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Technology, Industrial Vacuum Pumps

Compressed Air Best Practices Webinar Takeaways: The Pros and Cons of Centralized Vacuum Systems


Compressed Air Best Practices (CABP) hosted another installment of their 2018 Expert Webinar Series on Thursday, March 15. Industry experts including Atlas Copco’s Walter See and Compression Engineering Corporation’s Tim Dugan shared insight into the pros and cons of centralized vacuum systems. 

Walter discussed installation guidelines for developing a centralized vacuum system, including how to design a piping network and implement a control strategy. 

Here are some of the key takeaways from Walter’s presentation. 

Point-of-use-vacuum vs. centralized vacuum 

Many plants opt for a point-of-use vacuum scheme because it provides maximum pumping speed and reduced pressure loss since the pump is located near the process. Although this cuts down on the costs of piping and plumbing, it’s not an efficient option for multiple pieces of equipment. For each additional tool, a pump must be added to meet flow demand, which generates more heat and noise in the shop.

In a centralized vacuum system, all pumps sit closely together, typically in a remote area. A remote, centralized location helps free up floor space and remove noise pollution from employee work areas while reducing maintenance and labor costs.

Designing a piping network for centralized vacuum

When it comes to designing a piping network, always consider the design of the piping header itself and how this affects pressure equalization. Pressure drop across system piping can cause you to run a deeper vacuum than necessary to meet flow demand.

As a general rule of thumb, the piping header should be designed to be at least the same size as your pump’s inlet. For a more exact measurement, consult a vacuum expert to see if your system is getting the desired air flow. 

Here are additional factors to consider for your system pipework:

  • The sum of all pump flows
  • Pressure drops
  • Impact of the pipework’s added volume 

Control strategy for centralized vacuum

Multiple variable speed drive (VSD) pumps are best suited for centralized vacuum systems. Unlike fixed speed solutions, VSD pumps control different pump elements to match flow demand without wasting energy. VSD pumps operate using programmable logic that allow them to talk to one another and meet varying demand. For processes requiring consistent flow, VSD pumps can be also be set up in a trim and fixed-load pattern.

If you’re interested in learning more about installation guidelines and the pros and cons of centralized vacuum systems, you can listen to the full webinar on CABP’s website.

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