Maximizing the Energy Efficiency of Your Compressed Air System

Air compressors are some of the most demanding energy users in a plant. In fact, over the life of an average compressor, the energy cost often exceeds the equipment cost several times over. Improving your air compressor’s energy efficiency can make a huge impact on your bottom line. Here are a few ways to reduce the cost of producing compressed air and maximize your energy savings:

Request a Compressed Air Energy Audit

Having a professional perform an air audit to measure your current flow rates, energy consumption and operating pressure can help identify significant cost savings. Often, evaluating things like how your compressors are controlled or whether you need extra storage can improve compressor efficiency. Air audits should be performed on a regular basis and any time changes have been made in your plant that may impact your compressed air system.

Find and Repair Air Leaks

Leaks in your system cause an unnecessary load on compressors, which inevitably requires more energy and maintenance. Without a proper air leak maintenance program in place, leaks in your air compressor could account for 20–30% of your total air demand and cost you thousands of dollars a year in wasted energy. Some leak surveys have actually enabled customers to completely shut down extra compressors.

Reduce Air Pressure

Less pressure = less energy. It’s that simple. According to the Compressed Air & Gas Institute, for every 2 psi reduction, you can save approximately 1% in energy consumption. Make sure your system hasn’t been set at a higher pressure than is necessary or requiring additional pressure as a result of leaks.

Maintain Your Equipment

Compressed air equipment is a big investment. Avoiding regular maintenance can lead to inefficient operation, costly repairs and even equipment failure. Following a consistent preventive maintenance schedule is a smart way to protect your investment and maximize savings. Changing filters and lubricants and having your equipment inspected regularly will keep it running efficiently and reduce your total cost of ownership.

Put Wasted Heat to Work

Compressing air naturally generates heat. Generally, this heat is wasted, but the majority of it can actually be recovered and used for operations like heating a warehouse or providing hot water for cleaning.

Use Your Energy Wisely

Too often, compressed air is used for tasks that could be completed more economically, such as using it as a blower to clean up or as a fan for cooling. Make sure your staff is educated on proper and improper uses of compressed air.

At Lewis Systems, we want to make sure you’re getting the most efficient performance from your system. Our factory trained service team can perform everything from ultrasonic leak detection to an in-depth Energy Audit and Air Study. We also offer maintenance and service plans to ensure your equipment is operating at peak efficiency. To discuss your energy needs, contact us at 800.222.4553.

PD Blowers and Vacuum Pumps: Why Replace the Whole Package?

Keeping positive displacement blowers and vacuum pumps well maintained by performing small repairs can extend the life of both pieces of equipment. But as they age and corrosion occurs from moisture inside the inlet and discharge silencers, both will eventually need to be replaced. When the time comes to replace a bare blower or vacuum pump, it’s smart to consider replacing the whole package.

Advantages to Replacing the Whole Package:

  • Energy efficiency: New packages are considerably more energy efficient and could help provide long-term cost savings for your operation.
  • Reduced noise: New packages are often quieter and can reduce pulsation issues.
  • Space savings: New smaller packages can accommodate sizing requirements that have changed since the original package was installed. They’re also easier to access for repairs.

As you evaluate your positive displacement blower and vacuum pump package needs, there are a few questions you should consider to make sure the replacement process goes smoothly.

Does the blower motor need to be replaced?

If your PD blower is showing signs of wear, how much longer do you really expect the drive motor to last? Replacing the motor before there is a serious issue can help avoid a costly breakdown.

What type of blower do you need?

New tri-lobe or helical screw blowers are more efficient than a bi-lobe blower. Upgrading your blower style can also reduce pulsation and noise.

Would you like new controllers or VFDs?

New packages can be fitted with all sorts of controllers, monitors and variable frequency drives.

Could you benefit from a new cabinet enclosure?

Upgrading or adding a cabinet enclosure could help reduce noise.

Is it time for new gauges and/or monitoring?

New packages offer intelligent monitoring solutions that can help you keep track of how your equipment is performing at all times.

Lewis Systems sells and services major PD blower and vacuum pump brands such as Gardner Denver, Powerex and Travaini. Our factory trained and certified technicians can work with you to determine the extent of your repair or replacement needs. Contact us at 800.222.4553 if you have questions or would like to discuss your equipment options. 

Air Compressor Troubleshooting Guide

When an air compressor goes down, productivity can immediately slow or stop. Fortunately, there are some things you can check yourself to see if you’re facing a major compressor issue or something that can quickly be resolved. 

My compressor won’t start.

You’re pressing the button but nothing’s happening. You may be experiencing an electrical issue or your compressor’s safety device may have been tripped. Check the:

  • System display for errors
  • Power supply and fuses
  • Wiring system for wrong lead connections
  • Temperature shutdown switch
  • Motor starter overload heaters
  • Oil level

My compressor starts, but it won’t stay on.

If your compressor will only run for a short time, it’s possible that the unit is overheating. Check the:

  • Discharge temperature switch setting
  • Oil level, oil cooler and oil filter
  • Thermostatic mixing valve (rotary screw compressors)
  • Temperature shutdown switch
  • Motor starter overload heaters
  • Room ventilation and ambient air temperatures

My compressor is very noisy.

A compressor that is making loud noises likely has a part that is loose, damaged or worn out. Check for:

My compressor is using too much oil. 

If your compressor is using an excessive amount of oil, you probably have a leak. Check for:

My compressor isn’t delivering enough pressure.

You need a certain amount of pressure to run a tool or complete a task and the compressor can’t seem to keep up. First look to see if there’s an air leak in the hose or piping, then: 

  • Make sure the inlet valve is not restricted or broken
  • Check for air leaks downstream
  • Check for improperly adjusted controls
  • Clean or replace the air filter
  • Tighten belts if applicable

It’s important to follow basic safety procedures when troubleshooting. Always open the main disconnect switch and remove all power from the unit before trying to determine the issue. Follow “Lock Out” or “Tag Out” procedures. Also, remember to relieve the system pressure before removing parts or breaking any lines. If you are experiencing a serious compressor issue or can’t determine why your compressor isn’t working, contact Lewis Systems at 800.222.4553. Our dedicated service team can troubleshoot and help you determine next steps.

Rotary Screw vs. Reciprocating Air Compressors

rotary screw compressor or reciprocating air compressor

When deciding on the right air compressor for your business, it’s important to distinguish between the two main types available: the rotary screw compressor and the reciprocating/piston compressor. The first notable difference is in their operation. Rotary compressors have two screws that turn in opposite directions, trapping the air between them causing compression. Reciprocating compressors use pistons that move up and down to compress the air inside the cylinder. Although most companies have relied on the uses of reciprocating air compressors and the traditional piston model, comparing the maintenance costs, required application and individual features of both types can help you determine what’s best to help your productivity and bottom line.

Maintenance

One of the advantages of the rotary screw compressor over the reciprocating compressor is the reduced maintenance requirements and costs. Rotary compressors generally require simple filter and lubricant upkeep. Reciprocating air compressors have multiple parts that require frequent checks such as valves and piston rings. As these parts wear over time, the compressors generate more heat and without a consistently high level of maintenance, can gradually lose performance value.

Application

When comparing compressor types, it’s important to consider what you will be using it for. A clear advantage of reciprocating air compressors over rotary screw compressors is their ability to work at higher levels. They perform better for jobs requiring pressures above 150 psi. Because of this flexibility of use in demanding applications, they are used in a variety of industries. Additionally, they can be base mounted or mounted directly onto tanks.

Rotary Screw Air Compressors are best suited to run at pressures under 150 psi. This makes them ideal for standard plant industry applications. They are dependable and have long lifecycles, making them a more cost effective option for many medical and industrial facilities. And like reciprocating compressors, they can run on either gas or electricity.

Features

In addition to the varying maintenance costs and distinctive differences of functional application, there are additional features of each compressor type to consider.

Rotary screw compressors:

 Optional designs and enclosures to reduce noise levels
 More energy efficient
 Generates less heat
 Functional in extreme temperatures
 Safe and relatively small in size
 Continuous operation with no pistons to rest for cooling

Reciprocating compressors:

 Produces both high power and high pressure
 No oil carryover
 Greater compression range
 Better for intermittent operation
 Most commonly used compressor
 Lower initial set-up cost

There are a lot of complex factors that go into choosing the right compressor for your application. To learn more about which type of air compressor is best for your business, contact a specialist at Lewis Systems. We stay aware of the latest technological advancements and seek out the most energy efficient and economically viable solutions for our customers. We also service a wide variety of compressed air systems and equipment from reliable companies such as Gardner Denver, Kobelco and Becker. Contact us today for more information.

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A Preventive Guide to Keeping Your Air Compressor Contaminant-Free

Compressed air purification equipment is essential to modern production facilities. When selecting the right purification equipment, it’s crucial to consider the required air quality levels, overall cost and how to establish a comprehensive plan to keep your air compressor clean and well-maintained.

Although the quality of air required for your compressed air system will vary depending on what you’re using it for, there are a few main contaminants that need to be considered no matter what its function. Taking preventive action will help your air compressor run more efficiently, promote long-term dependability and reduce the need for costly repairs.

What Contaminants Are Most Concerning?

  • Water. Of all the contaminates that can create issues with an air compressor system, moisture is the number one problem. Condensed water and water aerosols cause corrosion to the storage and distribution systems, reducing performance efficiency and increasing your maintenance costs.
  • Particulates. This is a combination of rust, pipe scale, atmospheric dust and microorganisms. Despite filtration, many of these tiny particles get through, damaging equipment and diminishing the life of the air compressor system and its components.
  • Oil. Many air compressor systems use oil for lubrication, sealing or cooling. Contamination occurs when the oil is drawn into the system as vapor, aerosol or liquid. Once inside, the oil mixes with the water and becomes acidic. This can lead to rust, which damages both the air compressor system and the product itself.

How Can I Limit the Effects of Contamination?

Once you’re aware of the main factors of contamination, air compressor preventive maintenance and cleaning is your best defense for consistent and cost-effective productivity.

  • Location. Installing your compressor in the right location makes everything else easier. Your system should be installed in a clean, well-lit and ventilated area with ample space all around for ease of maintenance. Select a location that provides a cool, clean, dry source of air. In some cases, it may be necessary to install the air filter at some distance from the compressor to obtain proper air supply.
  • Temperature. Overheating will shorten the life of compressor lubricant and cause premature wear and tear. Weekly checks of the coolers are important to prevent future issues. Check for dirt accumulation on the oil or aftercooler core faces and cooling fans. If cleaning is required, clean the exterior fin surfaces of the cores by blowing compressed air carrying a nonflammable safety solvent in the direction opposite to the cooling fan air flow. This will keep the exterior cooling surfaces clean and ensure effective heat dissipation to help avoid the warm conditions that allow microorganisms to thrive.
  • Filter. Spending extra time and money on an advanced filtration system will likely result in financial savings in the long run. The inlet air filter element is your first line of defense in keeping your oil, oil filter and air/oil separator clean and performing properly. Maintain a regular schedule of checking and replacing your inlet air filters. Dirty or clogged air filters reduce your compressor’s efficiency and over time, they can tear, letting contaminates such as larger particulates into your compressor. Newer compressors can help you with preventive maintenance by monitoring inlet air filters and will advise you when a filter requires servicing. Another helpful option is to choose an oil-free air compressor, which not only eliminates the possibility of oil contaminates altogether, but is also better for the environment and helps reduce energy costs.
  • Oil. If your compressor is oil lubricated, nothing will shut your system down faster than running low on oil or exceeding your lubricant’s life. Having a regular oil analysis program in place and checking oil levels daily ensures that your compressor is maximizing its efficiency. And always remember to never mix lubricants in your system.

Lewis Systems would be happy to review your compressed air needs. Whether you have an oil-free, rotary screw or reciprocating air compressor that needs cleaning, regular maintenance or repair, contact us today for the finest factory trained and certified technicians and 24/7 service. Our four convenient locations are ready to serve you. For more updates on the latest air compressor tips and trends, follow us on LinkedIn.