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Compressed air

Improve energy efficiency of your compressed air systems, find out how to test and fix compressed air leaks to save energy.

Of the total energy supplied to a compressor, as little as 8-10 per cent may be converted into useful energy that can do work at the point of use. Minimising waste is vital, as the right approach can save over 30% of the energy used. We recommend the following carbon saving compressed air measures:

1. Reduce the pressure

Compressed air is often generated at the compressor's maximum pressure (often 7 bar, 100 psi). Reducing pressure by 10% can lead to 5% savings in energy. Make small, incremental reductions, checking that operations are not affected.

2. Test for and fix leaks

If you do have leaks, locate them by listening for them out of hours. Or hire ultrasonic leak detection equipment. Ultrasonic equipment (shown in the video) is the most convenient way of checking for leaks, but may require specialist operation.

Even a tiny leak (just 3mm) could cost you more than £700 a year in wasted energy, so carry out a 'no-load' test to check for leaks. We explain how in this short video:

3. Check that compressed air is really required

Compressed air is expensive to run, and yet cheaper options exist for certain jobs. Educate your staff not to allow compressed air to vent to atmosphere (e.g. cleaning benches). If possible, don't use it for drying or ventilation. A usage policy that suggests safe and easy alternatives to compressed air (as well as detailing acceptable uses for it) will help your staff save energy and reduce carbon.

Unless there is a specific requirement (e.g. an explosion risk) do not use air driven motors for providing motion. Where possible use an electrically powered motor instead.

See the video below for more advice on alternatives to compressed air:

4. Reduce the pressure

Compressed air is often generated at the compressor's maximum pressure (often 7 bar, 100 psi). Reducing pressure by 10% can lead to 5% savings in energy. Make small, incremental reductions, checking that operations are not affected.

5. See if compressed air could be delivered more efficiently

If compressed air is appropriate for the job, could it be delivered more efficiently? For example, many blow guns are simply open-ended pipes: fitting a venturi-type nozzle can use 30% less compressed air, and, by making the operation much quieter, improve the working environment.

6. Switch off compressors when not in use

An idling compressor uses around 40% of its full load. Where appropriate, turn compressors off when they're not being used (for example during tea breaks, and certainly overnight), to save energy.

7. Don't over-treat air

Treating air to remove dirt, water and oil is necessary but uses lots of energy. Treat the application rather than the whole system.

 

Compressed air guidance

We have the following publications available for free download:

Energy efficiency support

If you'd like to improve energy efficiency of your organisation, see our services to find out how we can help.  This includes financing and implementation support for organisations seeking to invest in energy efficient equipment, for more details visit our Implementation & finance page.

© 2016 Carbon Trust
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