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Is Air Audit important ? : Week 4/1/2013

In our last article, we discussed about some interesting facts about compressed air. We also talked about how to handle the compressed air in the industrial environment & various methods of reaping benefits from compressed air management. In this article, we will see how air audit can help the industries save energy & thereby saving money by managing the air properly

Is it important to have an Air Audit in your plant?

It is often said “The first step in controlling anything begins with finding out what you have and how much it costs”.

This applies to compressed air costs too.

An air audit is a good step in finding out where you stand today in terms of spending on air costs. A comprehensive bundle of services are involved in this audit, that help you optimize your compressed air solutions. These services go beyond just leak detection, these would actually involve identifying and defining your system problems, whether they are in demand, distribution or supply, and recommending solutions, allowing you to meet your return on investment goals.

The job starts with studying the supply side of the system. Within each compressed air system, each component is designed to serve a purpose. However, they normally are manufactured to differing standards and are put together by the compressor manufacturer as a standard kit.

Even the most important component, the compressor, is not specifically designed for your plant; at best, you get a compressor closely matched to your requirements. It is important to study whether all these components like compressors, filters, moisture traps etc. are functioning efficiently – both individually and as part of the system.

However, supply is only half the system. On the demand side of the system, compressed air is often wasted and poorly applied. Frequently compressed air is left ‘on’ when production stops for breaks, meals, off shifts, or even weekends. Production equipment frequently consumes air whether production is active or not and the leaks are supported even if no air is consumed for idle production.

All sources of waste need to be identified with specific solutions provided. Low end application of compressed air can be moved to another energy source that is less expensive than compressed air. Specific design recommendations need to be provided for these alternatives.

Scope of the Air Audits

Having understood importance of Air Audit, the first step starts with defining the scope of air audit. This helps in getting the baseline defined. It is very important to define the baseline, as it would mean defining the conditions that exist when the audit is done, so that appropriate steps can be taken to improve the situation. Many times people don’t define these conditions well & it becomes difficult to measure the benefits of corrective measures later on.

Usually the audit scope is defined as below:

  • Air leak detection & tagging
  • Compressor performance testing (Free Air Delivery)
  • Analysis of compressed air demand and supply
  • Study of air quality instrumentation such as filters, traps etc
  • Piping networks & pressure drop measurement
  • Audit of improper usage practices
  • Detailed air audit report & presentation

Once the scope of audit is mutually agreed, complete air circuit is studied, baseline data collected, analysis of findings is done and the audit report is presented to the user.

In our next article, we will discuss about ‘Life beyond Air-Audit’. The article will showcase how the findings of Air Audits can be used in practice to improve the operations, reduce the energy consumption & increase profitability.