Avoid compressed air cost

Jan. 14, 2014

Plant air isn’t always the cost-effective answer

Twice in the last week I’ve gotten reminders of the current state of the art in industrial blowers, so I thought I’d share. Blowers are not just shrouded fans any more. After a few decades of development in applications like underground remediation of pollution sites and aeration of deflocculating ponds, they have developed power and durability that traditional blowers didn’t offer. In applications like fluidic material handling and air knives, blowers with variable speed drives offer a level of adjustability that hasn’t always been available either. Changes to air flow can be made part of automatic equipment changeovers, if needed, without complex pneumatics.

 Add to the new blowers’ capabilities the fact that they don’t have plant compressed air’s tendency to leak and become a permanent utility drain, even when equipment is turned off, and you may be looking at a surprisingly cost-effective way to get a lot of production tasks done. Blowers also tend to be quieter than high-pressure air, and they have a naturally gentle startup curve that will sometimes make complex valve circuitry unnecessary.

If an application calls for low pressure air, particularly in high flow volumes, a centrifugal or axial blower may do the job more affordably than the plant supply. Electricity will typically be available in any production setting, and piping isn't required, so blower installation is inexpensive. Blowers often make it unnecessary to extend the plant air supply to a remote location. They may also eliminate the need for air storage tanks to provide volume. For painting and drying applications, blowers also have less tendency to carry condensation and oil into the process.  

Blowers won’t replace plant air for driving cylinders or blasting chips out of a metal cutting interface. But in many applications, they offer a clean, quiet, durable, switchable air source that costs less to install and operate than plant air. After all, if you only need air at 10 or 20 psi, why pay to drive it up to 125 psi and pipe it around the plant? Just install a blower at the job site and enjoy the quiet.

Read Stanton McGroarty's monthly column Strategic Maintenance.

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