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The unknown costs of your compressed air

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Have you ever considered what the cost of running your air compressor actually is?

Furthermore, have you wondered why your compressor maybe running 24 hours a day?

In this article we discuss how your compressor maybe costing you money and explore ways we can reduce these costs.

Measuring usage of different resources and assets

Energy resources coming into your workshop, plant or factory are usually measured and monitored and costs are transparent. For example, water consumption is measured on site and the main master meter maybe compared with sub meters at various locations and leaks can be easily identified. Leaks can also often be visible due to an excess of water.

Gas and electricity costs will be closely monitored and again these will often be sub metered so that individual assets or areas of a site can be billed.

Compressed air plant costs

If we look at the operational costs of compressed air plants onsite, then we are really discussing the energy costs of that compressor as they typically make up around 70 – 80% of the total costs of a compressed air plant.

Depending on the size of the compressed air plant this will take up considerable operating costs, even smaller plants can add up £15 000+ costs per year.

Compressed air on your site is often one of the most expensive forms of energy, especially as there can be huge energy losses which are typically from:

  • Leakages, which can be up to 50%
  • Disuse of the waste heat from the compressor
  • Missing compressor control systems
  • Pressure losses

The cost of compressed air leakages

If we look in more detail at leakages, it is estimated that leak curing programs could save an estimated 1.7 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year (Source: Fraunhofer Institute, Karlsruhe).

A leaking compressor is often overlooked, leaks within compressed air lines can often be silent or go unnoticed when occurring next to noisy machinery or equipment.
Compressors continue to run regardless of leaks as they maintain a constant pressure on the network. It is estimated that for mature compressed air networks the leak rate can be between 25% – 35%. Heavy compressed air users will be operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Is air leaking from your compressed air system, and if so, how much is this costing you?

Have you been on site when it is a quiet period, over a weekend for example? During this period have you seen your compressor in use? Who would be consuming air over a quiet period? More realistically should we be asking - is air leaking from my compressed air system?

Below is a table which is taken from Druckluft-Effizient.

We have switched out their reference Euro cost at a rate of £1 = €1.15. Note the low energy cost of 1 kW = £0.052. It is estimated the compressor will work 8000 working hours per year.

Hole diameterAir loss atEnergy loss atCosts at
mm6 bar (1/s)12 bar (1/s)6 bar (kWh)12 bar (kWh)6 bar (£)12 bar (£)£125£417

When we look at the above leakage costs on a low kW cost, we can see that a leaking compressed air system can quickly become costly.

These costs also do not take into consideration the additional costs of producing clean and dry air. As your compressor works harder to deliver the required air so to may your refrigeration and adsorption dryers.

How do you combat compressed air leakages?

The starting point to reduce your energy costs on your compressor is to identify leaks onsite.

CS Instruments have a range of instrumentation to allow leaks to be identified on across your site. The Leak Detectors meet the requirements of ASTM Int. E1002-05 as well as allow you to create reports in accordance with ISO 50001 for energy management.

Meets the requirements of ASTM Int. E1002-05. Suitable for loud environments. 10 hour battery time.

View leakage rate in LPM or cost in £££'s. Photograph leaks. Create reports in accordance with ISO 50001.

LD 450 leak detectors are ideal for spot detection of leaking compressor air, gas or vacuum systems.

LD 500 / LD 510 leak detectors build on this model as it includes a camera to allow you to tag leaks for full site audits.

Get in touch

Speak to PCT today about arranging a site audit across your site.

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