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Sunday, December 12, 2010

How to Make Your Industrial Air Compressor Operate More Efficiently

It's no secret in the industrial world that compressed air is the least efficient form of energy used on a shop floor. Dollar for dollar, the cost of producing pneumatic energy for various machinery functions is staggering.

Chicago Pneumatic QRS 10HP Belt Drive Rotary Screw Air CompressorUnfortunately, a rotary screw air compressor is very inefficient by design. Electricity enters the factory from the utility pole and does not produce energy until it has turned the rotary screw compressor, pressurized the air lines, proceed through the shop to its intended destination, and then finally producing movement or action via a pneumatic cylinder or device. This complex and elaborate system has many opportunities for waste. The key to conserving energy and producing the most useful pneumatic energy for the least amount of money is analysis and observation. Many inefficiencies can be corrected once they have been identified.

An air compressor is not just a machine. Since the air compressor produces energy it should be treated as a system, hence the compressor becomes the compressed air system.

Begin by listing the air uses and their design cfm and pressure. Record the power consumption before making any system changes. this can be accomplished through the use of a kwh meter. Identify and track and leaks, most of these should be easy to find since they are most often near the point of end use. Once the leaks have been identified, begin repairs, of course from the largest air leaks on down the line. The installation of a flow meter on the main line is also helpful to gain an understanding of the savings from a standpoint of cfm. The compressed air system should also be operated at the lowest possible pressure once some of the larger leaks have been repaired. Another tip is to install a normally closed air valve on the main line to each piece of equipment so the entire machine can be taken out of the compressed air circuit when not in use. Factory engineers should also take a step back and analyze whether compressed air is the best application for your automation in the first place. Many point of use pneumatic operations operate inefficiently by design. Installation of additional gauges and flow motors throughout your shop can also supply a better understanding of factory use and misuse.

The compressed air system is a complex system that warrants constant monitoring. Saving money on utilities is a priority for any factory or industrial facility and an unruly air compressor can be the source of much waste. Remember to baseline and track your progress as you make changes and improvements. This progress needs to be documented for the decision makers within your organization.

Chet is affiliated with Industrial Flea Market who offers a free forum to list used industrial parts and machinery for sale.

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