Compressed Air Systems: What’s Most Important?

Oct. 21, 2015

Is energy efficiency the most important aspect?

Often when I am facilitating compressed air training I ask the participants to identify the most important thing about their compressed air system.  Typically, because they are attending compressed air efficiency training, and because I am standing over them menacingly, they answer “energy efficiency”.  I like that answer, but it is not usually true.

I know from experience the correct answer is “pressure”.  Plant personnel want good stable plant pressure and lots of it.  They want their air clean and dry at a high enough pressure so nobody complains and point fingers.  And to get it they would not hesitate to run their system inefficiently as a trade off.

Since I am in the energy efficiency field this realization hurt my feelings at first.  Energy efficiency, I saw, was not the primary concern of system operators, but with a little awareness training I could see that they were easily persuaded that they could get the good pressure they wanted, but do it in an energy efficient way.

Energy efficiency, I find, often comes riding in on the coattails of some deeper concern, and that’s OK.  This can be used effectively to promote efficiency projects.  Stabilize your pressure by adding system storage, and the effect is that your compressors run more efficiently.  Better regulate your pressure using a pressure/flow controller, the effect is that the whole plant uses less air, and you are able to shut down a compressor and save maintenance costs.  Add a new more compressor to renew your system and increase system capacity, and the result is better efficiency and lower costs because of more modern compressor design.  The benefits are endless.

To learn more about maintaining system pressure and saving costs consider attending one of  Compressed Air Challenge’s Fundamentals of Compressed Air seminars.  A calendar of seminars is on our website.

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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