If you ask the typical industrial worker for the top three most common utilities in their industry you would usually hear water, electricity and gas. What is often overlooked is the commonly accepted fourth utility in industrial applications, compressed air.

Compressed air is a safe and convenient form of energy utilised in the majority of industrial plants to power everything from tools, pneumatic controls and an array of other applications. It is universally accepted that approximately 10% of the world’s electricity consumption is used to compress air. This means that a compressed air system consumes a significant proportion of a plants electricity demand and therefore represents a significant amount in terms of electricity costs.

Therefore when trying to identify ways to reduce a plants energy consumption and the associated cost savings in doing so, the compressed air system is one of the best places to start. Opportunities to reduce energy consumption through increased compressed air efficiency are significant.

Compressed air inefficiency can occur at many points in the compressed air system, such as:

  • 10-15% of energy is wasted through heat loss
  • Inappropriate equipment for the application
    • Oversized compressors
    • Undersized air receiver, dryer and piping
    • Incorrect control system
  • Incorrect pressure settings
  • Air leaks
  • Poor maintenance
  • Installation and layout of system

Most compressed air systems will be running at approximately 20-30% inefficiency or more at any given time resulting in wasted energy and increased operating costs through not only excess electricity charges but increased maintenance costs due to additional wear and tear on the system. It is important every organisation is aware of how much electricity their compressed air system uses and what is the compressed air cost of this is and how it affect the businesses bottom line.

To get an approximate estimate of the amount of electricity your compressed air system uses and your compressed air cost you can use the following calculation:

Cost ($/year) = motor kW x hours of operation (per year) x electricity rate ($/kWh) / motor efficiency

A practical example is a plant that has a 110kW compressor running 24 hours a day, Monday to Saturday all year round and pays 13c/kWh for electricity. The compressor motor operates at 94% efficiency.

The annual cost of electricity for this plant is calculated as:

110 x ((24 x 6) x52) x 0.13 / 94 = $114,000

The annual electricity cost for this plant is over $110,000, if efficiency was improved by only 15%, the plant would save almost $17,000 annually which would add straight to the bottom line improving company profitability.

It is in every businesses best interest to monitor operating costs and know how much it costs to operate their compressed air system.

If you would like assistance in determining the cost of your compressed air system or how you can significantly improve system efficiency don’t hesitate to contact Southern Cross Compressors on 1300 098 901 or simply complete the ‘Enquire Now’ form on this page.