10 Steps to Saving Compressed Air Operating Costs (1-5)

ML Series Cutaway

The first step to reduce 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,as well as how much energy, air flow and pressure is being used. Recommendations can be made to help you 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. Here are 10 steps you can take to optimize your compressed air system and save energy costs.

  1. Turn It Off.
    There are 168 hours in a week, but most compressed air systems only run at or near full capacity between 60-100 hours. Depending on your shift pattern, turning your compressors off during the evenings and weekends could reduce your energy bills up to 20 percent.

A suggestion to help you turn off your compressor effortlessly is to use the i-Command® Touch Control on your FS-Curtis Nx Series of Air Compressors. This advanced compressor controller can be set to turn off your air compressor at the end of a shift or workday automatically. Another energy-saving option i-Command® Touch Control includes is it allows the system to reduce the pressure during non-production hours. Let’s say you operate several CNC machines, which need to be kept at 80 psi in order to maintain the tool settings. Your i-Command ® Touch Control can be set to reduce the system pressure down to 80 psi range during your off shifts. This reduces expenses on electric costs because for every 2 psi drop in your system pressure, you reduce your electric costs by 1%. So, that 20 psi reduction just reduced your electric usage by 10%.

  1. Fix Existing Leaks.
    A quarter-inch air leak at 100 psi will cost you more than $2,500 a year. Pipe systems, hose connections, and filter/regulator housings older than five years can have leaks of up to 25 percent. Because it takes energy to generate compressed air, any air that leaks is money wasted. Approximately 80 percent of air leaks are not audible, so to minimize these problems, third-party help in detecting these leaks may be a necessity.

How can FS-Curtis features and benefits help with this step? Your local FS-Curtis distributor can help you with a leak survey using an ultra-sonic leak detector. They can find leaks in your system and pneumatic equipment without shutting down your production. The survey will provide you with a list of items needing attention and repair. Your utility may offer a cost-sharing program to help pay for the survey. You can have your maintenance team make the repairs or have your FS-Curtis distributor make the repairs.

  1. Prevent New Leaks.
    As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So, be proactive and look inside your piping system. A clean, dry pipe indicates good quality air and no corrosion issues. Dust in the pipe is caused by particles in the compressed air. If compressed air is not filtered, or if the filter is clogged, pressure drops will occur and the risk of end product contamination will increase. Sludge in the pipe is bad news and must be fixed immediately. Dust and sludge in a compressed air piping system will cause corrosion very quickly and will greatly increase the number of leaks. Dried and filtered compressed air keeps piping clean.

Your distributor will often recommend installing a Flow Meter where your compressed air leaves the compressor room and flows to the “Demand Side” of your air system. Some Flow Meters can be tied into your building’s data logging equipment. If you don’t have a data logging system,  a simple log sheet that your maintenance staff can use to write down the flow rate will work. If you start to see an increase in the flow numbers, it’s time to investigate. Did you add new equipment that takes more air? Did a process change? If nothing changed, its time to look for air leaks again!

  1. Reduce Pressure. Run at required pressures, not beyond.
    A two psi reduction cuts energy consumption by one percent. Check the system pressure and resist the urge to turn up the pressure to compensate for leaks or drops in pressure due to piping problems or clogged filters. A central supply side controller can greatly reduce the operational pressure band and orchestrate air production much more efficiently and effectively.

Your FS-Curtis distributor is a good resource to help you. They can help you establish a pressure profile of your facility. Let them help you find what process or equipment is needing the highest pressure. Often we find air supply systems running at 15 to 50 psi higher than what is really needed. A simple DemandSmart® Flow Controller may help you manage your demand side pressure and flow. Not only will you reduce your energy bill, but your facility may have less wear on air tools and improve your product quality due to a constant air pressure in our plant. Have your FS-Curtis distributor include checking needed down-stream point of use filters for pressure drop and clogged filters. Sometimes folks crank up the pressure to get more pressure to the equipment, when a change in the filter element is really needed.

  1. Check Drains. Are your condensate drains stuck open?
    Condensate drains on timers should be adjusted periodically to ensure they open as intended or aren't stuck open. Better yet, replace timer drains with zero-loss drains to stop wasting compressed air.

How can FS-Curtis features and benefits help with this step? First, when you purchase a new air compressor select an energy saving zero-loss drain. While the zero-loss drain may have a higher investment price, you will not be losing compressed air every time the timer opens the drain valve. The opening of the timer drain can cause the compressor to come on for a short period of time causing an unneeded motor start and extra wear on the air compressor. Always make sure your FS Curtis distributor is checking your auto drains for correct operation when they are doing your scheduled maintenance.

See the Final Steps to Saving Compressed Air System Operating Costs

Posted on: April 25, 2017, by : Cameron Ballentine