In a noisy industrial expensive plant, air leaks are everywhere, but hard to detect because the ambient roar washes out the sound of air leaving your system. But strange as it may seem, sometimes you can see compressed air leaks, or more accurately, you can see the result of the air escaping!
Fig. 1 shows the telltale sign of leakage —marks on the wall where lubricated compressed air causes plant dust to stick to the oil mark on the wall, leaving a shotgun pattern and showing us where a problem lies. This waste, consuming 5 cfm of compressed air constantly for years, adding up to a cost of $900 for every year it remains unrepaired.
Blue aluminum piping, sold as high quality product with smooth, low loss interior that reduces pressure loss sometimes has flaws in the installation of fittings for down drops. The leak shown in Fig. 2 is significant, and the mark on the pipe shows us the sign of waste. This one was far up in the roof of a facility, impossible to hear over the production noise but detectable by eye or with a good quality ultrasonic leak detector and a little time.
And Fig. 3 shows the marks on the wall caused by a vortex cooler, this unit was running at an excessive pressure, causing higher than rated flow. The 10 cfm of compressed air being consumed by this device was costing $1,800 per year in operating costs while simply providing positive pressure to an electrical panel to prevent dust infiltration, no cooling was required.
It is best if maintenance and operating staff is trained to look for the signs of leaks and pull out the plant’s ultrasonic leak detector to take it for a spin. Detection and elimination of leaks and inappropriate uses of compressed air can save thousands of dollars.
Fig. 3. This vortex cooler is showing the result of excess flow expelled from the system as waste.
Filed Under: Components Oil Coolers, Compressed Air Technologies, Engineering Basics, Pneumatic Tips