Major energy savings can be made by working systematically to optimize the compressed air process. It is important to use the right compressor, optimize compressed air use and fix any leaks.
The compressor that produces the compressed air also produces a large amount of heat, like a light bulb. Even if compressors were more efficient, most of the electrical input power disappears as heat. But even here there are solutions—take advantage of the excess heat from the compressor and use it for something that would otherwise require extra energy.
Choose the right compressor for your needs, to achieve optimal utilization of the facility. Determine the amount of compressed air and the pressure needed to perform various tasks and to operate various machines in your production. Find out about the operating cycles and the air quality required by the facility. Then determine your needs together with your compressor supplier and the equipment needed to achieve the most energy-efficient production possible.
2. Optimal use of compressed air
Compressed air technology has long been slightly ignored; no one has paid it much attention. Instead, perhaps a little extra margin has been allowed just to be on the safe side. But a large air cylinder can hold more than a smaller one, and unless pressure is optimized for the current application, more air will be consumed than necessary. The pressure in a compressed air system is often too high in relation to the need, resulting in increased air and energy consumption. Such a system design would never be taken so lightly in electrical engineering. As technology develops, more and more smart components will emerge that reduce energy consumption in compressed air systems.
Compressed air is used in industry as a power source for tools and machines, for drying and cooling, and for purging. Make sure you choose the right equipment for your needs in order to optimally take advantage of compressed air.
If you need compressed air for cleaning, you should use specially designed nozzles which may benefit from the ejector effect, the ability to draw the air surrounding the nozzle. Air consumption can be reduced by up to 50% compared with conventional methods.
Replace all “open pipe” blowing with more efficient air nozzles that provide the right blowing force and blowing pattern for the specific application. The same applies for air guns; replace the simple “open pipe” models with more modern and energy-efficient versions. Use compressed air only when needed—install manual or automatic shutoff valves on all blowing stations, which will also have a positive impact in terms of reduced leakage.
Where possible, compressed air tools should be replaced by electric tools, which are often much more efficient. An electrical device can achieve 50% efficiency, while corresponding compressed air tools often do not convert more than 12-15% of energy into useful work.
Perhaps the biggest culprit in a compressed air system is leakage. It is not uncommon for 20-50% of the compressed air we produce to disappear into the environment as leakage. To remedy this, it is important to regularly review the compressed air system to search for leaks that need to be sealed. Typically, 80-90% of all leaks are found close to the user in hoses, fittings and fixtures. The leakage in compressed air machines and tools can also be significant.
Plenty of money can be saved by periodically reviewing the compressed air system, sealing leaks, adapting machines and air consumers to operating conditions, and upgrading the tools and equipment to energy-efficient versions.