Compressed air energy efficiency

Uses for compressed air in business


Due to the versatility of compressed air, it is widely used throughout industry to power machinery, valves and actuators, and hand tools. The broad range of industrial sectors where it is used include manufacturing and processing, mineral extraction and power generation.

Compressed air is very convenient, but it's also expensive to generate. In some cases, as little as eight per cent of the total energy supplied to a compressor is actually converted into useful energy that can do work at the point of use. So it's very important to make sure that compressed air systems are operating as efficiently as possible, and that compressed air is not wasted.

Compressed air misuse, wastage and leaks

Many systems waste up to 30 per cent of the compressed air through:

  • leaks - in most cases, reducing leaks is the most important energy-saving action you can take
  • misuse - because it's so convenient and easy to use, compressed air is often used when it shouldn't be, eg for cleaning machinery
  • poor maintenance - a well-maintained compressed air system needs less energy to deliver the required pressure
  • poor system control - making adjustments to the system can reduce energy consumption, eg by controlling individual compressors with electronic sequential controllers or using an automatic shutdown control

Legal requirements when using compressed air

There are several legal requirements you need to be aware of when you use compressed air in your business, such as having the system regularly checked by a competent examiner and supplying system operators with comprehensive instructions - find out more from the British Compressed Air Society.