Blog: Air compressor control – Taming wild horses

May 9, 2016

Is your compressor room like the Wild West?

Air compressor operation can be like the Wild West in that sometimes you may find that compressors are off doing their own thing. Sure, the system may have been set up correctly at one time, but over the years controls failed, settings got tweaked, pressure switches drifted, pipes got rerouted, and things started to go wild.

These things might even be happening in your compressor room right now. If they are, how would you know? If your system is like most, it never gets a second look unless the plant pressure goes down, stopping production. But if you want to stop wasting your compressed air operating dollars, you must tame your wild horses and bring them under control. 

The first step you need to take is assessment. Find out what problems you have by measuring your system. Bring in a qualified compressed air system energy auditor to measure your baseline and identify your problems.

The assessor will look at your compressed air demand. Perhaps there are high levels of leakage, inappropriate use of compressed air, or some strange flow fluctuations driving your compressors wild. There may be things you can do about this.

The next step will likely be control: The assessor will make recommendations on how to get your compressors working nicely with your system in a way that minimizes waste and improve pressure stability. This could involve installing a central controller or even be as simple as altering a few simple compressor settings.

Once your system is under control, it will automatically operate in a coordinated way, running only as many compressors as you need and turning the rest off.  Pressure will be kept as low as possible, saving compressor power and stabilizing your plant pressure so your production machines can work more consistently. And chances are, you'll save a bundle.

Learn more about compressor control at Compressed Air Challenge's next Fundamentals of Compressed Air Systems seminar. Check out the calendar at www.compressedairchallenge.org.

About the Author

Ron Marshall

Ron Marshall first developed his skills as an industrial compressed air systems expert at Manitoba Hydro, where he worked for 38 years, supporting more than 600 energy efficiency projects. He now operates his own compressed air energy efficiency consulting firm where he provides technical advice, system auditing, and training.  Ron is a level 2 instructor with Compressed Air Challenge and conducts training internationally. Contact him at [email protected].Want to learn more about compressed air? We would suggest sending key staff to one of our Compressed Air Challenge seminars to help them learn what is possible. To learn more about upcoming training opportunities visit the CAC calendar at https://www.compressedairchallenge.org/calendar.

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