Top Tips for an Efficient Compressed Air System

The performance of compressed air powered equipment and tools is often restricted by inadequate air pressure and flow due to a poorly designed compressed air reticulation system

Poor equipment performance can also be caused by contamination affecting the equipment due to corrosion in the air system and inadequate filtration.

Here are some top tips for an efficient compressed air distribution system.

  • Ring main:

In most cases it is a real advantage to incorporate a ring main line. Ring main systems allow the air to flow in either direction to get to the point of demand by the path of least resistance. Typically you can multiply the capacity of a single line main by 1.5 if the same size pipe is designed as a ring main. For example, if a 50mm straight pipe is rated at 500cfm at 100psi, that same pipe in a ring main system would be rated at 750cfm at 100psi

  • Feeder pipe:

Feed the ring main from the compressor room with a feeder pipe at least one pipe size larger than the ring main itself. This is important because the ring main system has 1.5x the flow capacity of a straight length of pipe and a smaller sized feeder will create a flow restriction.

  • Quick couplings:

It is vital to select quick couplings that have a high flow rate wherever possible as cheaper models can restrict flow unnecessarily. Quick couplings should only be used where quick disconnection of air tools, spray guns or other handheld equipment is required. Any connection of stationary equipment should be hard piped or with a flexible hose after a ball valve.

  • Elbows:

The pipework should be designed avoid the use of elbows where possible as they can cause the equivalent pressure drop of resistance from1 to 3 metres of pipe, depending on the type and size of the fitting. Radius bends have much less flow restriction than elbows. Try to keep pipework as straight as possible and avoid the considerable added expense and loss of efficiency resulting from running pipes around columns and roof beams.

  • Future expansion:

If future expansion or additional demand is likely, it is much more cost effective to plan for it now compared with the disruption and additional expense of increasing pipe sizes at a later date. Even the simple addition of isolating valves at key points saves later disruption

  • Leakage:

Any leakage is unacceptable, but a totally leak free system is often very time consuming and expensive to achieve in an existing installation. Multiple invisible leaks can add up to hundreds of dollars wasted.  An overnight leak test should not, however, result in a pressure drop of more than 10%. In new installations leak free systems are typically much easier to achieve using HDPE, aluminium, or stainless-steel pipe compared with old traditional threaded galvanized iron systems. Of these alternatives, mechanically pressfit- jointed stainless-steel pipe systems provide very cost effective, durable and leak-free solutions

  • Condensate drainage:

Any low point in the system should have provision for condensate drainage. Low points can cause blockages or restrictions to airflow due to a buildup of contaminants at that point.

  • Drip leg drain drainage:

All outlet droppers that come off the bottom of the main line should have a drain valve at the bottom of the drip leg for easy removal of any condensation that may have precipitated in the pipework.

  • Isolation valves:

Install tees with isolation valves, at key points around the main piping system so that future expansions and modifications of the system can be more easily and cost-effectively installed.

  • Dropper pipes:

Best practice is to install a dryer in the compressor room to remove all moisture from the air. If however the dryer should fail or be inadvertently turned off, some strategically placed droppers with drip leg drains should in incorporated at points in the system where condensate and contaminants actually accumulate.

Most droppers do not need to come off the top of the main header pipe and the main header does not need to fall to a corner with a drip leg drain installed. This form of layout is only effective if the header pipe is significantly increased in size to reduce the air velocity and prevent the air from pushing the water along the pipe to where it is going.

Do you have questions? For more information and inquiries, contact (03) 9765 5600.