True, there was a time when compressed air systems could be more or less taken for granted. Compressor technology was somewhat rudimentary, energy costs were low, processes less sophisticated and just-in-time deliveries was a thing of the future--not to mention lights-out manufacturing.
But for many companies today, all of that has changed. Air compressor design has a great bearing on efficiency and reliability, electric power is expensive and even penalizing, on-time deliveries are often critical and 24/7 demand on systems is commonplace. Today, an inefficient, inadequate, unreliable or failed compressed-air system can take down millions of dollars of automated equipment and waste precious production time as well as putting customer relationships at risk.
"When the air goes down, the plant can't run," says Stuart Silverman, President of LANS Company (Glendora, CA). "Without the right compressor technology, some users could be down for a week, waiting for service technicians to get them back up and running." That sort of problem seldom occurs with LANS Company customers.
The company installs rotary vane air compressors from Mattei Compressors. Rotary vane compressors, a more sophisticated technology, represent a shift from traditional piston-style systems. The rotary vane design is far more efficient and cleaner while the vanes (or blades) are held outwardly by centrifugal force. A film of oil between the blades and the stator (housing) wall forms a practically perfect seal. Importantly, the performance of a rotary vane compressor does not degrade over time because during rotation the vanes slide on an oil film preventing direct contact with the internal surface of the stator. This means there is virtually no wear on the vanes.
LANS Company is a leading Southern California distributor of air compressors, dryers, filters and vacuum pump systems. To Silverman, with over 40 years in the industry, a manufacturing plant having air compressor problems is unacceptable.
Silverman recommends hiring a manufacturer-approved vendor to handle the compressed air equipment. A qualified compressed air company can save plants huge dollars over the life of the compressor.
Many shops don't realize that the initial cost of the compressor and maintenance is minor when compared to electrical costs. Over the life of the compressed air system, more than 80% of the total compressed air system costs are attributed to electrical costs, while only 11% is the actual compressor cost and about 5% maintenance costs. Southern California Edison, states that a 1/2-inch-sized compressed air leak can cost about $4,800 per month!
At LANS Company, minimizing these expenses are a top priority. Tips to reduce compressed air costs:
1. Don't overlook those "minor" air leaks by repairing and replacing piping.
2. Preserve the compressor through routine maintenance - just like you would your car. A dirty oil removal filter can waste 2% of your electrical bill while a soiled inlet filter can waste 3% and a clogged air/oil separator up to 5%.
3. Purchase a premium efficient motor, not only do you save beaucoup bucks on your electrical bill, but Edison offers significant rebates that offset the initial cost.
4. Consider a no-loss auto drain which can significantly reduce lost air.
5. Size the compressor based on the CFM you typically need. Don't oversize your compressor.
6. Prepare for OSHA inspections early. Don't allow surprise visits to leave you with a violation. Instead, have your compressor technician examine the system and make recommendations/changes before an audit.