By: Michael Camber
They say, “Hindsight is 20/20” and “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and with designing a compressed air system, I’ve seen it happen more times than I can count. Compressed air is vital to plant operations. Without it, production stops, profit margins plummet, and blood pressures rise. But when it comes to planning ahead to prevent downtime, more often than not, we’re left with a hot mess of shoulda, woulda, coulda.
Building redundancy into your system from the start can save a lot of headaches and heartburn down the road. There’s more than one way to approach redundancy. The classic 100% backup would be to have a second compressor that is the same size. This covers the bases, but it might not be the best solution.
Consider the 50-50-50 approach. With this method, you take your overall compressed air demand and divide it in half. You then have three compressors that are able to produce this amount of air. You can rotate between the three to balance load hours and spread out maintenance intervals. And if one compressor is down, you still have two always running to meet demand. An added bonus is flexibility with production demands. If you have shifts that have lower air demands, you can then run only one compressor, saving a lot of energy.
Finally, don’t forget about air treatment when planning for redundancy. Make sure you have additional filtration and dryers properly sized and piped so you won’t have to worry about compromising your air quality.
Taking a little bit more time when designing your system can keep you from a lot of regret down the road.