Pressure Drops: Is your Compressor Losing Pressure?

What do we mean by pressure drop?

A pressure drop reduces air pressure from the compressor discharge to the point-of-use application. Incorrectly sized equipment, inadequate piping, lack of maintenance or simply a condensate build-up in your compressed air system can lead to unnecessary pressure drops.

Ultimately, pressure drops in your compressed air system will increase your energy costs and decrease the efficiency of your applications and equipment. Your compressor needs to compensate for the pressure drop by operating at a higher pressure; this results in your compressor pumping for extended periods which uses more energy. Putting your system under excessive strain can cause avoidable breakdowns and shorten the life of your compressor.

While pressure drops are difficult to eliminate completely, they can be minimised to negligible amounts. A well-designed and efficient system should have a pressure drop below 10% of your system’s discharge.   

How much is the pressure drop in your compressor costing?

Increasing the pressure of your compressor to compensate for pressure drops is incredibly costly. An increase of just 1 bar (100kpa) equals an extra 6% in power costs. This slight increase in pressure can significantly increase power costs for your business.

Why is your air compressor losing pressure?

Obstructions and restrictions in airflow or air leaks cause pressure drops. Pressure drops can happen at any point in your compressed air system.

Typically, loss of pressure occurs with the following:

  • Compressed Air Equipment and Components: any ancillary equipment such as air filters, dryers, and oil or moisture separators that are added or incorporated into your system,  have the potential to become a weak spot. Common problems include a build-up of dirt on filters (particularly your inline filter) or incorrect equipment sizing with regard to the compressor’s flow rate. For example, undersized equipment will cause choke points and obstructions to the airflow in your compressor system.
  • Piping Distribution Systems: any tubes, hoses and pipes that move the compressed air to the point of use application. The main issues are air leaks and a poorly designed piping system with many friction points such as joins, bends, and undersized piping. Generally, anything that causes drag or friction inevitably slows the airflow and results in a pressure loss. The piping system is often where the highest-pressure drops can be found; therefore, having a well-designed distribution system is vital to minimise pressure loss.

 How to fix pressure drops in your compressed air system?

  1. The best way to find out where the pressure drop is and the size of the drop is through measurement by installing pressure gauges on your system, particularly in suspected areas. Doing so will allow you to measure and pinpoint the pressure drops. Once you know which components need attention, you can fix what is causing the loss of pressure in your compressed air system.
  2. Ensure that you are up to date with the cleaning and maintenance of your compressor. General maintenance includes replacing filters; checking valves and seals; and monitor for leakage, and replacing damaged and corroded components.
  3. Air Audits: have a compressed air specialist conduct a compressed air analysis or leak detection on your system, as diagnosing and fixing pressure drops is a complex and technical process. In addition, they will ensure that any flaws or weak points in your system are found and fixed in line with industry best practices. Finally, they can make recommendations regarding the design of your compressed air system to ensure it minimises the potential for pressure loss.

If you think that your air compressor may be experiencing a pressure drop or you have noticed that your power costs are looking higher than usual, contact us today for a chat or to schedule a site meeting with one of our highly trained staff!