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Compressed Air Installations: Opportunities to Improve Efficiency

A lot of people don't really understand what compressed air installations are; most of them think that compressed air is completely free, therefore the energy it produces is free. Compressed air installations can be described as a relatively new and improved technology especially for things like water and steam lines. As such, this technology brings one huge benefit: reduction of energy loss. The catch is simple: with a 2 to 1 ratio, every 2 points drop of pressure results in 1% reduction of electricity.
Using the compressed air system is rather easy: it starts with finding and fixing leaks. Afterwards the system needs to be sized and then it's ready for use. Once the system is properly installed and working, energy savings will slowly show up on your electricity bill. Small, but significant. This is just the starting point of the energy saving procedure; once leaks are fixed and everything is properly installed, you can move on to implementing some more sophisticated ideas:
1. Efficient Equipment
The compressed air system comprises of three main elements: a compressor, air quality system and end-use system. The compressor here is your most important element since that's where all the pressure decreasing is happening; remember: the lesser the pressure, the lower energy loss. One such example are the rotary screw type compressors which are mainly used in large commercial buildings.
2. The Appropriate Use
Compressed air installations aren't made to be used everywhere. It's simply not sustainable to use compressed air for drive tools and motors where you should be using electric motors for power supply. A simple example: sweeping the floor with something that runs on compressed air is not an appropriate use of the thing; it's actually very expensive, since compressed air is everything but free.
3. Designing an Air Compression System
For this task is best to consider including your evaluation team in the design phase. Here's what you should discuss and analyze:
  • Energy efficiency measures and behavioral measures simply aren't the same. Make sure everyone distinguishes these two things;
  • The measure life is a criteria and should be well-defined;
  • The savings baseline should be established from the very beginning and followed strictly.
Once you decide to use air compression for your energy saving program, do your extensive research on the matter and get familirized. You should know how much will everything cost you and who is qualified to inspect every aspect of your energy systems, install the compressed air installations and perform repairs when needed. Also, there are programs that concentrate only on capital costs, which is again, something to consider.
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