New Air Compressor Monitoring Technologies Provide Cost Savings
Possibly the hardest working piece of equipment in the facility, air compressors power the tools and processes necessary to keep production up and running. They do, however, require regular maintenance to ensure productivity and efficiency. Historically, service was conducted according to a preventive maintenance schedule (whether service was truly needed or not) or reactively following a breakdown or flashing of warning lights. Fortunately, recent advances in air compressor monitoring techniques allow system owners to diagnose, measure and monitor the condition, status and energy efficiency of this industrial workhorse in real time, allowing service to be performed on a proactive, predictive basis and ensuring energy efficient operation and availability.
The Benefits of Modern Monitoring Tools
Today’s air compressor monitoring tools allow users to gather valuable information about the performance and health of the system, which can be used to preemptively schedule maintenance, increase the energy efficiency of the air compressor and eliminate time-consuming manual tasks associated with compressor maintenance.
Advanced monitoring tools gather data on the air compressor’s status, which can be analyzed and trended over time to provide information on the system’s health and behavior. This data can be used to predict issues early and send alerts or notifications to maintenance teams, allowing maintenance to be performed proactively before the air compressor has a major malfunction. When informed decisions are made in a timely fashion, it not only minimizes or prevents downtime, but also increases efficiency and availability.
By monitoring parameters such as air consumption, air quality, system pressure, temperature and energy usage, air compressor owners gain insight into the energy performance of the system. The data can be monitored and trended over time to see potential leaks, spikes, unnecessary usage or other issues that need to be addressed. Having this information visible allows the most energy efficient operation, which can lead to significant savings on energy bills.
Traditionally maintenance techs had to manually check system gauges and then record the data at a later time. This was often time consuming, challenging and inaccurate. With modern automated monitoring and data gathering solutions, the information is collected and analyzed, and reports can automatically be generated. Not only does this reduce labor, but it provides more accurate and timely insight into the system and frees up techs to perform value-added tasks elsewhere in the facility.
Digital Tools for Measuring and Monitoring Air Compressor Performance
Old-school analog gauges that provided rudimentary measurements are being replaced by digital tools developed to help air compressor owners diagnose, measure and monitor the condition of the system in real time. There are a variety of tools available today that can provide more detailed insight into air compressor performance:
Electronic Compressor Controls
Newer compressors are often equipped with IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things)-enabled electronic controls with digital touchscreen displays. Information regarding compressor status is gathered automatically and reports can be viewed by maintenance staff. Alerts based on predetermined settings can be sent via text message or email if there is a problem.
Remote Monitoring Solutions
As the cost of equipment and online connections continues to decrease, more connected monitoring solutions are being developed and air compressors are one of the latest systems to benefit from the addition of remote monitoring technologies. These systems go a step beyond electronic compressor controls, can be added to existing air compressors and are obtained through the air compressor manufacturer or supplier. Sensors are installed at key points within the air compression system to collect measurements including temperature, pressure, air quality and other key variables. The data is gathered and sent to a data analytics program that analyzes and trends the data to provide a bigger picture of the internal conditions associated with the air compression system. Often, the data is provided on a dashboard that informs users in a simple, visual manner of the health of the system, including data values that are heading out of spec so that users may make timely and informed decisions based on real-time data as it is collected.
Additional Tools to Consider
While connected compressor controls and remote monitoring solutions provide an excellent view into the overall health and performance of an air compressor, there are a few additional tools that make a nice addition to the toolbox if further insight is required for critical applications.
Power Quality Meters
As the use of variable frequency drives rises in an effort to boost efficiency, manufacturers need a more reliable power source to support the use of VFD technology. A power quality meter can detect low voltages, unstable conditions and abnormal power consumption that might impact the performance of the VFD, negating its energy-saving capabilities.
Heat Detection Equipment
As temperature variations can lead to reliability issues with air compressors and ancillary drying equipment, temperature sensors can be used to measure and track critical temperature issues.
Ultrasonic leak detectors are coming down in price and often coordinate with an app to help identify and record the location of system leaks. Often, the Return on Investment is fast since leaks quickly drive-up energy bills.
Dew Point Testers
If products may be affected by moisture, a portable dew point tester or permanent dew point monitor is likely a good investment as it can reveal issues with air drying equipment that could lead to product quality or compliance issues.
Mounting a portable flow meter on a pipe can help detect and measure leaks and end usage of compressed air, which can help further improve the energy efficiency of the compressed air system. Installing permanent flow sensors to measure air flows to various sections of the plant or measuring total flow coming out of the compressor room can provide valuable information also.
Tracking and monitoring air compressor performance provides valuable, usable insight into system functionality and allows maintenance teams to react in a proactive manner to any potential issues. The ability to know what is happening inside the air compression system in real time and receive alerts when measurements stray from specifications not only optimizes air compressor operation and increases energy efficiency of the system, but also cuts labor and maintenance costs and can help extend the lifetime of the air compressor.
For more information on modern monitoring technologies and how they can improve the performance and efficiency of your air compressor, please contact John Henry Foster.