Reducing & Preventing Compressed Air System Leaks
In our previous post, we shared best practices for detecting compressed air system leaks. Detection should be part of a larger plan for reducing and preventing air leakage, helping you save energy and increase plant efficiency. Here are five ways to do it.
1. Check Your Connections
While leaks can be found anywhere in a compressed air system, they most frequently occur at joints and connections. Worn or improperly applied thread sealant is another frequent culprit.
Many leaks can be resolved by tightening connections or replacing failing or faulty equipment. Leak prevention begins with using high-quality equipment, including couplings, fittings, disconnects, tubing, hoses, drains and traps. Ensure they are installed properly with the appropriate thread sealant.
2. Lower the Demand Air Pressure of the System
A comprehensive audit of your compressed air system should include the proper setting of the controls. By stabilizing the system header pressure at the lowest practical range, you lower the pressure differential across the leak sites. This lowers the rate of flow, reducing the amount of air lost through the leaks.
3. Audit Your Compressed Air System Regularly
Compressed air systems are prone to leaks, especially as they age or as production demand on the system increases. New leaks can occur at any time, and previously repaired leaks may again require attention. This means that leak detection and repair must be a continual effort. Annual or bi-annual audits can help you keep on top of leaks and prioritize repairs.
4. Take Action on Audit Results
This seems to go without saying. But, surprisingly often, plants pay for audits but take little to no action on the findings.
Ideally, you want to reduce leakage to less than 10 percent of your compressed air production. Even if this isn’t immediately possible, any repairs or improvements can make a positive difference in terms of energy savings. Start with the biggest, costliest leaks first, repairing them during scheduled downtime.
5. Involve Employees in Ongoing Leak Detection & Repair Efforts
Even if your air audit and repairs are handled by a contractor, your own employees still play an important role. As the people who come into contact with the equipment every day, they are more likely to notice leaks and their symptoms, such as reduced pressure in the air-powered tools they use.
Employees may be aware of leaks but not report them due to a number of factors: not knowing who to report to, a lack of a clear reporting process, or not realizing the negative effects of leaks.
Employees at all levels should be educated and encouraged to report leaks as they detect them. A plant-wide training session can help outline the financial impact of leaks and the employee’s role in helping the company stay profitable and productive. Set up a clear chain of command and reporting process (such as an online form), ensuring that the information reaches the right decision-makers.
A leak prevention and reduction program is well worth the time and effort. It pays off in terms of lower energy costs, reduced downtime, less wear on your equipment, improved production, and a stronger bottom line.