12 April, 2024

Five ways to reduce compressed air energy consumption

03 January, 2023

Reducing consumption of compressed air can help mitigate rising energy costs and reduce CO2 emissions. The difficulty for manufacturers is knowing what energy-saving measures will yield the best return on investment. Festo offers these five practical measures based on its experience of compressed air systems as a supplier, manufacturer, auditor and trainer

1 – Conduct regular energy audits and improvement programmes An energy audit should assess your compressed air system performance from the point of generation in the compressor room to consumption on the production line and all points inbetween. A thorough audit analyses the data from the assessment, documents the findings and includes an estimate of the energy saving that can be achieved. This is essential to deliver consistent and comparable results across multiple sites.

Festo conducts audits in compliance with ISO11011:2013. Audits to this standard provide a measurable return on investment – whether your benchmark is KWh, CO2 or hard cash. However, one audit in isolation is only a snapshot in time. To be truly effective, audits need to be undertaken regularly, with results feeding into a continuous improvement plan.

2 – Check the specification carefully when purchasing new machines Independent estimates have found that compressed air consumption represents around 77% of the total lifetime cost of operation of a typical packaging/assembly machine, whilst the initial capital investment represents around 14% and maintenance accounts for the remaining 9%. Machine optimisation is therefore critical in achieving energy efficiency and controlling costs.

Look for new machines that have an energy monitoring system which records the compressed air consumption data. What is the design operating pressure – and has consideration been given to operating different pressure zones? You also need to be sure the OEM has carefully weighed the electric versus pneumatic question: have they optimised the machine for initial purchase price or lifetime operating costs?

By asking the right questions at purchase time, machine endusers can ensure their operation supports their key environmental and cost targets, that it is future proof, delivers live monitoring ‘out of the box’ and has power energy consumption built in.

3 – Exploit free online software tools to select the most energy-efficient products for existing machines

If replacement of existing, less energy-efficient machines is not an option, it is possible to retrofit intelligent products that provide energy consumption monitoring and control.

For example, air preparation units such as Festo’s MS-C2M and E2M offer live energy monitoring to the PLC (via fieldbus connections) and reduce system pressure and block air flow when production has stopped. Intelligent pneumatic valve technology, such as the ground-breaking VTEM Motion Terminal, offers flexible control of force and pressure by integrating pneumatics, sensors, electronics and app-based software in a single unit. The energy saving benefits of these and other products - including totalling flow meters, pulse valves and energy reducing vacuum generators - are now easier to identify than ever before, thanks to software tools, such as filters within Festo’s online catalogue. Where upgrades may invalidate machine warranties or certifications, it is best to work with the OEM to ensure documentation, warranties and compliance are maintained.

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