23 April, 2024

Maintain your compressed air system for improved efficiency

23 August, 2023

Cliff Warne, BCAS Executive Director, looks at the importance of an effective compressed air maintenance regime and how this can guarantee reliable operation, whilst also ensuring improved energy performance.

Energy saving is a priority for every operator in the current climate – especially when it comes to the cost-efficient operation of compressed air systems. Long running hours and harsh operating conditions can all contribute to higher costs – and greater wear and tear.

The benefits of improved maintenance

Although the largest proportion of compressed air cost of ownership is the energy costs, a thorough maintenance regime will contribute significantly to overall system efficiency, helping to lower operating costs further.

To ensure the compressed air system optimises energy performance, it is important to maintain it regularly, in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommended service intervals, Poor equipment performance can place strain on components, which can lead to an increase in energy consumption.

Rather than waiting for a machine breakdown before action is taken, regular maintenance helps optimise compressed air system efficiency. This will avoid energy losses because of poorly performing equipment as well as unplanned outages and downtime.

Location, location, location

Compressors should always be located in a dry, clean, cool and well-ventilated area. It takes more energy to compress warm air yet some compressor plant rooms can run at temperatures as high as 30°C. This can cause more frequent breakdowns as well as wasting energy.

Installing extra ventilation, will help to keep the compressor room as near to ambient temperature as possible, placing less strain on the compressor and contributing to better performance.

Think system first

Although a compressed air system is a sophisticated piece of engineering, in its basic form it is a ‘system’. All systems in any form require regular maintenance to help ensure performance is maximised.

We would recommend you are regularly inspecting your system for air leaks in the pipework. Just one 2mm hole in the pipework, could cost over £1,249 per year in wasted energy, so implementing a regime for regularly inspecting, and remedying can help lower operating costs. A high leak rate can also cause fluctuations in pressure, resulting in hidden costs such as slower running or even production downtime, not to mention a noisy environment for staff.

And don’t forget, it’s also essential that you check and maintain any ancillary equipment including dryers, filters, pipework and air receivers. Inlet filters should also be checked routinely and replaced before the pressure drop across them becomes significant.

Maintain to gain

Reactive maintenance was, for many years, the default option, where a compressor developed a fault and was subsequently repaired. This could often lead to production downtime and the associated financial losses, so programmes were developed to introduce preventative maintenance regimes.

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