Buyer Beware: The After-Sales Costs of Air Compressors can Drive Up Overall Purchase Costs if You’re Not Careful

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Not paying attention to hidden back-end costs can quickly turn an inexpensive air compressor into an expensive one

Recent design innovations have changed the playing field for those who specify and purchase air compressors for industrial applications. Without considering the overall cost of ownership, the unwary buyer can be locked into purchasing expensive consumables and single-source replacement parts for the life of the product. Unexpected production downtime and higher-than-expected utility costs also plague those who overlook the reliability factor in favor of an artificially cheap purchase price of an air compressor.

The following pointers can help plant engineers and facility managers avoid having an ill-advised air compressor purchase decision come back to haunt them.

Ensure that Replacement Parts can be Easily Obtained at a Reasonable Price:

Some industrial equipment manufacturers only honor warranty claims if the purchaser adheres to strict guidelines such as only purchasing replacement air compressor parts from the OEM. Unfortunately, some OEM’s also overcharge for these replacement parts, driving up the overall cost of the equipment and padding their revenue stream. Instead, if a warranty contains this type of restriction, look for a reputable air compressor manufacturer that has reasonably priced replacement parts before you buy.

Steer Clear of Agreements that Require Expensive OEM Consumables:

“You should know before making a purchase decision whether the use of ‘non-genuine’ maintenance items such as filters, fluids, or ancillary parts such as belts will void your warranty,” advises Robert Kiser, Director of Operations at Sullivan-Palatek®, a major manufacturer of direct-drive rotary-screw air compressors."

Understand Compressor Design and its Bearing on Reliability:

Innovations in air compressor design have allowed extended mean time between failures (MTBF) because of fewer moving parts and reduced operating stresses. For example, the direct-drive rotary screw air compressor offered by Sullivan-Palatek have 30-40% less parts than gear- and belt-driven compressors—which translates into greater reliability and less maintenance.

Consider Hidden Installation Cost:

“It is much easier to install rotary screw systems than other compressor types,” Kiser points out. “Other compressor designs may require support foundations to bear the increased weight and vibration. This entails extra time, construction costs, and production delays."

Get the Delivery Data Fixed in Writing:

A low price on a compressor does little good if delivery is delayed to the point of slowing production deadlines.

Calculate Future Utility Costs to Ensure “Payback”:

Air Compressors with fewer moving parts suffer less parasitic losses. For instance, gears generally sustain a 3-5% loss in efficiency; belts from 4-8%. On the other hand, the direct-drive systems employed a Sullivan-Palatek rotary screw air compressor has less drive-line friction and requires less energy to do the same work.

As an example, if an efficient compressor only requires 100 hp to supply a given air flow rate at a given pressure, vs. one with more moving parts that requires 112 hp, the significant savings in electrical costs can quickly yield a positive benefit/cost ratio on the more efficient machine. Using the industry standard average of $.08 cents per kWh, the 12 hp difference in this example would reduce electricity costs by approximately $4200 per year – more than compensating for any additional cost of the equipment at purchase.

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Steve Van Loan
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