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The real value of compressed air

There is no denying that compressed air is a valuable resource for industrial applications. Whether you brew beer, manufacture paper, produce semiconductors, develop pharmaceuticals or treat oil and gas, compressed air plays a crucial role. So what is its real value?

compressed air

We’ve put together a list of facts and figures to illustrate just how much compressed air is really worth, and how you can get the most out of it.

1.Energy consumption accounts for around 70 percent of the total lifetime cost of a compressed air installation. When people think of compressed air costs, they typically think of the price tag that comes with purchasing a new screw air compressor. But that’s just a small piece of the total costs. Energy consumption is the biggest factor in how much your money you spend on compressed air. Make sure your machine is operating as efficiently as possible, and use VSD technology where applicable. 

2.Each kW of compressed air is between seven and eight times more expensive than a kW of electricity. As we just learned, it takes a lot of energy to compress air, and most of that energy dissipates as heat. Take full advantage of your compressed air through a heat recovery system. Reclaimed heat can be used to supply warmth to cold areas or hot water for cleaning. This will help you stretch your energy further and spend less over the long haul.

3.Every one bar (or 14.5 psi) drop in pressure reduces energy consumption by about seven percent. Make sure you are using only the required pressure for your application. It can be tempted to assume that a higher pressure is better, but it is not the case. Of course, you should account for pressure drops throughout your system and quality air equipment, but don’t get carried away. Extra pressure wastes energy and air, and can potentially damage products and machinery.

4.Lower operating pressure also affects the leakage rate. Each one bar (or 14.5 psi) drop reduces the leakages by 13 percent. It’s common sense: the higher the pressure, the more air is forced out through small (or large) leaks. Make sure your pressure is at the lowest possible operating pressure for your system and end-use, and check your system for leaks monthly to keep operating costs low.

5.Typically, 20 percent of the total compressed air consumption can be attributed to leakage in systems 5 years and older. If you know a lot about compressed air systems, this isn’t news to you, but it should still be concerning. When considering just how much you spend in energy costs on compressed air, 20 percent is no small figure. Older systems are more at risk, but don’t wait ‘til it’s too late. By routinely monitoring your compressed air system for leaks you can reduce the amount of wasted air.

6.Most systems are not shutdown during non-production hours, wasting huge amounts of compressed air. Just like you turn the lights off when you leave the room, you should turn your compressor off when you don’t need it. If you have leaks in your system, leaving a compressor running is only wasting air, energy, and — of course — money.

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