A Closer Look at Compressed Air Audits
How much energy could your compressed air system be wasting? You can’t know for sure until you conduct a compressed air audit. These audits are a best practice recommended by Compressed Air Challenge, an independent group that encourages efficient, effective use of these important systems.
Some of the estimates from Compressed Air Challenge are eye-opening. For example, the introduction to their best practices manual states that air compressors use more energy than any other equipment at many plants and that audits can help factory personnel save up to 50 percent of the energy currently being expended to run those systems.
If your facility uses a compressed air system, a compressed air audit makes financial sense. It can help you save money, not only on energy bills, but also on repairs and replacements of compressed air system components.
This blog examines the compressed air auditing process up close. We’ll discuss problems that signal the need for an audit, the steps in an audit, and the potential recommendations you could hear after a professional completes your system’s audit.
Compressed Air System Issues
In truth, all compressed air systems should go through regular audits to identify inefficiencies in the system. That said, some more noticeable problems with your system may prompt you to request an audit from a qualified team of air compressor specialists. These problems could include the following:
- The pressure in the system fluctuates frequently and unpredictably.
- Your energy bill suddenly rises or drops for no logical reason.
- Your system requires repairs on a regular basis, or it needs maintenance more often than usual.
- You suspect your system has leaks.
When you spot any of these issues, schedule a compressed air audit as soon as possible. You should also schedule an audit if your system recently went through substantial upgrades, hasn’t been audited in over a year, or has never been audited.
Steps in an Audit
The purpose of a compressed air audit is to identify and correct inefficiencies in a compressed air system. The steps taken after an audit can also improve your system’s performance, speed up production at your facility, and extend the life of the system’s individual parts.
While compressed air audits can vary a little, depending on the system and the practices of the group conducting the audit, most audits include the following steps.
- A Thorough Examination of All System Components
The auditors should begin by walking through your entire worksite and identifying all parts of the system. This walk-through ensures the auditors have a sense of the system’s overall layout and how individual pieces interplay with one another. During this stage, the auditors may identify flaws in the system design that lead it to operate inefficiently.
Auditors will also want to know details about the systems, such as the age of its parts and what typical operating conditions are. Be prepared to provide that type of information during this stage.
- Installation of Measurement Devices
If your system hasn’t been audited recently, the auditors will install devices that track important data related to how the system’s parts operate. The data tracked will likely include kilowatts used, air flow, air pressure, temperature, and dew point.
- Data Collection and Analysis
Auditors use software programs to collect the data picked up by the tracking devices. The devices collect that data for a set period of time, usually 10 to 14 days. The collection time should include times when the system is being used under typical conditions, as well as peak demand times and downtimes. This variety gives the auditors a more complete data set to analyze.
Once the initial collection period concludes, the auditors can examine the data. Most compressed air auditing software performs some data analysis automatically, but trained auditors are more adept at evaluating the figures and turning them into real-world solutions.
- Modeling of Potential Improvements
At this stage, your auditors will prepare a list of recommendations for improving your compressed air system. (More on that later.) Typically, they use computer modeling to project how your system would change if recommendations were implemented. They may present several of these models to you so you can decide which improvements to make.
Recommendations for Improvement
The recommendations made by your auditors will depend on what the audit revealed. Their recommendations may include making upgrades like the following to your system:
- Replacing wrong-sized air tanks with more appropriately sized tanks
- Modifying where tanks are placed
- Installing flow control valves at key places in the system
- Eliminate unnecessary system components
- Install compressors or air dryers that operate more efficiently
They may also recommend modifying how you use the system. For example, if a component of the system runs constantly but is used rarely, they would likely suggest that you run this machine less often with more efficient control sequencing.
Electric Utilities may offer incentives where energy savings can be realized and investment paybacks can be 1 to 5 years.
Ultimately, you decide which changes to implement. Many auditors will perform a follow-up visit a short time after you implement these changes to ensure the system efficiency improved and to pinpoint any additional problems that may still hinder efficiency.
Talk to a company that specializes in air compressor equipment about performing an audit at your workplace. Air compressor system audits allow your system to use less energy but perform the same functions it does now. The information you learn in an audit can save you money and decrease energy use at your facility.