A compressor system’s operation can have a significant impact on a business’ overhead. Simplyput, the more efficiently a system operates, the lower the overall costs to maintain it. Our focus at Total Equipment Company is to educate our customers in maintaining maximum air compressor and pump performance, and hidden problems within the piping systems of these can prove to be costly. Here are a few common hidden problems, complete with solutions:
A crucial variable in moving air from the compressor to its point of use is the pipe size. If this is the case, the result is a poor system that consumes a significant amount of energy funds as well as diminishes quality and productivity. There are two commonly used solutions, that, while they may seem to correct the immediate problem, can actually be more costly in the long run.
The first commonly used solution is raising the air compressor discharge pressure, which generates an excessive amount of energy waste: For every 2 psi raised, the user will incur 1% more in energy costs. For a 100hp air compressor system that is raised 10 psi to overcome piping losses, this will result in $20,000 in wasted energy over a 5-year time period.
Another common action is to purchase an additional compressor and locate it in an area opposite the current compressor, where more pressure is needed. This causes the need to maintain two compressors, increasing costs and energy demands, as well as creating two systems which now have to combat each other trying to meet the required air demands.
SOLUTION: Pressure gauges should be installed throughout the various locations, comparing readings to the discharge pressure that is leaving the compressor room. If there is found to be more than a 3 psi drop across the system (in a typical 100 psi plant air system), then the piping is not large enough. Having new, larger piping will eliminate this problem and is more cost-effective in the long run than using the above methods. In the case of larger air users, placing a secondary air receiver tank may be necessary.
The majority of compressed air leaks are not easily detected. Rather than making loud, rather obvious sounds, they are most often found in the last 3 to 5 feet, where the air lines are connected. Because they are not easily heard, they are often assumed to be just a light leak. However, a 1/4″ leak in a 100 psi air system will leak 104 cfm! An even smaller 1/8″ leak at 100 psi will leak 26 cfm, which correlates to nearly $5,000 per year in wasted energy. Not at all significant when you consider the long-term repercussions.
SOLUTION: The most effective resolution for compressed air leaks to to perform a Compressed Air Leak Detection Audit. It is important that this audit be conducted with the latest Ultrasonic Leak Detection equipment, for the most thorough and efficient assessment.
Recently, TEC performed a week-long study for a large locomotive engine facility where 216 leaks were identified and tagged, resulting in 286 cfm of discovered wasted air usage. Repairing the leaks will result in $30,000 annual energy savings.
The tendency to design pumps larger than the system requires can result in a centrifugal pump that runs further than it should to the right of its curve. A number of problems can stem from this, including unstable operation of the pump, vibration, cavitation, and leakage. Simply throttling the discharge valve back is not enough – while it is the best interest of the pump, it will cause it to work harder and produce more energy consumption.
SOLUTION: This is the best time to add a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD), as Pennsylvania Power Companies are offering energy rebate for installing energy saving equipment such as a VFD. A VFD allows the fluid delivery demands to be met by slowing down the motor and the pump, delivering significant energy savings while allowing the pump to operate at or near its Best Efficiency Point.
If you suspect that your air compressor or pump may have any of the issues above, contact Total Equipment Company. Call one of our Compressed Air Specialist today at 412-269-0999 in the Pittsburgh, PA area or 304-755-3345 to reach our St. Albans/Charleston, WV service center.