Reduce Energy Costs and Increase Efficiency
How to Save the Most With Your Air Compressor System
You've landed on the right page if you want to reduce energy costs and increase your compressed air system's efficiency.
On average, manufacturing facilities waste roughly 30 percent of the air they produce1 attributing to a staggering $3.2 billion spent on wasted energy every year2 in the United States alone. If you're not running an efficient compressed air system, you are wasting energy (and money) every day.
From eliminating pressure drops and leaks, upgrading outdated technology, and ensuring your compressor is the right type and size for the job, there's no shortage of ways you can save more over time.
This article will teach you how you can save thousands in the coming years by auditing your compressed air system and troubleshooting areas that can be improved.
Doing the Right Research
There's nothing more frustrating than discovering you've been given inaccurate information or weren't made aware of all your options. As compressor technology changes, it's important to do your own research to learn about new opportunities to improve your system and see massive returns and energy savings.
You may not have known about these options when you installed your system, but that's okay. In a past study, the U.S. Department of Energy determined that only about 9% of manufactures they interviewed said that the efficiency of their compressor system was a primary business objective, and out of the total number interviewed, the awareness that they could make improvements was substantially low.
The good news is, over 58% of those manufacturers wanted to increase their efficiency once they knew they had options to do so. Today's economy requires manufacturers to eliminate as much wasted costs and energy as they can, so it's never too soon to start making changes that will save you money in the long run.
How to Maximize Energy Efficiency
You've probably heard that investing today will pay off tomorrow, and for air
compressors, this is true.
For example, rotary screw compressors are more expensive up-front, but it would take 10 years for the energy cost to equal the cost of the compressor. With some piston compressors, that can happen as soon as a single year.
There are a hundred considerations when it comes to efficiency and reducing costs. To keep things simple, below we take a quick look at the most important ones.
Properly Sizing Your Compressor
First, it's important to understand that your air compressor should never be overworked. In fact, you should size your air compressor so it can handle at least 25% more than your maximum CFM and PSI (load) requirements when running. That way, your compressor won't be running at full capacity all the time and burn out the motor quickly while trying to keep up with your air demands.
The strongest workhorses in the industry are rotary screw air compressors, which satisfy both energy savings goals and heavy air-delivery demands. Investing in a rotary screw compressor not only makes your system more efficient, but it will save you money, run quieter, and run longer than traditional piston-type air compressors.
Rotary screw compressors have a 100% duty cycle that continually provides specific pressure and flow 100% of the time and can run continuously without shutting down or overheating. And, because the internal screws don't touch, there's less friction and maintenance, and fewer replacements that you need to worry about.
On a similar note, you should size your compressor while considering company growth, future expansion, and increased air demands so you won't have to purchase a larger compressor every time your business grows.
You'll regret the decision to buy a smaller compressor for less if you end up needing a larger one soon after. The right choice is to invest in future growth and purchase the compressor you will need the first time.
New Compressor Technology
Your compressor should never have to work harder than the job requires, and should only be running at the speed it needs to get the job done. That's why Variable Speed Drive Technology (VSD) was created: to maximize efficiency by delivering the right amount of compressed air at the right pressure—with the right amount of effort.
Unlike regular compressors, VSD compressors don't operate at full-bore all the time; their compressing speeds continually change Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) to match the CFM/PSI demands the load requires. It's similar to how a governor controls the engine of a semi-truck.
Recent innovations in air compressor technology have brought VSD options to 2-stage compressors as well, giving industries the ability to switch from single-phase to 3-phase power, satisfying the requirements of complex jobs without needing to use multiple compressors. Compressors that use this new technology are in high-demand because:
- They can be customized and programmed to perform as desired
- The technology enables larger units to be used in home garages & small shops
- They allow the user to operate in single or 3-phase power with voltages ranging from 208-230V
Evaluate the Entire System
Now that you've thought through the biggest considerations, it's important to remember the rest of your air compressor system needs a closer look, too.
While the compressor is the heart of your system, it's not enough to simply replace it if it gets old. To maximize your savings and extend the life of your system, you need to check and monitor all the parts that work together in harmony to prevent wasted energy or unnecessary strain on the components.
For example, examining your air delivery system can point to any spots or joints where you are losing pressure or leaking air, causing your compressor to work harder to sustain your PSI/CFM requirements. That means wasted energy, money, and air.
How Air Filtration Saves Energy
Treating compressed air is critical, especially if your company spends thousands on an air compressor. Protect your investment by ensuring that the air that passes through the lines is clean and dry. In fact, almost nothing will damage your system or air tools more than dirty, unfiltered air.
Choosing (and replacing) the right air filter is critical for removing impurities in the air like aerosol contamination, small particulates, or oil that can damage your system and waste energy over time. It's a lot like replacing your car's air filter; if you ignore it too long, it stops working properly. Your gas mileage (efficiency) will decrease, and your engine will work harder gasping for the air it needs to run properly.
Check or Upgrade Your Air Dryer(s)
Compressing air quickly creates a lot of heat and condensation. Defend your system's longevity by investing in air dryers that will cool and remove the moisture in the compressed air that would otherwise damage the tank, lines, and other components of your system over time. If you're using the wrong type of air dryer, you're wasting a lot of money by overworking the dryer to fulfill a purpose it wasn't built for.
A refrigerated air dryer will work perfectly in a compressor system that has another means of cooling air to help it along. If it doesn't, a regular refrigerated air dryer will work longer and twice as hard to cool high-temperature air—resulting in wasted energy, shorter dryer lifespan, and money out of the bottom line. There are high-temperature air dryers designed for this purpose and run efficiently at those heavy workloads.
Auditing Your Compressed Air System
Now that you know more about some things you can do to save big money in your facility over time, the next step is to take a deeper look into the system you're currently using and see what the numbers actually say—an air compressor system audit.
Data-Logging and Diagnostics
You should never make a business decision without crunching the data first. If your compressed air system is a critical part of your business, using a data-logging device will record the activity of your compressor system over time, which will show you a highly-accurate load profile for your compressed air demands and point to any irregularities, losses, or opportunities for improvement.
Even if you're not running a large manufacturing facility, you can still benefit greatly by auditing your current compressor setup. Consider finding a field specialist who will monitor and record a small chunk of that data, and perhaps recommend where improvements can be made.
As soon as you determine the parts of your system that can be improved, the sooner you can start saving valuable energy dollars that will bolster your bottom line.