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On the road to compressed air energy efficiency

On the road to compressed air energy efficiency

Part 1: How to start your journey today!

A recent report has highlighted that almost half of all Australian manufacturers experienced an average 14% electricity price increase last year. With electricity continuing to be a significant cost to industry, finding ways to optimise energy usage and make energy savings has never been so important. Here’s the good news – compressed air is one of the easiest technologies with which to turnaround quick and significant energy savings, with most compressed air systems hiding up to 30% of energy savings potential!
There are a number of factors to consider on the road to compressed air energy efficiency. In part 1 of our ‘on the road to compressed air energy efficiency’ blog post series we look at how you can start your journey today…

Compressed air is often considered the fourth utility and as such it is an integral part of many manufacturing, processing and engineering operations. However, there is no doubt that operating a compressed air system presents a significant investment to a business. When you actually break down the associated lifetime costs – such as the initial investment cost, maintenance and consumable costs – it is in fact the energy cost component which comes out by far as the largest cost. Electrical power can account for up to 90% of the total costs for compressed air production and, almost three quarters of the lifetime costs of running a compressor will be the associated energy cost! Operating a compressed air system as cost effectively as possible is therefore essential.

Where should I start?
It is never too early or too late to start your journey on the road to compressed air energy efficiency! From assessing the energy efficiency of the actual compressed air equipment you will purchase to assessing and making modifications to an existing compressed air system, a number of opportunities exist to optimise your compressed air energy efficiency.

What are you spending on energy to run your air compressor? This can easily be calculated to give you an understanding of the costs to run an air compressor, as per below.
Compressed air usage (in m3/min) x specific power (in kW/(m3/min)) x operating hours per year x electricity cost per $/kWh = power costs $/year.

However to get the most accurate picture of the energy costs of your current compressed air system and the potential energy savings that could be made, it would be worth speaking with a compressed air specialist that can run a comprehensive air demand analysis audit on your compressed air system.

Sophisticated computer aided audits allow meaningful and accurate data to be gathered regarding compressed air system performance and clearly show how much power and energy are consumed by the current system configuration. Where appropriate, they can also simulate alternative configurations, enabling efficiency comparisons and accurate predictions of the energy savings that could be made from other solutions. You can learn more about air demand analysis audits by clicking here.
Just make sure that when you pick a provider that the measurement and evaluation methods used comply with the requirements as per ISO 11011. This standard establishes rules, methodologies and responsibilities to enable energy audits to be comparable.

Undergoing an audit may reveal that energy savings can be achieved by making simple improvements to the existing compressed air system – such as fixing compressed air leaks and implementing a leak detection management programme, to reducing artificial demand and eliminating inappropriate use.
However, where an air demand analysis reveals that the energy efficiency could be significantly improved by investing in new equipment, the next stage on the road to energy efficiency would be to review the compressed air technologies available…

Join us next month for part 2 of this blog post series where we will look at analysing the energy efficiency of compressor technologies.

Do you want to learn how energy efficient your compressed air system is? Click here to start your compressed air energy savings journey!

The Australian Industry Group (February 2017): Energy shock: no gas, no power, no future?