A Report Card On Compressed Air Knowledge

By: Michael Camber

One of our media partners recently quizzed their subscribers to assess users’ knowledge about compressed air systems.  The respondents were in the automotive service industry, but the questions were not industry or application specific and the answers are a fair reflection of compressed air knowledge of most businesses with compressors 25 hp and below.  We thought it would be useful to present the results and discuss areas where understanding of compressed air systems needs a boost.

Duty Cycle

A strong majority (84%) of respondents knew that reciprocating/piston type compressors operate at higher internal temperatures than rotary type compressors, but nearly 1/3 mistakenly thought that shop recips could safely run at 100% duty cycle.  Some recips are built to run at higher duty cycles than others, but all air-cooled units need at least some downtime to cool off.  The consequences of overrunning them include loss of lubrication, seizure, motor failure and higher oil carry-over into paint and equipment.

Check out our Piston vs. Rotary Screw Infographic for a quick comparison.

Piping Material Choices

Regarding piping, nearly 2/3 know that copper or aluminum are better choices– especially if air quality is important– but a full 20% picked PVC as top choice.  While PVC doesn’t accumulate or add contaminants, it presents one major problem:

Wait for it ….

Yes, PVC is less safe than any metal pipe and is subject to rupturing and fragmenting.

Solving Pressure Problems

When presented with five possible solutions for solving a low pressure problem, everyone recognized that buying another (or larger) air compressor to get more flow is not the first step to address the problem.  Checking for leaks, checking pipe size, adding storage and doing a pump-up test to check compressor function were all known to be better first steps.  We were pleased to see that over 80% recommended doing all of these things before buying another compressor to get more flow (cfm).

Filters Are Not Dryers

Likewise, we were pleased to see that everyone knew that a compressed air dryer is a simple solution to address the common summertime problem of increased water in compressed air lines and tools.  It’s apparent though that not everyone understands the difference between dryers and other devices that remove some moisture. Filter style moisture separators (with drain valves) are effective at removing liquid water.  Storage tanks do the same and can allow some moisture vapor to cool and condense to liquid, but the key to effective drying is reducing the compressed air pressure dew point below the ambient temperature.  Tanks and filters cannot do it. A dryer can.

The last quiz question was about compressor sizing. Since this topic is a bit more complex it deserves its own post. Stay tuned…

Resolve to Learn

By: Michael Camber

New year – new me” Does that sound familiar? At the start of the new year, many of us are turning our attention from the accomplishments of the past year to new goals and resolutions for the year ahead.

Here at Kaeser, we strongly believe in ongoing professional development both for our own employees and our customers. The more we know, the better we can advise and support our customers. This is why Kaeser Compressors’ training department holds close to 100 internal training classes a year (that is just in the US). In 2018 alone we spent 215 days in a classroom. That’s a big investment in education.

Beyond that, we are always encouraging our customers to learn more, dive deeper, and think outside the box regarding their compressed air, vacuum and blower systems. The more you know about compressed air, the more efficiently and reliably you can make it.

To that end we have teamed up with several industry media partners to present free webinars throughout the year to share lessons learned and best practices from compressed air and blower experts. Here is a schedule of events:

You can register to attend the live session, or if you prefer, watch the archived version as your schedule allows. Many webinars offer additional resources for download that pertain to the webinar topic and you can usually download the slides as well.

Want to educate yourself on other industry topics? These publications produce many webinars on a number of topics for your plant and are conducted by industry experts. While the presenters typically have an affiliation with a solution provider, the media hosts ensure the webinars are educational in nature and are not a sales push. Here are some industrial magazines’ webinar pages to take a look at:

Registration isn’t open for all the webinars yet, so we will update this post as registrations open. Subscribe to our blog (look for the “Follow via email” button at the top right of this page) to get updated on when registration opens or take some time and look at some of our archived webinars here.

We hope education is a goal for you in 2019 and that you will join us at one of our webinars this year. We would also appreciate hearing other goals you have for 2019, and if you have any recommendations on webinars you’ve found helpful, please share with us as well.

CAGI: Helping you pick the good apples

By: Michael Camber

For decades, compressor manufacturers found creative ways to present their energy consumption in the most favorable light when up against competitors.  Some were more scrupulous than others, but often the customer did not get the best value possible.

In the late 1990s— to forestall potentially cumbersome government regulations— the Compressed Air and Gas Institute and its compressor manufacturer members worked together to agree upon standards for measuring the energy efficiency of compressors and a format for publishing it so that buyers and specifiers could make fair comparisons when selecting compressors.  The product of this effort is commonly known as the “CAGI datasheet” (see example below), and we’ve written about this before. The datasheets enable better apples-to-apples comparisons, and they can be helpful in providing documentation necessary for some utility rebate programs.

Sample CAGI datasheet for Kaeser's CSD 125 air compressor
Sample CAGI datasheet for Kaeser’s CSD 125 air compressor

They further agreed to test protocols and developed a Performance Verification Program in which participating members’ products are periodically and randomly selected for testing by a third party to verify the performance data that manufacturers published in the CAGI datasheets format. Participation is voluntary and open to all manufacturers, whether they are CAGI members or not.

Participants may publish a  decal on compressors as well as product literature, web pages, etc.

The key thing to be aware of is that manufacturers should not publish performance in the official format shown above or in any way present the Performance Verification logo unless they officially participate in the program and are in good standing.  As of this writing, only 9 out of 21 members of CAGI’s Rotary Positive compressor section are currently participating in the Performance Verification Program. By the way, the CAGI program is the only one of its kind.  I mention this because we’ve seen some creative marketing out there that implies government certification of product performance.

If a participating member’s products fail to measure up to published performance three times in a five year period, that manufacturer is suspended from the program for a minimum period of six months and should not present customers with CAGI datasheets or represent that they are participants in the Performance Verification Program.

If energy efficiency is important when selecting compressors, you owe it to yourself to get the product’s current CAGI datasheet and confirm the manufacturer is a current participant in the program (on the CAGI website).

Learn more about CAGI’s verification program in this video:

Additional resources:

  1. White paper: CAGI Data Sheets: An apples to apples comparison
  2. CAGI’s Performance Verification Program

Compressed Air Webinar: Using Predictive Technologies with Compressed Air

Register today for Plant Services magazine’s free webinar titled “Using Predictive Technologies with Compressed Air.”

Live webinar: Tuesday, August 28, 2018 | 2 pm ET

Compressed air has a major impact on production, with downtime a chief concern for industrial plants. The move towards IoT connectivity offers opportunities to better monitor and manage mission critical equipment, such as compressed air systems. Incorporating predictive technologies into day-to-day operations has the potential to improve reliability, increase uptime, and reduce maintenance costs.

Join compressed air experts Neil Mehltretter (Engineering Manager for Kaeser Compressors, Inc.) and Timothy Hitzges (Product Engineer for Kaeser Compressors, Inc) as they discuss ways to proactively improve compressed air system performance such as:

  1. Lubricant analysis
  2. Ultrasonic leak detection
  3. Data collection

Register here: https://info.plantservices.com/webinar-2018-compressed-air

 

Root Cause Analysis and Compressed Air

By: Wayne Perry and Neil Mehltretter

Broadly speaking, industrial plants in the United States have been making great strides towards improving processes, reducing costs, and finding new ways to increase profit margins. The desire to reduce waste and better understand daily plant operations has spawned a number of strategies to accomplish these goals. One such strategy is Root Cause Analysis.

Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a systematic approach to problem solving, commonly applied when there is a significant failure or issue with far-reaching impact. Its goal is to identify the factors of the negative event and determine what needs to change to prevent similar future occurrences. The spirit of RCA is investigative and collaborative in nature, whereby a team works together to discuss and carefully document the findings.

For compressed air, the common issue of wasted energy is a problem that warrants such analysis. According to a survey conducted by the US Department of Energy, approximately 10% of the electricity consumed at a typical industrial facility is for generating compressed air. In some facilities, this percentage can reach 30% or more. Much of this power is wasted in generation due to poor choices in compressor size and lack of controls. Additionally, it’s estimated that half of all compressed air generated is wasted. Despite the widespread waste of compressed air and the potential for optimizing a compressed air system, it is quite often neglected when plant efficiency initiatives are discussed.

In one example, a furniture manufacturer had grown its business and over the years, its compressed air system had grown into a 2400 hp system. Now, with a power bill for compressors over $1 million per year, management felt it was time to take a look at ways to improve the system. An in-depth assessment produced some eye-opening results. The total productive demand on the system could be satisfied with only half of the compressors currently being used. The manufacturer was losing about $500,000 per year on power, about $250,000 per year on maintenance, and had spent about $600,000 in capital for equipment that was not needed.

Unfortunately, this situation is all too common. The tendency in industrial plants is to throw equipment (and power) at compressed air system problems instead of trying to find the root cause of issues like pressure fluctuation. As it turned out for this furniture manufacturer, $500,000 of power costs could be eliminated for less money than they were spending every year on maintenance for equipment they did not need. Very few manufacturers would accept a 50% scrap rate for production inputs, yet it is quite common in compressed air.

This blog entry is an excerpt from our white paper, “Applying Root Cause Analysis to Compressed Air”. To learn more, download the full version of the white paper here.