This is the third installment in our short series on frequently asked questions in the compressed air industry. Catch up on the earlier blog posts here and submit your questions here.
Question: I recently read that air leaks are the biggest cause of waste in a compressed air system. How do I find out the effects air leaks are having on my system?
Compressed air system leaks are indeed a big source of energy waste. Piping systems more than five years old have been shown to exhibit leaks of up to 25 percent and a single quarter-inch air leak at 100 psi will cost more than $2,500 a year depending on current energy costs. Addressing leaks is one of the first maintenance steps a facility can take to reduce energy costs.
Larger leaks can be found by walking the path of the air flow and listening for the leaks. This method should be performed during times when the system is pressurized but nothing in the facility is operating.
Most leaks, however, cannot be heard without assistance. Ultrasonic leak detection can be used to discover smaller leaks. In a typical facility, smaller leaks account for significantly more energy loss than the larger leaks, so it is important to find and repair the small leaks regularly.
Finally, in order to determine how many total leaks your compressed air system has, monitor the compressor when nothing is using the compressed air. Any resulting compressed air use is solely feeding the leaks.