Inefficient Air Compressor Systems Blow Utility Dollars into Thin Air

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A 100-hp air compressor system can waste as much as $4,200 per year because of inefficient drive mechanisms.

using new technologies increases energy efficiency...improves profits.

Plant and facility managers face a continual dilemma with wasted electrical energy from their compressed air operations.

The problem is big, as noted in a U.S. Dept. of Energy-sponsored report by National Renewable Energy Laboratory that found: "Industrial electric motor systems account for more than 20 percent of all electricity used in the U.S." On the other hand, the report concluded that: "using new technologies increases energy efficiency...improves profits." For this reason, many commercial and industrial users of compressed air are turning to direct-drive electric air compressor systems.

The switch to modern direct-drive air compressors is driven by the increasing recognition of the vast amount of wasted energy that comes from using antiquated designs requiring anywhere from 3-8 percent more electricity to produce the same amount of air as a rotary, direct-drive air compressor.

This wasted energy can be put in perspective by comparing a chain or belt-driven air compressor that requires 112 hp to supply a given air flow rate at a given pressure, vs. a direct-drive unit that only requires 100 hp to produce the same amount. At an industry-standard average of $.08 cents per kWh, the need for an extra12 hp would unnecessarily increase electricity costs by approximately $4200 per year.

"We use compressed air to remove motor parts, wheels and tires," says Jim Cook, Construction Manager of California-based Pick Your Part, the nation's leading self-service auto wrecker. "But we were frequently running out of air with our piston air compressors. However, we now use 25- and 30-hp direct-drive units from Sullivan-Palatek. The additional horsepower we get from each new compressor gives us added efficiency and economy.”

Sullivan-Palatek of Michigan City, Indiana, manufactures a line of direct-drive rotary-screw, industrial air compressor systems that allow users to profit from greater energy savings and less waste in their pressurized-air operations. The increased efficiency of this design stems from the use of larger air-end assemblies, which results in slower turning rotors that yield higher pressure using lower horsepower. Additional energy savings results from use of a direct-drive rotary screw that eliminates unnecessary moving parts -- thus reducing the parasitic losses attributed to belts and gears.

"We used regular piston compressors when our volume was less, but as we grew we switched over to the Sullivan-Palatek screw-type air compressors because they are more efficient," says Cory Bayer, maintenance team leader for Bayer Built Woodworks, Inc. of Belgrade, Minnesota, a major manufacturer of millwork. "I would definitely recommend the use of these direct-drive systems."

The aforementioned U.S. DOE report concluded that: "By 2010, using more efficient electric motor systems in the industrial sector could... provide an industrial energy cost savings of $13 billion." On an individualized basis, plant general mangers and facility engineers can now recoup a significant chunk of lost utility dollars by taking advantage of the savings afforded by direct-drive systems.

Established in 1984, Sullivan-Palatek manufactures electric and diesel driven high performance rotary screw air compressor systems, along with a complete line of accessory items that include air dryers, filters, remediation systems and construction air tools.

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Steve Van Loan
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