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Achieving Sustainable Energy Savings by Fixing Air Compressor Leaks

The leaks in the air compressors often tend to get ignored, but they can be a considerable source of energy wastage in an industrial compressed air system. A typical manufacturing facility or a plant (not properly serviced on time) will likely have a leak rate close to 20% of total compressed air production capacity. As per our energy managers, a 1 mm hole can lead to leakage of 3 cfm which may cost you approximately INR 22000 in a year. Leaks can also lead to various other operating losses as they cause a drop in the overall system pressure, which can make air tools function less efficiently, adversely affecting production.

The method of leak quantification can help in formulating a strategy to take a sustainable action on the compressed air leaks. It will also help in prioritizing the actions on the leaks based on the locations and repair them effectively in the compressor room. This way additionally, a reasonable amount of energy can be saved with lower energy consumption and by optimizing the air compressor.

What is the acceptable leak percentage in my compressed air system?

Theoretically, there should be 0% compressed air leakages in a manufacturing plant. However, as there are considerable constraints, it is not possible to eliminate 100% leakages from the compressed air site. Hence, efforts are made to have the lowest percentage of leaks in the plant. As a thumb rule, the energy experts always recommend having compressed air leakages less than 5% in a manufacturing plant.

Air compressor
Air compressor

What is to be done if leaks are more than 5%?

If the quantified air leaks are between 5% and 10% then it is advisable to perform a leak detection test with an air audit expert. If the quantified leaks are more than 10% then it should be fixed on high priority as they are draining the resources. Here, the recommendation is to take the help of Air Audit Experts who will audit your compressed air system and provide you the right solution to the issues.

However, if there are budget and time constraints, you may try the following ways to address the compressor air leaks in-house for sustainable energy savings:

  • Create and observe leak repair programs like “Leak detection week” once in six months with the plant employees, wherein one hour each day for 7 days could be dedicated collectively to identify and repair the leaks
  • Make people aware of the cost of leaks so that that could be a collective consciousness towards the problem

Such engagements will not only help to repair and reduce leaks, but this will convert into a commitment to energy savings within the plant community.

However, in-house solutions work best in small and easy to fix leakages and with short term results. Bigger fixes demand for the expertise offered by the Air Audit Experts, which not only takes care of the problem on a long-term basis, but also offers long-term energy savings.

Air compressor
Air compressor

But what is the need of an Air Audit Expert to repair simple air leaks?

Leaks are simple to attend till the time they are visible and can be fixed internally. However, in a running factory environment, where there is a lot of movement and often commotion, it often becomes a challenge in detecting the leak of gases and fixing them. Further, it is not possible to shut down the plant every time for the leak detection test.

Therefore, it is advised to call an Air Audit Experts, who will have the precise advanced tools for leak detection – like acoustic sound image, which helps to detect the air leak with leak value and the location of it, very accurately. The root cause analysis of the leaks will help in repairing them permanently without shutting down the network that has technological demands.

The other benefits of conducting compressed air audit under expert guidance are:

  1. Clear report – which can be also be used as a guide to compressed air audits
  2. Energy consultants provide independent advice tailored to your need based on the insights and innovations in air compression technology
  3. Sophisticated requirements like an ultrasonic lead detector, photochromatic leak detector allows interrupted work at your plant
  4. You can rely on compressed air audit experts for effective and sustainable energy-efficient solutions

Written by –  

Mr Conrad Latham, GM, Compress Technique, Atlas Copco.

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