Improperly configured compressed air piping systems contribute significantly to unnecessary costs and wasted energy. This can be corrected through a few simple measures. Efficient compressed air piping design combined with a decrease in turbulence and the velocity management can help minimize pressure drops and increase energy efficiency of the entire system.
One of the most efficient compressed air piping system designs is a loop system. In a loop system, the air flows in two directions, thus cutting the demand on the overall pipe length in half. The cooperative nature of the loop system results in reduced pressure drops and the full air flow delivered to downstream equipment, which helps the downstream equipment perform at an optimal level.
At its essence, turbulence is simply interrupted air flow. Turbulence in a compressed air system negatively impacts performance delivery, resulting in wasted energy, money, loss of productivity and a compromise of the equipment’s integrity. Turbulence can occur through direct or indirect interference. An example of direct, or natural, interference is when the air crosses through a pipe fitting. Indirect interference occurs from weak air velocity, usually due to improper pipe sizing or contamination built up within the pipes.
In order to correctly manage velocity from the compressor to the point of use, it is important to use the appropriate size pipe. A common mistake in pipe sizing is merely matching the size of the compressor air discharge port, rather than calculating volumetric flow based on actual demand. When this crucial mistake is made, significant pressure drops occur, affecting the compressed air system’s overall energy consumption.
High pressure drops increase the loading pressure demands on the compressor, leading to higher energy costs. As previously mentioned, turbulence contributes to improper air velocity, which can directly result in pressure drops. Improper air velocity leads to air delivery that is either too slow or too fast. If air velocity is too slow, then pressure drops occur naturally as a result. If air velocity is too fast, then back pressure can occur, also resulting in pressure drops. Minimizing pressure drops in the air system both maximizes the overall equipment performance and saves energy.