Pneumatic systems are inherently inefficient; however, with proper strategies, operators can lower their energy consumption rates by as much as 35%.
Industrial equipment that uses or generates compressed air offers numerous opportunities to reduce your electric bill. After all, electricity charges make up more than 50% of the total cost of ownership of pneumatics today. It’s therefore critical to perform some constructive evaluation to determine how you can save up on these costs.
To help you get started, here are five ways to improve the energy efficiency of pneumatics:
Pay attention to oversizing components
Oversizing components – like actuators – results in waste. So, the first thing that you want to make sure is that your components are well sized to help avoid any unnecessary air consumption that occurs due to oversizing. Pneumatic systems come in wide-ranging sizes to offer optimal conditions for accurate application dimensioning. A cylinder whose diameter is application-optimized can lower the consumption of air by at least 15% when matched to a commonly oversized diameter.
Minimize volume by reducing length between actuators and valves
The cutting distance between components is a great way of increasing your machine’s efficiency because you get to lower dead volumes and prevent pressure losses.
Centralized valves are cumbersome, need long air lines, and use lots of energy. Today, vendors like AirTAC provide small, decentralized manifolds and valves that focus pneumatic functions to the target area. Besides, these valves can be fitted into cylinders directly without hose connections, thus eliminating the loss of pressure. You can find AirTAC products at websites such as Trimantec. Actuator/valve units cut tubing connections by 50% and reduce energy consumption by 35%. The decentralized air supply can also deliver higher cycle frequencies and quick response times.
Avoid using excess pressure
A lot of energy is lost when pneumatic systems supply more pressure than the actuator requires. For example, in most applications, cylinders either pull or push a load, but never both. Usually, systems use similar pressure to extend and retract strokes. Using pressure regulators to deliver the right pressure for every task can reduce energy consumption by over 25%.
Preventing leakage is yet another great way of curbing energy loss. According to the Department of Energy, the leakage issue is widespread, with an average facility that hasn’t taken recent action having between 30 and 35% leakage. Deteriorated seals and valves are two major sources of leakage. For instance, valve designs like lapped-spool with the metal seal will automatically leak whenever air goes to it. In such cases, moving to comparable ones with soft seals can minimize leakage substantially.
Leakage can also occur when chemicals in the air systems attack industrial seals. In that case, you’ll need to do some replacement – say like if your standard Buna seals deteriorate, then you can switch to Viton PTFE, HNBR or Polyurethane.
Hit the “Off” switch
When there is no automatic way to prevent airflow, the air ends up being wasted whenever the machine is idle. By integrating automatic air reduction control package into your operations, you get to reduce the air pressure levels when the machine is not working.