Compressed Air


Compressed air can be used in many industrial settings from pneumatic equipment to air brakes and even cleaning down work stations at the end of a day (not advisable!).

Compressed air is considerably more expensive that other utilities and should be used only when needed for a designed purpose. Only 10% of compressed air is used for useful purposes, the rest is wasted heat or leaks.

Energy costs typically account for 75% of the annual running costs of a compressed air system.

A 30% leakage rate is common.

Rotary screw compressors are the most likely type to be found in small to medium sized businesses and can range from 2 – 250kW.

Reciprocating piston compressors are more likely to be used for small industrial processes or DIY. Most units would be < 3kW.

Use of compressed air is governed by numerous pieces of legislation but most notably the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and Pressure System Safety Regulations (2000) as well as other UK Directives.

Practical Tips

  • Walk through your factory and identify all compressed air uses and, if possible, the flow and pressure requirements of each.
  • Eliminate any inappropriate uses of compressed air such as cleaning work surfaces.
  • Determine the cost of compressed air for your factory by periodically monitoring the compressor operating hours and load cycle.
  • All equipment in the compressed air system should be maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Set a reasonable target for cost-effective leak reduction – up to 10% of total system flow is typical for industrial applications.
  • Audit your compressed air system to establish the actual leak rate and determine the true costs of this leakage.
  • Repair all leaks where this can be done cost effectively – very small leaks can be difficult to repair – and re-asses your compressed air system supply. If your system had a high leakage rate you may be able to downsize your system.
  • Most systems operate at 6-7 Bar, between 90-100 psi and leaks increase the pressure that the system has to provide to deliver this pressure at the point-of-use.
  • A rule of thumb is that every 2psi increase in operating pressure requires an additional 1% in operating costs of energy.
  • Air flow to unused equipment should be shut-off as far back in the system as possible.
  • Reduce the distance the air travels through the distribution system.
  • Check with the compressor supplier for performance specifications at different discharge pressures.

(Source: BCAS)

A compressed air system is expensive to run and requires careful maintenance to operate at its highest efficiency. If you have not had your system audited for a while or would simply like to know how efficiently it is working why not give The CBEN Partnership a ring on 01228 549602 to see how we can help you

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