Detecting Air Leaks

When Your Compressor Has an Air Leak

Detecting air leaks (and promptly addressing them) is one of the easiest ways for your facility to reduces energy consumption. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 10% of the electricity generated for industrial manufacturing in the United States powers air compressors. It is also estimated that air leaks account for 25-30% of air used in a compressed air system. A compressed air system with 10 small leaks can cost a facility thousands of dollars each year.

While a small amount of leakage may not seem significant, the truth is that there is no such thing as an acceptable level of air leakage. Every plant has leaks in the compressed air system, but the impact to production and electricity consumption can be substantial. We recommend facilities audit their compressed air system for leaks at least once every two years. It is not uncommon for new leaks to spring up, and a minor leak that was passed over for remediation initially may now be worse.

Identifying air leaks

You can use your ear to listen for obvious air leaks, although being able to hear the hiss of air escaping may be difficult in a noisy mechanical room. You can also use the soapy water trick to diagnose suspected leaks. If a bubble forms where you apply soap water, then there is air escaping. Some drawbacks to this method include the piping being inaccessible and being unable to determine the volume of the air leak. The only way to know for sure is with an ultrasonic leak detector. This enables a technician to detect compressed air leaks without interrupting plant processes. With the use of an ultrasonic leak detector, we can locate leaks that would otherwise go undetected.

We use ultrasonic diagnostic equipment to assess the severity of air leaks. There are many places to look for leaks and we look at all of them. Our air leak measurement looks at the following:

  • air compressor
  • vacuum systems
  • drain traps
  • receiver tanks
  • pipe lines

We recommend you resolve the worst of the leaks to start with since this will have the greatest impact.

Resolving air compressor leaks

As we go through our air leak detection process, we will show you where the leaks are and identify the steps you can take to address air leaks. We often see air leaks in the air compressor piping, although they can show up anywhere. When you consider how much air is lost to leaks, it could make sense to upgrade your piping if that’s where the problem lies. We recommend lightweight aluminum piping because it is guaranteed leak-free for 10 years.