Are compressed air leaks eating your profits?

It starts as soon as you open your brand-new plant: The brand-new piping, fittings and hoses start to age, are pulled and cut, yanked and bent, all causing stress on your compressed air system components. What starts as a small undetectable hiss turns into something bigger in time, and soon a large portion of the money you spend producing your compressed air escapes into thin air. It's gone, along with the profits you worked so hard to earn.

Odds are that you have no idea how much compressed air is leaking out of your system. Rarely do systems have any method of measuring flow installed. And if you knew, chances are that you wouldn't know how much it costs. Rarely are there energy meters installed on air compressors.

Leaks can add up and cost a bundle. A tiny leak equivalent to one-sixteenth of an inch can cost more than $1,000 per year on a system running full time at 10 cents per kWh electrical cost. And systems rarely have only one leak; some have thousands. Studies have shown the average plant wastes 20% to 30% of all the compressed air they produce because of leakage. In plants with no leakage management system, this figure can be as high as 80%.

What to do about it? The first thing to do is measure. Then, manage. Check out the Compressed Air Challenge's fact sheet about leaks for tips how to measure leakage. After that, the ball is in your court; take action and fix your leaks. Or hire someone to do it: The leakage repair can often more than pay for someone's salary in the short time it takes to do the necessary repairs. And these savings continue for years after the repair person is gone.

And don't stop there. Make your leakage repair program more effective by lowering your pressure and adjusting your compressors to run more efficiently. More information on this is also at the Compressed Air Challenge website.

I'm currently on a trip to Asia. I was amazed recently by the news that an automotive plant here changed its leak level in a big way. The first step was awareness of the problem through staff training provided by an organization I am helping to train. The second step was to install flow meters to measure demand. The plant was very surprised to learn after analyzing the results that air load during nonproduction days was almost as high as daytime flow. Numerous actions by key people yielded about $1 million of compressed air savings in a short period of time with very little expenditure. These savings went straight to the bottom line!

Learn more about the benefits of leakage repair by attending a Compressed Air Challenge Fundamentals of Compressed Air Systems Seminar. To find the nearest location visit the CAC website; the calendar of trainings is here. If a session is not available near you contact CAC if you would like to host one in your plant.