Energy Savings In Compressed Air Systems

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Compressed air is often wrongly assumed to be a cheap or even 'free' source of power. It is not - that's why it is vital to install the correct compressed air treatment equipment.

A typical 1800m3/hr (1,000 cfm) installation will consume £40,000 of electricity in a year. During its lifetime, energy represents 75% of the total cost of buying and running a compressor. Numerous independent studies confirm that industry wastes around 30% of the compressed air it generates - the equivalent to £12,000 in our typical 1800m3/hr installation by inefficient compressed air systems. The aim of this guide is to help the end user minimise wastage, by improving existing installed systems. It will highlight key areas for savings, and offer practical advice on an action plan.

Leakage

Leakage is the major source of energy loss in compressed air systems. A typical plant may lose 20% of its compressed air through poorly connected pipe joints, fittings, couplings etc. Fixing the leaks and introducing planned maintenance can produce substantial savings.

Misuse

The second major wastage of compressed air is to use it as a power source just because it is available. There may be better alternatives for moving, drying or cleaning products. Where compressed air is used, selecting correct equipment such as nozzles and use of control circuits can minimise wastages. 

Over Pressurisation

A considerable saving both in energy and equipment life can be made by using devices at their minimum pressure required for the application rather than full line pressure. Simple use of pressure regulators offers very fast payback.

Pressure Drop

Loss in pressure, due to blocked filter elements and undersized pipework, can mean pressure starvation at the end of compressed air lines.

Energy and Safety

Components fitted for safety reasons, such as preset regulators and shut off valves, can also help energy saving. This section reviews relevant parts of BS EN 983 and other standards linking them to energy issues.

Generation

The correct selection of control equipment to multiple compressor set ups, attention to inlet cooling and after treatment of the compressed air can realise good energy savings. Regular and correct maintenance of compressors, filters and dryers is also vital.

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