How to Detect and Fix Compressed Air Leaks

fixing compressed air leaks

Compressed air leaks are a common issue and can become extremely costly for a business over time.

For example, a leak in a compressor hose from a 9.5mm diameter hole can easily cost a business more than $15,000 annually in lost energy needed to compensate the reduced air pressure.

As leaks are a significant source of wasted energy in a compressed air system, it’s important that business owners set a plan in place to regularly service their air compression systems and deal with any leaks.

Detecting Compressed Air Leaks

Compressed air leaks can be detected in several ways but depending on your industry may require purchasing expensive specialist equipment. Having a qualified air technician service your air compressor can help you detect and diagnose leaks without the need to purchase equipment. Methods to detect a compressed air leak include:

  • Listen for a hissing sound – This is the simplest method but can only be completed when production processes have stopped or if the air compressor is in a quiet area. It will not give an indication of how big the leak is or the cause, but it can help to indicate its rough location.
  • Use a soap solution – This method can be effective at confirming leaks but will not help to find the area of the leak. The soap solution is applied with a paintbrush to the suspected area. If bubbles are created, then a leak has been detected. This method is not very reliable and can also cause a lot of mess, leading to safety issues such as slippery floors. It will also take a lot of time and effort and may involve shutting down processes or clearing areas.
  • Ultrasonic Detection – This method is the quickest and most accurate. It can also indicate how significant each leak is, allowing you to prioritise which to fix first. It uses an ultrasonic acoustic detector which can recognise high frequency sounds that are associated with air leaks. This method does not require work to stop or a quiet environment and can be completed with background processes running. Although it is very effective, it can be expensive and time consuming to purchase ultrasonic detection machines and run the tests yourself.

It’s important to note that if sections of pipework are valved off, there will be no air pressure flowing through them and any potential leaks will not be able to be detected.

Fixing Compressed Air Leaks

Leaks occur most often at the joints and connection ends of an air compressor. Sometimes this can involve a simple fix like tightening a connection, but it can also frequently involve testing and replacement of faulty equipment, such as:

  • Pipe sections
  • Hoses
  • Filters
  • Joints
  • Drains
  • Fittings
  • Couplings

The type of fix used will depend on the type of leak and its severity. Unless you are familiar with fixing compressed air leaks, it’s recommended to leave more complex maintenance and repairs to professionals. However, detecting and diagnosing leaks yourself can help to note their locations ahead of time.

Mapping the compressed air distribution system and placing tags on each leak to identify them will help you to mark down their location for later repair. Calculating the energy and cost losses from these leaks will also help you to prioritise which to fix first.

Servicing your air compressor with an air compressor service kit can also help to maintain it against many of the long term problems that lead to air leaks.

Preventing Compressed Air Leaks

Lowering the overall air pressure demands of your compressed air distribution system can help to reduce leaks and their size. It’s recommended that business owners stabilise their compressed air needs at the lowest practical range to help minimise their leakage rate.

Over time new leaks will develop and smaller ones may worsen. It’s important for air compressor servicing to be regularly conducted to maintain low leakage levels and save energy costs.

Developing a good leak prevention program, including tagging, tracking, repairs and servicing will help to ensure that your air compressor won’t add to your energy costs.

If you’re looking to get the most out of your air compression system, contact the team at Express Compressors today. Available 24/7, we can make sure your air compressor runs at peak performance.

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