Compressed air system improvement: 5 key steps

Want to improve your compressed air system? Here are five strategic keys to making a significant and lasting impact:

  1. Measure it – A big indicator of the efficiency and effectiveness of your compressed air system comes in the form of measurement – and specifically, taking a baseline so that you can understand where you are and how well your system is meeting your organization's needs. This will allow you to understand how effectively and accurately pressure and flow are being produced and how much it is costing you. Assessing the quality of the compressed air also is important, as is measuring the level of waste generated through leakage and inappropriate use. Most people have no idea how their key performance parameters compare with optimum performance. Call in a good compressed air system expert to help you with this.
  2. Manage it – Often, the biggest impact on compressed air system cost comes from properly managing the system through good compressor control. This requires taking the information from step one and analyzing it. From this data, a control strategy is developed that can improve pressure, yet reduce energy cost.  This may involve things as simple as adjusting control settings, or more complex solutions like adding large storage volume, installing central compressor controllers, or even replacing a compressor or two.
  3. Reduce the waste – Your efforts in optimizing your compressor control will be wasted if your leakage levels are so high that you lose half of your compressed air before it gets to your end users. And once it's at the final compressed air device, the compressed air may be used inappropriately where some other source of energy could better provide energy for the work. This step takes some manpower and perhaps the use of an ultrasonic leak detector, but waste reduction has a big impact overall, especially on well-controlled compressed air systems.
  4. Take action: Fix the problems – So often, organizations have access to a study that has been done on compressed air systems, but the report sits on the shelf collecting dust. Know that thousands of other compressed air systems have been improved in the past years, often with huge results of 30% to 50% reductions. It is not unheard of to save 80% or so in some extreme cases. Some of these systems may have been owned by your competitors. Is money the problem? Very often, compressed air improvement projects pay for themselves in one to three years. That's a good return on your investment!  And part of the project costs may be funded by utility incentives. But it is important to take action to capture these savings.
  5. Train your people – Knowledge is power when it comes to compressed air optimization. Studies have shown that when factory workers and managers attend awareness training about optimizing compressed air systems, the information gained usually yields fruitful projects that save energy and improve the compressed air system in general. One key piece of information is awareness of the typical high cost of compressed air and what to do about it.  Search for compressed air efficiency training in your area through Compressed Air Challenge or other organizations today!

Ron Marshall is a compressed air energy efficiency expert and a compressed air trainer with website at www.compressedairaudit.com

Join Ron at the Compressed Air Efficiency LinkedIn discussion group.