No matter what industry you’re in, if your equipment uses compressed air for power, your compressed air piping design will have an enormous impact on your energy efficiency, the lifespan of your equipment, and your maintenance costs. To help you achieve the most efficient compressed air piping design possible, here are a few common mistakes that engineers make while designing their compressed air distribution system:
- MISTAKE: Using air compressor piping that is too narrow.
If you’ve ever tried to eat a smoothie with a straw that is too small, you have a good grasp of why this is a problem. You have to work extra hard to get the smoothie through the straw and into your mouth, and for the amount of effort that you have to exert, the amount of smoothie that you get is disappointing.
When you apply this concept to compressed air piping design, you understand why it is important to use piping that can adequately move the air pressure to your equipment. If the piping is too narrow to move the air pressure efficiently, the motors have to work in overdrive just to produce enough air flow to make your equipment work. This burns your equipment up extra fast, and costs you multiples of what you should be paying in energy. Not to mention, it is difficult to regulate the appropriate amount of air pressure for your equipment to operate at optimal efficiency when the piping is different than what is recommended by the manufacturer.
- MISTAKE: Using an air compressor that is too small for the equipment.
If your air compressor isn’t big enough to adequately produce the amount of air pressure your equipment needs, it will have to work extra hard. This means that it will burn out a lot faster than it should. It also means that you’ll pay more for energy to power it. It also means that your equipment will likely burn out faster as well. Follow the manufacturers recommendations when choosing an air compressor, so that the compressor and your equipment operate at maximum efficiency.
- MISTAKE: Wasting excess air pressure.
All energy usage involves some degree of energy loss. This is true of any energy system. However, the easiest and most straight-forward compressed air piping design involves exhausting the excess air pressure. The upfront cost of exhausting the unused air is far cheaper than installing a mechanism to exhaust it. However, in the long run, this option costs so very much more.
You’re paying to produce good air, paying to push that air through your system, then flushing it down the toilet. A simple air recovery mechanism will capture some of the excess air and return the energy to your compressor to be used again. It reduces the amount of wasted energy, and lowers your energy costs. It’s low hanging fruit.
- MISTAKE: Underestimating your air storage needs.
If your equipment requires more air pressure than your compressor can produce on demand, your compressor will start cycling to try to keep up. This slows the efficiency of your equipment, as well as wastes energy (you might have noticed this common theme in this article). An air storage tank wracks up air and helps ease the burden on the compressor to meet all of the compressed air needs the equipment has when operating at peak.
One common mistake that air compressed system designers make is underestimating the size of the tank. If it is too small, the equipment will burn through the air and the compressor will go back to cycling to keep up. Get an adequately sized air storage tank to ensure your system operates efficiently.
- MISTAKE: Forcing the air to go through an obstacle course along the way to the equipment.
Let’s say you have a big work space. Maybe your compressor is over here and some of the equipment you need to power is over there. Maybe the piping has to do loopty loops and go through arduous places along the way to reach everything. Approach this very carefully. Each time the air flow has to make a sharp turn, it looses some of its efficiency. If the piping goes through a warm area without proper insulation, you will lose air through condensation. Take these into account while mapping your piping.
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