Compressed air does not come cheap. A poorly run compressed air system can cost a business more than water, steam, electricity, or even natural gas if you compare the power input to the value delivered. Air leaks can also make equipment less power-efficient by consuming more energy than necessary to deliver compressed air. These air leaks might cause needless production shutdowns if left uncontrolled for too long.
Air leaks do not only result in direct energy losses, but they may also cause system pressure reductions, reducing the efficiency of pneumatic equipment and decreasing its lifespan. A dependable, silent air compressor offers the best value from compressed air systems. However, leaks endanger the use of air compressors, resulting in significant expenditures if they are not properly maintained.
UK Businesses can lose up to £100m a year. It’s difficult to understand why any company would not wish to inspect its machinery for air leaks regularly. You might believe that a small amount of air leaking is insignificant, yet a single 3mm hole might cost you £600 each year.
The Cost of Air Leakages
There are other important reasons to fix air leaks besides saving money on your energy costs. A completely functional compressed air system only converts around 19% of the total power generated into clean compressed air, with the other 81% expended as heat.
On average, air leaks lead to the loss of 20 to 40% of produced air in a manufacturing plant, and even a modest air system that is not maintained correctly can cost £2-£7 per day. Many organisations may be shocked at how much money they could save by repairing air leaks. They may save up to £37,000 annually.
Operators frequently overcompensate for pressure loss due to leaks by purchasing a larger compressor than is required, resulting in considerable capital expenditures as well as increased energy costs. Low system pressure caused by leaks can cause air-dependent equipment to stop working. Due to excessive compressor cycling, there may be production delays, unexpected downtime, quality concerns, and an increased need for maintenance.
How to Detect Air Leaks
Many companies do not have a leak detection system in place. It’s not easy to locate and repair leaks. A business may need energy professionals or consultants who use energy analysers and loggers to quantify waste and determine the cost.
Any sign of flow when that portion of the system is shut down must relate directly to leakage. So, if the air or gas system has flow measuring equipment, leaks may become evident.
You can only listen for leaks during a shutdown when the entire facility is quiet enough for more significant leaks to be heard. Smaller leaks may be below the threshold of hearing. Thus, the absence of a hiss of escaping gas does not rule out the possibility of a leak. Even if leaks are heard, pinpointing them might be challenging, especially in tough-to-reach places.
Washing a soap solution over any suspicious joints is a classic direct approach that is still commonly employed. Bubbles will occur if there is a leak, and the defect may be identified based on the quantity and size of the bubbles. This is a pretty straightforward procedure. However, it takes a long time because personnel must check each joint separately. Contamination and rust are other possible problems.
The best way to locate leak spots at a distance is with a specially built ultrasonic leak detector. These electrical gadgets use a microphone tuned to pick up high-frequency harmonics produced by leaking high-pressure gas.
Fixing Air Leaks
Leaks are most commonly present in end-use applications’ joints and connections. Fixing leaks can require just tightening a connection or replacing defective couplings, fittings, hoses, joints, pipe sections, or traps.
They are also frequently due to faulty or poorly placed thread sealant. To prevent air leaks, use only high-quality fittings, hoses, and tubings, then correctly install them with thread sealant.
Leaks from non-operational equipment might also be a problem. A valve in the distribution system should be used to isolate equipment that is no longer in use. Lowering the system’s demand for air pressure is another approach to decrease leaks.
Reduced system pressure will result in lower leakage rates because the lower the pressure difference across an orifice or leak, the lower the flow rate. The leakage rate for the system will be minimised if the system header pressure is stabilised at its lowest practicable range.
Maintaining the efficiency, dependability, and cost-effectiveness of any compressed air system requires a competent compressed air system leak repair program. Businesses should have in place a leakage prevention program aimed at enhancing compressed air system performance. Managers should re-evaluate this system if they discover air leaks.