressor.

Leaks can occur in any part of the system, but they are more common in areas such as the pressure regulators, pipe joints, couplings, fittings, hoses, shut off valves and open condensate traps.

Air leaks are impossible to see, so a visual inspection of the equipment is not going to provide an estimate on the severity of the problem. Air leaks will make a sound, however, it is possible to detect even the smallest of leaks through the use of an ultrasonic air leak detector. Since the air is moving from high pressure to low pressure, it creates a turbulent flow that can be picked up and identified by the ultrasonic detector. The operator simply scans the area and then follows the sound to pinpoint the problem.

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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