The High Cost of Compressed Air System Leaks

Compressed air systems are essential for a range of industrial and manufacturing processes…and the fact is, they leak. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the estimated average leakage rate for compressed Compressed air system piping
air systems is 25%, though it can be much higher.

Compressed air leaks are too often overlooked, considered an inevitability. However, they come with high costs in terms of wasted energy and operating losses…all of which can have a significant impact on the bottom line.

Wasted Energy

Energy wastage from a leaky compressed air system goes far beyond air lost through the leaks themselves. Compressed air leaks create an artificial demand for air —a demand that offers no productive value in return. Leaks consume air flow that is needed for productive uses, often resulting in decreased pressure at the points of use. Turning up the pressure at the compressor in order to compensate only exacerbates the problem.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that half of all compressed air is wasted due to system leaks, artificial demand and inappropriate usage. Considering the billions of dollars spent on compressed air across the industrial sector each year, that’s a tremendous cost for wasted energy that produces no real value. Individual facilities could be losing thousands of dollars each year in wasted air alone, apart from related operating losses.

Reduced Productivity & System Efficiency

Excessive air leaks cause fluctuations and drops in system pressure. As a result, air-operated equipment and tools cannot function properly. They may even shut down entirely, resulting in disruptive and expensive unscheduled downtime.

Leaky compressed air systems must also work harder than necessary to meet production demands, and so are ill-equipped to handle additional capacity when production surges occur.

Reduced Equipment Life & Increased Maintenance

By continually forcing a compressed air system to worker harder than it should, leaks can shorten the useful life of nearly all system equipment. This is especially true of the compressor, which must run longer in order to maintain pressure in a leaking system. Leaks can waste as much as 20-30% of the compressor’s output, adding to the strain.

These factors add up to a need for more frequent maintenance, with all the accompanying repair costs and downtime. The compressor may even need to be replaced sooner, reducing the service life of the system.

Detecting & Reducing Compressed Air Leaks

In future articles, we will share strategies for identifying and reducing compressed air leaks. A compressed air audit, available from C&B, can help you lower energy costs, increase uptime, and reduce wear on your equipment through leak detection and repair.

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