Since up to 80% of air compressor costs is made up of energy expenses, you'll want the most efficient set up. The first step for evaluating the right solution is to determine how much pressure and flow you'll need for your application.
In addition, it's important to pay attention to the overall humidity of your work environment, and pressure dew point (PDP) recommended for your industry. There are also other equipment and parts worth evaluating like aftercoolers, filters, and monitoring and control tools.
This brief guide aims to help you better understand what you'll encounter in relation to overall operational costs of an air compressor. Of course everyone's needs differ, and it's important to take this into account when determining the right solution for you.
To properly size the right air compressor, you'll need to determine how much force you'll need over a given time frame. This insight will provide you with the ideal pressure (bar) and cubic feet per minute (cfm) for your application.
If you work across multiple jobs, this will change your equipment needs. In this instance, it's recommended to get a variable speed drive (VSD) compressor capable of multiple pressure levels. Investing in the wrong size equipment can cause issues and unnecessary costs.
Purchasing an air compressor that's too small could overwork the machine and cause air leaks, resulting in wasted energy. Similarly, a machine that's too large will produce more air than needed, which also increases energy costs.
Although you might want to plan ahead and invest in a bigger machine than necessary, it's best to consider your current needs. You can always add equipment at a later time.
Mentioned above, VSD rotary screw compressors come with benefits, including the ability to change speed and match pressure demands. These are the most optimal machines for most applications.
However, they also come with a comparatively high initial investment cost. That being said, VSD compressors are the most efficient, and usually cheaper to run. In fact, our IVR machines generate up to 30% energy savings. There's also energy recovery technology to help you reuse up to 75% of compression heat.
With all this, the main reason VSD machines save energy is how they operate. Regardless of use, fixed speed rotary screw air compressors work at the same speed to produce consistent air pressure. When VSD machines are faced with a lower air demand, they run at lower speeds, and only work at full capacity when generating air pressure for an application that requires this full capacity.
Of course, both fixed speed and VSD air compressors are generally a better choice than piston machines for heavy industrial use. The main reason for this is that piston air compressors usually require a rest period in between uses, and aren't built for all-day operations.
You'll find some rotary screw air compressors are available with advanced monitoring and control tools. These features add insight, remote connectivity, and analytics for helping your system run smoothly. They're especially useful if you're operating multiple machines in a single facility.
These points are particularly related to the optional Intelligent CONnectivity System (ICONS), which provides data and insights to a computer tablet, or smartphone. This tool allows you to deal with maintenance issues before they add unnecessary costs and downtime.
Air compressor costs go beyond the actual machine, and include dealing with moisture in your system. Not properly addressing water vapor can lead to issues such as bacteria, contaminants, leakage, and other quality control issues.
This moisture forms when air is pressurized and heated through the compression process. When considering the overall cost of your machine, you'll want a highly efficient drying and filtration system.
In some instances, an aftercooler can allow you to invest in a smaller dryer. With this point, it's important to mention that an aftercooler is never a replacement for a dryer. An aftercooler alone won't cool your air to recommended PDP levels.
Regarding dryers, there are generally two main ways air is dried. One involves refrigeration cooling, and the other uses desiccant material to separate water from the air. In most cases, a "fridge" dryer is sufficient. However, for sensitive applications like food and medical, you'll need a desiccant dryer.
You can read more about this in our articles on dryers, which are useful when considering costs and needs.
As pointed out through this article, there's a lot of factors that go into determining air compressor costs. We hope you have a better understanding on how to reduce your operational expenses as much as possible.
If you have any other questions our team is here to help. We look forward to hearing from you.