'As Free as the Air?' Not with a Gas Leak
by Taryn Hardes, on Wed, Jan 23, 2013 @ 16:01 PM
Compressed air can be one of the most expensive utilities in an industrial plant
If your compressed-air systems are leaking, you are essentially throwing away money. That's why the energy management services we provide include leak detection. More »
When plant managers think about conserving energy, their attention often goes to the power used for lighting, heat, and running machinery. But one of the most expensive utilities often gets overlooked: plain old compressed air. That's because, while the air itself may be free, the compression isn't. So if your compressed-air systems are leaking, you are essentially throwing away money.
That's why the energy management services provided by Edmonton Valve & Fitting include leak detection. Energy management services are part of our Value Impact Partnership program, which we have been running for the past dozen years to save money for our customers.
How big of a deal are compressed air leaks? On average, uninspected systems are losing 25 percent to 30 percent of their compressed air through leaks, according to sales supervisor Tristian McCallion. And whatever amount of energy is in a compressed air line, it takes many times more electrical energy to get it there. Think about the last time you used a bicycle pump. The higher the pressure in the system, the hotter the pump gets. The same thing happens with an air compressor: It generates a lot of heat getting the line pressure up to where you want it.
Now think about all the places where air can leak out: Threaded connections, quick-connects, hoses, valves. Basically, anywhere that a human interfaces with the line has the potential for an air leak.
Checking for leaks
There are a couple of ways we check for leaks. Snoop Liquid Leak Detector is a traditional method that is very dependable. When the liquid starts bubbling around a connection, it's a sign that air is coming out. But there's an even better way: ultrasound. The same technology that allows doctors to "see" inside the human body allows Edmonton Valve and Fitting to detect air leaks. The equipment can hear the sound of escaping air, a kind of white noise. Ultrasound is fast too. Edmonton Valve & Fitting and the Swagelok Energy Advisors team can inspect a moderate size industrial facility in a single day.
Finding and fixing air leaks not only eases the load on the air compressor, it means you can put off buying additional equipment as the old compressor nears capacity.
Everything we've said about compressed air applies to other gases, only more so. If you need helium or some other purchased gas in your system lines, that's even more money blowing away when you have a leak.
How much money are you losing to leaks? Let us find out for you. To get an estimate on the amount of money you are losing to leaks, click here.