Compressed air can be one of the most expensive uses of energy for manufacturing plants, often using more energy than other equipment. For instance, one horsepower of compressed air requires eight horsepower of electricity. With many air compressors running at efficiencies as low as 10%, there’s often plenty of room for improvement. Fortunately, 50% of compressed air systems at small to medium-sized industrial facilities have opportunity for energy conservation.
Learn how you can save money and keep your air compression working at a premium by downloading our "10 Ways You Can Optimize Your Air Compression and Save Money".
This is a question that a business owner should ask… What can I do to reduce the cost of operating my Compressed Air System?
For years now, the whole industrial world has been listening to the experts that want to help you reduce your electric bill by selling you a more energy lighting system, heating and air conditioning system, speed controlled pumps, and automatic “do-dads” that promise a lower power bill. The air compressor industry has been drawn into this energy-saving charge because in most facilities, the electric motor in the compressed air system can be the largest and most powerful electric device in the building. So the air compressor has become one of the favorite targets of the utilities wanting to reduce the peak load on a local power grid. You’ve heard all of the sales pitches now from both the compressor guys and the power companies. But there may be low-cost actions you can take to make your compressed air system more efficient and further reduce your monthly electric bill.
First, find ways to reduce your existing air systems’ operating costs. You may not need to pay for an air system audit unless you don’t have the time or experienced staff to conduct your own system assessment. Sometimes, just focusing your facilities manager on reducing the cost of the compressed air system can work. Sometimes having a trusted air compressor vendor works well. And sometimes you may need the help of a paid compressed air auditor if you’re budget allows. However, as a starting point, there are some things you can do on your own first.
According to CAGI, the most expensive component in the total cost of compressed air is energy. In fact, over the lifespan of a typical compressor, energy typically costs several times more than the purchase price of the compressor. The bottom line, maximizing energy efficiency saves you money.
At the beginning, you must know what your compressed air system is doing and why.
- What is the highest pressure required by your equipment and processes?
- What equipment and processes require the highest pressure?
- What machine or process truly needs that much pressure and flow?
- How clean and pure must your compressed air supply be in order to not cause product “do-over’s” caused by water or oil in the air lines?
- What is the lowest and the highest rate of flow to the demand side of the piping system, and what causes the increased demand for flow?
If you can’t answer these basic questions for your compressed air system, then you really don’t understand or manage your compressed air system effectively. And you are probably wasting a lot of money that could easily be turned into profit dollars.
The first step to reducing compressed air energy costs is to measure and monitor your compressed air system's energy consumption, flow rates and operating air pressure. Your FS-Curtis Distributor can help you with your understanding of your compressed air system through an assessment or audit of your system. The FS-Curtis Distributor will provide you with a report which will help you see how your air compressor(s) are being controlled, how much energy they are using, and how much air flow and pressure your system is using. Recommendations can be made to help your reduce your operating costs and return those losses back into profit for your business. Small adjustments can reduce your operating pressure and energy costs while improving flow rates and output.
Learn about the 10 Steps to Saving Compressed Air System Operating Costs (1-5)
How One Food Processing Plant Saved $150.000 Annually
According to the Advanced Manufacturing Office in the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), American industries spend $5 billion annually on compressed air. In the case of food plants, costs are not documented, leaving compressed air systems principal candidates for waste and abuse.
Follow these 5 steps to save your food processing plant enough money by the end of the year that you'll be glad you took five minutes to read this article.
- Examine and analyze your compressed air system
Note all the uses of compressed air in the plant and all the air compressors available by enlisting the help of engineers and technicians, and then:
Conduct a self-audit of your compressed air system
There are 10 most important targets to evaluate in a compressed air system audit:
- Estimate actions to repair deficienciesCorrect the problems that are the least expensive to repair. Using a Pareto diagram can be useful to help separate the “critical few” deficiencies from the “trivial many” possibilities that are available. For example, the Pareto diagram is shown in figure 1, where the solution for the problem is listed on the X-axis (Improvement). The Y-axis (Savings) shows the estimated savings (less costs) that would result from repairing the problem. Projects shown in the tallest bars should be choosen for implementation.
Figure 1: Pareto diagram helps to select the most effective actions.
- Implement the best solutionsAfter identifying the best alternatives in step three, it is time to execute. Beware that some processors postpone taking action because of time constrains, but it may be worthy to hire extra help to carry out recommended solutions right away. Every action should be measurable in terms of cost and savings.
- Track resultsAll solutions that were implemented should be reviewed regularly to ensure that the results are as expected, or to find out if something has changed or requires additional attention. Once recommnded changes are made, then the five-step process can be repeated to double check yourself.
If you think your company could benefit from having a compressed air system audit performed, find a distributor in your area to inquire about scheduling an audit. You can also call our toll free number to talk with a customer service rep about locating an FS-Curtis distributor in your area: 800-925-5431.
Check out this article: Food industry factory saves $154.000 in annual energy costs, to see how one plant was able to save over $150.000 annually in energy costs.