Compressed air powers a number of essential devices, including pneumatic tools and paint guns. Industrial, construction and facilities workers employ these tools daily. But despite high compressed air usage rates, workers and management rarely assess the efficiency of their delivery systems. Why?
These resources are judged to be cost-effective overall. Plus, industry-standard models normally come in at the same price point, as most offer comparable compression capabilities and have similar mechanical needs, according to Plant Services. However, these variables constitute only a tiny fraction of the financial equation.
Operating costs comprise the rest. A 100-horsepower air compressor consumes an estimated $37,000 in electricity per year. If used for a decade, these annual fees amount to roughly 76 percent of the lifecycle cost, while the purchasing price accounts for only 12 percent.
However, with a 5 percent improvement in mechanical efficiency, the operating costs drop dramatically to around $29,000 annually. Yet, few leaders make such adjustments, which means immense fiscal waste. In fact, compressed air systems account for $3.2 billion in wasted energy expenses per year, Plant Engineering reported.
With this in mind, workers and organizations should reevaluate their existing compression platforms and look for ways to cut costs and bolster productivity.
Calculating the costs
Those looking to address air compression efficiency must first determine their operating costs to get a baseline metric. The Department of Energy suggests multiplying the basic horsepower of the equipment by the full-load horsepower, the total projected operating hours, the aggregate electric rate, the percentage of time the machine will run and an adjustment of 0.764. This total figure should then be divided by the motor efficiency rate.
This equation yields the total annual operating cost of the compressor. With this core metric in play, industrial firms can experiment with efficiency-boosting adjustments.
Implementing predictive maintenance
Many organizations deploy reactive maintenance programs to address compression systems. Unfortunately, this approach often creates problems, as equipment becomes more inefficient as time goes on. Conversely, predictive maintenance plans allow managers to monitor and regularly tune compressors to achieve maximum efficiency.
Organizations and workers looking to bolster compressor efficiency and maintain cost-effective machines should look into such strategies. Without these adjustments, compressor-related expenses will continue to balloon and the operation will suffer.