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The highs and lows of specifying compressed air

Incorrectly specified equipment can substantially short-change you on the performance, cost and energy saving potential of your compressors. Here’s why using standard and low pressure systems appropriately is so important…

Fit for purpose

It might seem like stating the obvious but air compressors should always be fit for purpose and closely specified to meet your needs. We regularly find customers using standard industrial air compressors (i.e. those capable of producing 8-13bar) for low pressure duties

Pressure too high or compressor too large for the application

We often find air compressors rated at 10 bar and above working in a system that only requires six or seven bar pressure. This is very inefficient as every one bar increase in pressure increases energy consumption by approximately seven per cent.

If an air compressor’s output is too high for the application, there will be negative implications for the equipment’s performance and the running and maintenance costs. Equally, there will be issues if the output is too low.

Understand your needs

Make sure you or your specifier takes the time to fully understand your compressed air needs. The ISO 11011 framework for the assessment and auditing of compressed air systems is a good place to start.

It’s not ‘one size fits all’

Standard air compressors are by no means a ‘one size fits all’ solution and it’s important to remember that low pressure air compressors can be used for a range of applications (i.e. where compressed air usage is under 4 barG). They are highly appropriate for many applications but are often over looked in the specification process because industry awareness of them and their capabilities is low.

Is there even a need to compress air?

In some applications, there may be no requirement to compress air at all. A good example of this is the transportation of bulk materials in the food, construction and synthetics industries where a blower might be the ideal solution. Designed to deliver high volumes of air at low pressure, there are positive displacement rotary lobe machines, low pressure single stage screw compressors and new ‘hybrid screw-blowers’ (designed to discharge at pressures around 1.5 barG or lower in an energy efficient way) available on the market that might be more suitable.

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The highs and lows of specifying compressed air