A properly sized and designed piping system is a necessary component of any distribution compressed air system. Without this key component in place, the delivery of air from the compressor to the specific points of use will be inefficient and costly, both in the short term as well as in the long term. Let’s look more closely at how to size your compressed air piping system to ensure minimal pressure loss while maintaining maximum efficiency.
Determining the Correct Compressed Air Piping Size
Pressure drop is expected when compressed air travels through an air distribution system, though this drop should be minimal. As a general rule, an air velocity of 20-30 ft./sec is acceptable to help minimize pressure drop. To size your compressed air piping system correctly, you must consider your application’s required operating pressure, maximum CFM (cubic feet/minute), and the distance from the compressor to the point-of-use application which is furthest away from the compressor.
Required Operating Pressure. Did you know that for every 2psi above operating pressure, you’re wasting 1% in energy? That’s a very significant number cost wise, especially when considered week after week and month after month.
Maximum CFM Requirements. This number is commonly determined by the compressor’s size and operational specs and reflects the volume of air (in cubic feet) that can move through the system per minute.
The Importance of Correctly Sizing Your Piping System
If the piping is too small, pressure drop is inevitable due to a strangulation of air flow and resulting in end use components “starving” for air. A common mistake is sizing the system piping based on the compressors discharge outlet size versus operating pressure, CFM, and distance. Going to the next larger pipe size may add to the initial materials cost but will significantly reduce (or eliminate) the pressure drop and result in long term savings.
Additional Note: A well designed piping layout can be another contributing aspect of selecting the right size of piping for your facility! Consult with a trusted compressed air expert as you design your system.
Keep the Future in Mind
Don’t forget about planning for future needs and expansions! It can be a big mistake to size your piping system based solely on present flow requirements, rather than planning for future additions. Where possible, think forward regarding your systems demands at the outset rather than having to modify your piping installation down the road. Some additional cost and forethought now could pay serious dividends in the future.