Inefficiencies and leaks in a compressed air distribution system can be costly — a hole as small as 1/8 of an inch wide can cost more than $1,200 per year in wasted energy for a 100 PSI system.

But how do you know if your compressed air distribution system is efficient? To help you find out, the following expert tips come into play in designing and maintaining efficient compressed air distribution systems.

Eliminate quick couplings wherever possible

As a rule, quick couplings should only be used when you require the ability to quickly disconnect hand tools or paint guns. In all other cases, quick couplings should be avoided, because they aren’t as efficient as other coupling types. For cases where a quick coupling isn’t completely necessary, such as with stationary machinery or extended air hose lines, couplings should be made using hard pipe or hose barbs, depending on whether a flexible connection is needed or not.

Avoid using elbows in compressed air piping

You should use as few elbows in your compressed air piping as possible. Instead, opt to keep your pipelines straight most of the time. This is because pipe elbows provide the same drop in pressure as 2-10 feet of straight pipe would, making them comparatively inefficient.

Consider the possibility for future expansion

When you’re in the process of designing and installing a compressed air distribution system, you should start thinking about future expansion now rather than later. If you end up needing more airpower or availability down the road, it will be far less disruptive and inefficient to take this into account now by installing a bigger system.

Any leakage is unacceptable

This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to tell ourselves that something’s “no big deal” when it would be convenient to ignore it. However, compressed air leakage is not something you should ignore. Even a small leak can cost thousands of dollars in the long run. While no system is perfect, if an overnight leak test exceeds 10% of the starting pressure, you need to address the situation ASAP.

Avoid low points with no drainage point

Low points in your piping system must have opportunities to drain when moisture builds up in them. Without drainage points, the lower parts of your compressed air piping system can fill up with contaminants, thus restraining airflow.

Use a loop type compressed air distribution system

In the majority of cases, a loop type distribution system is ideal. Loop type systems allow air to flow in any direction within the piping system, allowing the most air pressure possible to get to where it’s most needed.

Use isolation ball valves in drops

All drops in your compressed air system should be fitted with main isolation ball valves that are reachable from the ground level. Additionally, the bottom-most point of your piping system should have a drip leg valve to allow for easy removal of contaminants that may collect there.

Allow for future expansion and reconfiguration

Even if you don’t plan on ever upgrading your compressed air distribution system, you should take steps to make it as simple as possible to do so just in case. To do this, install isolation valves, plugs, and tees throughout the main piping system, even in places where you’re not sure you’ll need them.

With these expert tips taken into consideration, you stand a good chance of designing and maintaining your system so it stands the test of time.