Compressed air has many industrial applications. Close to three-quarters of all manufacturers rely on compressed air distribution systems for material handling, use with machines, as well as separation and spray painting equipment.
Compressed air is channeled to pneumatic machines or other work stations via air compressor pipes. The kind and size of compressor piping used will determine the efficiency of the whole process. Therefore, to ensure maximum performance, only the most suitable pipe should be used.
However, selecting the right compressor piping is easier said than done. Read on to find out what you need to know when selecting air compressor pipes.
Pressure drop is the difference in air pressure between the compressed air distribution system and the actual point of use. There is always some resistance and difficulty for air passing through pipes. As such, the air pressure reduces as it moves through the pipe.
Length and size affect the rate of pressure drop. For longer and smaller pipes, it will be more difficult for air to pass through, resulting in more pressure loss. Therefore, the compressor piping you use should be big enough and account for the pressure drop.
The biggest problem for auto repair shops and factories in terms of pressure drop is the use of small piping. As operations expand and the demand for compressed air increases, the air compressor tubes become too small for their needs. When it comes to compressor piping, the size of the pipes should be increased as the need for air rises.
Though pressure drop will always occur, you should try to reduce it as much as you can. This will boost efficiency. A compressed air distribution system in peak condition should only lose about 10% pressure. If your pressure loss exceeds this point, assess the entire system to identify the cause.
Types of Compressed Air Pipes
There is a wide variety of compressed air pipes available in the market. Most are made of materials such as steel and plastic. In addition, there are numerous types of pipes and couplings. Considering all these available options, it may be a bit confusing looking for pipes that suit your needs.
Whether you choose steel or plastic compressed air pipes depends on the type of compressor you have and the size of your plant.
With steel, you will get strong pipes that can withstand high pressures and temperatures. However, they are more expensive than plastic ones and are susceptible to rusting.
Plastic piping is light and rust-free but is not suitable for use at high temperatures. In the past, plastic pipes would break under pressure and shattered pieces would scatter dangerously. However, modern plastic pipes are not prone to this problem.
The layout of your system is crucial as it serves as the roadmap for compressed air. If the route is unnecessarily long or multiple users rely on one pipe, there will be delays, and the system will be inefficient.
Here are some methods of improving your air compressor system design to ensure that the system, including the piping, performs more efficiently.
- Straighten the path: By reducing unnecessary bends in the system, you will be able to produce more pressure using the same energy.
- Recover waste heat: With a well-designed system, you can recover up to 90% of waste heat.
- Cool the intake air: Cool air requires less energy to be compressed than warm air. Move the compressor intake to a shaded area outside.
- Reduce energy costs when possible: To reduce the on/off cycling, use a storage tank or receiver to buffer short-term demand changes.
- Have multiple compressors: Large air compressors use more energy per unit even when they are not operating at full capacity. With smaller compressors, the system will be efficient as you only turn each on when it’s needed.
It is estimated that compressed air systems that are poorly designed account for up to $ 3.2 billion of wasted utility payments in the U.S. annually. By optimizing your compressed air distribution systems, you can save up to 30% on utility costs. Remember, efficiency begins with the compressor piping you install.