How Can I Save Money With My Compressed Air Distribution System?

Compressed air distribution system

Thinking of starting an auto body shop? You’ll want to make sure everything is boiled down to simple terms.

One of the biggest difficulties newcomers struggle with when setting up their garage is knowing the difference between a compressed air distribution system and cushion clamps. Then there’s actually applying this new knowledge and making something of it. Before you start creating the ultimate custom garage, take a glance below and start brushing up on your terminology. Not only will this make sure you’re not wasting money, it’ll also keep you from misusing your equipment and risking an accident.

Your compressed air distribution system should be well-maintained and of a high quality. There are quite a few knock-offs on the market and not all of them will be up to snuff. It’s up to you to parse the good from the bad, that of which is made much easier with a little extra knowledge in your back pocket. It’s estimated 70% of all manufacturers have a compressed air system available, meaning you won’t have to search very far for help maintaining your own systems or adding onto existing equipment.

Not only will you save money by keeping your compressed air piping materials sound, but you’ll also make sure you’re not expending too much energy. It’s thought as much as 90% of electrical energy used by an air compressor is converted to a heat source. A properly designed heat recovery unit can recover anywhere from 50% to 90% of the heat for either air or water. If you’re getting less than these percentages it’s possible your compressed air distribution system is starting to show its age and should be either repaired or replaced in the near future.

Let’s talk a little bit about pressure loss. Anything greater than 10% should have you reevaluating your distribution system and identifying which areas could be causing the excessive pressure drops. Every two pounds-per-square-inch decrease in compressor pressure can reduce your operating costs by nearly 2%, great news for any auto body shop owner that wants to whittle down their budget in 2018. Pressure loss in a well-designed system will generally be less than 10% of the compressor’s discharge pressure. You can find this on the outlet of the compressor.

Now, your compressed air system design might not have an air receiver tank available. You’ll need to add one to better buffer short-term demand changes and reduce the pressure on the on and off cycling of the compressor. The tank should always be sized to the compressor, so a 50 hp air compressor would need around a 50 gallon air receiver tank. Cooler air will have dense compressors using less energy to produce pressure, to boot, so a 90 degree F intake air with cooler air from another source will boast lower operating costs by nearly 4%.

What about accidents or leaks? Aside from safety hazards (which should always be number one when handling specialized equipment), compressed air system leaks are a costly issue that’ll put you quickly out of pocket. An 1/8 inch diameter hole in a 100 psi system, for example, can cost you up to $1,200 per year in wasted energy alone. That’ll make you rethink the effort of a few hundred dollars spent toward some extra maintenance. Energy audits provided by the U.S. Department Of Energy (or DOE) suggest over 50% of compressed air systems at small or medium facilities have the best low cost energy opportunities.

Your compressed air distribution system, cushion clamps and compressed air fittings are only as good as what you make of them.

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