Cut the Cost of Compressed Air

Some easy-to-take steps can yield significant savings.

By Tim Last, Atlas Copco Compressors

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Take Control
“I don’t have enough pressure” is a common complaint from operators that too often yields unconventional and impractical solutions from the maintenance department. Maintenance staff shouldn’t be charged with modifying airflows to accommodate demand increases or take it upon themselves to manipulate the system to appease operators.

However, without a standardized set of operating procedures and consistent schedule for routine items, such as filter cleaning and changes, your maintenance staff actually can cause more harm than good (and higher operating costs) by acting on instinct and presumption.

So, develop a schedule that emphasizes proper maintenance and efficiency. Regularly change filters in the air compressor and air system to ensure air quality and prevent costly pressure drops. Systematically inspect and replace filters to safeguard your air quality. Go beyond the air compressor and compressor room. Check airline and point-of-use filters within your facility. Those are just as important to maintain as the air compressor and air compressor room filters.

Inappropriate uses of compressed air take a huge toll on energy costs. Watch for applications that can be done more effectively or more efficiently without compressed air. For example, too often compressed air is used for cooling or other applications where much lower air pressure would suffice. Look for areas where your system has been compromised with irregular add-on uses; there’s likely a simple cost-effective and conventional solution that will dramatically reduce the pressure draw on your compressed air system.

Periodically adjust condensate drains on timers to ensure they open as intended and aren’t stuck open. Replacing timer drains with zero-loss drains to stop wasting compressed air is an even more effective solution.

Like nearly everything, a compressed air system operates with greater efficiency when it receives appropriate attention. The right compressor maintenance and operating practices cut energy costs and help prevent breakdowns that result in costly downtime and lost production. Small changes and minor savings quickly add up when you calculate their value over time.


Tim Last is vice president, quality air systems, for Atlas Copco Compressors, Rock Hill, S.C. E-mail him at

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