What is compressed air?
Most people have an idea of what compressed air is. Whether it’s putting air in a vehicle’s tires or using pneumatic hand tools, many of us have been exposed to compressed air in one capacity or another. However, people often don’t realize that compressed air isn’t some magical thing that exists whenever we need it, and it’s not free.
Compressed air requires significant energy to make and is one of the most inefficient forms of energy transfer — only around 10% efficient, at best — in commercial and industrial settings today. Implementing compressed air leak management, though, can have a big impact on regulating compressed air and is critical in any facility that utilizes a large amount of it.
What is compressed air leak management?
Compressed air leak management is any preventive/corrective maintenance practice performed to minimize leaks in a compressed air system. It should be reoccurring and documented so that team members responsible for ensuring the availability and efficiency of the system know its exact state, and so that any other employee that needs the information can find it. Ideally, a robust compressed air leak management program or policy reduces compressed air leaks by 50%.
What are the benefits of compressed air leak management?
Optimizing compressed air by reducing leaks can provide energy enhancements of 20 to 50%. Because compressed air is highly inefficient, any improvements should reduce its energy consumption and a facility’s power bill.
How can compressed air leak management be implemented?
Compressed air leak management starts with conducting regular compressed air audits. This process utilizes an ultrasonic leak detector to pinpoint leaks that are inaudible to the human ear. The audits, or surveys, can be done in-house or outsourced to a third-party service provider depending on the size of the facility and availability of maintenance staff. If done in-house, training is needed to ensure employees use the ultrasonic leak detector properly. We suggest completing compressed air leak surveys annually, but even just doing them consistently and documenting them is a good start toward a successful compressed air leak management system.
It is standard practice to “tag” leaks during an audit so that they can be repaired later. On each tag, note the leak location, the air pressure at the location and the decibels of the leak. A higher pressure and higher decibel reading means that more air is leaking, and that there is a greater cost associated with the leak.
After the audit, make a concerted effort to repair the leaks that are found and tagged. Large leaks should be scheduled for repair immediately, and smaller ones should be repaired the same week they are detected.
Documenting leaks along with their locations and attributes is recommended because leaks tend to reoccur in the same areas. This step will improve air leak management and increase its effectiveness and control costs.
Taking strides to address leaks in a facility’s compressed air system is a great way to conserve energy and money. The task is often overlooked, but it can provide significant energy savings if done properly.