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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Green Operations > Standard Operating Procedures for Green and Sustainable Business Operations > Energy Efficient Operations

Air Compressors for Manufacturing Energy Efficiency

Compressed air is one of the most expensive uses of energy in a manufacturing plant and conservation can save money and energy.

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Manufacturing Energy Efficiency with Air Compressor Solutions

Approximately 70 percent of all manufacturers have a compressed air system. These systems power a variety of equipment, including machine tools, material handling and separation equipment, and spray painting equipment.

Energy audits conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) suggest that over 50 percent of compressed air systems at small to medium sized industrial facilities have low-cost energy conservation opportunities.

Compressed Air Energy Cost

Compressed air is one of the most expensive uses of energy in a manufacturing plant. About eight horsepower of electricity is used to generate one horsepower of compressed air. Calculating the cost of compressed air can help you justify improvements for energy efficiency.

Over the life of a compressor, energy costs will be five to 10 times the compressor’s purchase cost. Energy savings can rapidly recover the extra capital required to purchase an energy-efficient air compressor motor.

To find the annual cost of electricity used to power a compressed air system, calculate the cost for running the system under loaded and unloaded conditions.

Formulas to measure the efficiency of your air compressor applications

Conservation Strategies

As much as 80 to 90 percent of the electrical energy used by an air compressor is converted to heat. A properly designed heat recovery unit can recover 50 to 90 percent of this heat for heating air or water.

Identify easy to implement energy conservation opportunities in your compressed air system by conducting a walk-through assessment. Simple conservation opportunities can result in savings up to 25 percent of the current cost to run the compressed air system.

  • Routinely check and correct leaks.
  • Evaluate pressure drops
  • Identify artificial demands -- pressure in excess of what's needed
  • Reduce inappropriate uses of compressed air, ie: air conditioning or fans, blowers to agitate or mix, low pressure for blow guns and air lances.
  • Maintain inlet air filters to prevent dirt
  • Right size your compressr oversized and undersized compressors reduce efficiency.
  • Add an air receiver tank to buffer short-term demand changes and reduce on/off cycling
  • Routinely check the compressor's v-belts. Loose belts slip and reduce efficiency.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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