How do you start to reduce leaks in your compressed air systems?
We have established that leaks in your systems create losses of 30% or more and that loss is expensive. The following details 9 general steps to implement a successful leak detection process. It may seem daunting, but the ROI is worth it!
|Step 1 - Establish compressed air usage baseline|
The most reliable method to establish your baseline usage is to install one or more flowmeters.
Most high-volume leaks are likely not on the supply side in your main air headers, since there are fewer pipe connections. However, installation in these lines will help provide an overall usage baseline.
Leak are most likely in branch piping to several machines (zone monitoring) or at the end-use location (individual machine monitoring). To divide your plant into zones, consider the following:
|Step 2 - Estimate the loss due to leakage|
Once you establish a compressed air usage baseline, you can estimate the amount of that usage that is based on leaks. As stated earlier, 20-30% of usage is attributed to loss.
If you have actually identified leaks in this step, refer to the table below for estimated cfm loss per leak.
Estimated air flow losses due to leakage
|Hole size||Compressed air pressure|
|80 psi||90 psi||100 psi|
|1/16"||3.2 cfm||3.5 cfm||3.8 cfm|
|1/8"||12.7 cfm||14.1 cfm||15.4 cfm|
|1/4"||51 cfm||56 cfm||62 cfm|
|Step 3 - Determine cost of leaks|
To put a dollar amount to your leaks, you need to know:
|Step 4 - Identify leaks|
Traditional leak detection methods are all labor intensive and hit-or-miss.
When an SD flowmeter is installed in a zone or machine
|Step 5 - Document leaks and prioritize leak repair|
Document the location, type, size and estimated cost of the leak. Prioritize repair.
|Step 6 - Adjust compressor controls|
Compressed air system controls regulate system pressure by matching supply with demand. As you repair leaks, your compressed air demand will decrease. You will likely need to adjust your control strategy for start / stop, load / unload, etc. A well-established leak detection program can eliminate the need for an additional compressor by optimizing the existing system.
|Step 7 - Document repairs|
How many leaks were repaired? What size were the leaks? This information will be used in the next step to quantify savings. Documentation will also help you identify leaks that may recur at certain operations in your manufacturing process. Knowing this will allow you to examine your process for overall improvements.
|Step 8 - Compare results to baseline and publish|
What trends do you now see in your consumption? Use the difference between your original consumption and new consumption to calculate energy savings by making your documented repairs.
Be sure to publish these results to the utilities / facilities manager at your plant. Showing these savings will solidify buy-in for your leak detection process.
|Step 9 - Start over|
Processes are not a series of discrete steps; rather they are continuous. Repeat the cycle of improvement and monitor the overall efficiency of your equipment.