Facility Maintenance: Reducing Compressed Air System Energy Costs (Part 1)
Rising energy prices are a major concern for many manufacturing industries, including the plastics and automotive markets. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average retail price of electricity in the United States has increased about 1.5% every year since 2006 – which can substantially impact an industrial plant’s bottom line!
Increased energy costs are especially burdensome for small and medium sized companies, because they typically have less “wiggle room” when trying to maintain profitability against rising manufacturing costs.
As the Kalamazoo area’s leader in “green” Facility Maintenance, we are experts at identifying areas of energy waste that can be costing you thousands. And one area that is often overlooked in energy audits is compressed air.
Evaluating and optimizing the compressed air system in your facility can provide significant energy savings. In this two part article we show you how.
Compressed Air System Energy Costs are 8 times that of Electricity
Just how expensive is compressed air? Well, it takes about 8 hp of electrical energy to produce just 1 hp worth of work with compressed air. This means that your air power is 8 times more expensive than your electric power!
As you know, each activity in your manufacturing plant that uses compressed air has a minimum flow (supply in cfm) and minimum pressure (psig) that is required for the process to run at optimum levels. Suppling air at a higher pressure, and consequently more volume, simply creates added expense with no increase in productivity or quality. So, essentially, you are running at an “Artificial Demand” and paying for energy you don’t need.
Measuring and monitoring the use and cost of compressed air can avoid “Artificial Demand” and ensure you are only using the energy you need. Identifying the lowest effective pressure and flow requirement at each process is the first step to ensure you are not using or supplying too much air.
Facility Maintenance Tips for Reducing Air Compression Costs
The electrical energy cost of producing compressed air is a function of the horsepower used to create flow and pressure. In formula format:
Input kW x $/kW Rate x Hours = Electrical Cost per Year
Simply stated, to reduce energy costs, you must reduce the pressure and flow from the compressor supply to the threshold needed to run at optimum levels, and no more. Here are 4 ways to accomplish this:
#1: Operator Awareness of Compressed Air Energy Costs
The annual cost of energy to operate an air compressor equals or exceeds the initial cost of the unit. Both management and everyone working with air-operated equipment in the plant needs to be educated as to the total flow and pressure needs for each process – and the energy cost for operating the compressors.
A “less is more” awareness should be adopted to ensure that only the minimum necessary pressure and flow is used, to avoid unnecessary energy usage that neither improves productivity or quality.
In-house training, awareness and incentive programs can be highly effective in this regard. Making each department responsible for identifying its own air usage, and accountable for their part of the energy costs for that area are often key.
#2: Reduce Pressure Losses with Air Systme Facility Maintenance
The piping and air treatment equipment located between the air compressor discharge and the process itself is often an overlooked energy waster. Poor or convoluted piping system designs can cause significant “turbulence-driven” backpressure which wastes power. Additionally, poorly chosen or installed filters and dryers that cause pressure loss can compound this problem.
Reconfiguring your current air system, so that interconnecting piping from the compressed air supply to the process create no pressure loss can substantially reduce energy costs.
Kalamazoo Area’s Best Facility Maintenance Company
As the Kalamazoo area’s leading Facility Maintenance Company, we can work with you to monitor, measure, calculate, test and reduce your compressed usage – which can dramatically reduce energy costs.
Remember, your compressed air is a very energy-intensive utility costing 8 times more than electricity. So if you are looking to reduce power costs and improve your bottom line, few areas offer as large and as immediate of a return as addressing your plant’s air compression needs.
World Class Works’ customized facility maintenance programs offer our customers energy-efficient, cost-effective, safety-conscious, turnkey maintenance services. We can maximize your efficiency, enhance production, increase quality, and improve safety & regulatory compliance – all while improving your bottom line.
We have provided world class facility maintenance services for industrial facilities across Southeastern Michigan, including Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and St. Joseph County – as well as Kent County, Grand Rapids, Eaton County, Ingham County, Lansing, East Lansing, Sturgis, Portage, and Three Rivers.
Improve your facility’s appearance, reduce energy costs, increase worker health & safety, and extend the life of your facility and equipment, with World Class Works’ facility maintenance services. Call us today for a free facility maintenance quote.
Free Kalamazoo Facility Maintenance Quote: 888-315-2313