Compressed air leaks: Mind the weeds

This summer and fall, many of us will be planting, tending, and harvesting our garden plots as a pleasant pastime. We all know what will happen to our garden if we ignore it and let nature take its course: Before long there will be nothing but weeds, choking out our more desirable produce and ruining what is left after the birds and other animals take their share.

Yet this logic is often lost when it comes to compressed air systems. If we let nature take its course, the vibration, flexing, cutting and banging of the typical industrial environment will create holes in our piping system where expensive compressed air will leak out. And some employees will start to rob the compressed air system of its capacity by wasting compressed air for personal cooling, blowing, and other inappropriate uses. 

Typical leakage and waste in a well-tended system is only 5% to 10% of the average flow. But a compressed air system left to go wild can waste 50% or more of the compressed air that the compressors produce before it even gets to where it can be used for production purposes. The highest percentage leakage I have seen is 89%.

Like a garden, a well-tended compressed air system takes only a few hours of care every few days for it to remain healthy and efficient. Let the system run wild, and you have a big, costly mess to clean up.

Think about working on your system leaks today. Just a 10 cfm reduction gained from one to two hours of leak detection and repair can yield about $2,000 in electrical savings on a system that runs full time at $0.10 per kWh. That is a bountiful harvest!

No time to do it? There are plenty of compressed air service providers that can help you find your waste.

Ron Marshall is a compressed air energy efficiency expert and a compressed air trainer with website at

Join Ron at the Compressed Air Efficiency LinkedIn discussion group at