A compressed air piping layout requires careful consideration while keeping the intended use and applications in mind. A poorly planned compressed air distribution design will increase power losses through an inefficient discharge of air through the layout.
For a successful project, you need to consider factors such as installation, design, and routine maintenance to minimize costs and increase productivity. In this article, we look at pressure drops and how to mitigate such issues using a loop or straight-line configuration.
Compressed Air Piping Layout and Pressure Drops
To the uninitiated, leaks may seem like the most common problem in air compressor distribution installations. However, pressure drops often prove to be more significant due to piping and layout problems.
One common problem with poorly planned layouts is sharp corners. When gases or fluids are flowing, they tend to slow down as they approach a sharp bend. It is in much the same way that a car has to slow down when it changes direction. A lot of energy is then lost in the process.
Maintaining the pressure level is critical in compressed air systems. If the machine is receiving fluctuating pressure levels, it will reduce efficiency and could ruin the equipment. To solve the pressure problem, users sometimes increase the discharge at the intake to reduce the drop. Unfortunately, it can direct a higher flow to other parts of the system. Additionally, it will force the compressor to use more power.
A Loop Layout for Compressed Air Systems
One solution that is recommended is using a looped system for your compressed air piping layout. Unlike a design with sharp corners, the looped structure allows gas to flow to all parts of the system unobstructed. Because the fluid flows with little resistance, it can increase the technical rating of a looped layout compared to straight-line pipes.
There are situations where straight pipes may be advantageous. That is in manufacturing plants or shops that are narrow and long. In such cases, there is usually no need for a loop design, since the pipe installations often do not need the tubes to curve or bend sharply.
A ring system is also not suitable where the point of discharge and point of consumption are significantly far apart. In such cases, a separate supply should be arranged to feed the system. It is also important to remember that straight line tubing layouts are cheaper to install and maintain than a loop system.
If your work area is square, a loop system is often a great choice. Loop systems have two advantages; they create distinct parallel paths to the point of use and secondly, it means the pipe will have the same consistent dimensions throughout the system.
You also need to choose the right pressure ratings for your loop layout. Since a loop creates less friction within the system, it has a higher rating for the same tubing as a straight-line design. A straight line pipe of the same rating installed in a loop configuration can cause pressure drops and restrict the flow of the fluid.
Tips for Maximizing Efficiency
To make the most of your layout design, ensure you do the following:
- Plan your Layout: Take time to plan the installation and determine whether you will require an upgrade in the future. Otherwise, your system will be much more difficult to upgrade to accommodate unplanned changes. Also, make a point of installing tees, plugs, and valves where necessary within the main system. This can help make adjustments in the future less costly.
- Avoid Unnecessary Elbows and Fittings: Avoid elbows and quick couplings as much as possible. An elbow can cause a pressure drop equivalent to two to ten feet of piping.
- Zero-Tolerance for Leaks: While there is no compressed air piping layout that is perfect, leaking should be addressed at the time it is detected. Any drop that exceeds 10% from the starting pressure will need troubleshooting as soon as possible.
Always ensure that you choose a layout design that is easy to follow and repair. If the need arises, especially in emergencies, you’ll want a layout design that isn’t going to hinder your operations.