Imagine driving your car to work on the highway, you look at your dashboard and none of your instruments are working – no speedometer, no gas gauge, no clock! We are so used to seeing these points of reference that we would find ourselves a little bit lost if they all of a sudden disappeared.
The information we use from these instruments in our car help us navigate our trip - the speedometer helps us keep our speed within legal limits, the gas gauge tells us how much farther we can travel, and our clock helps us measure our time relative to where we are going. Compressed air systems have similar instruments, and the information that they convey to system users is just as vital in ensuring a well-managed and efficient system.
Installing gauges and flow meters will not save you money on your compressed air system, but learning how to use them and the information they provide will - in compressed air energy costs, reduced equipment maintenance, and overall improvements to quality control on machines that use compressed air.
So how can this simple device, which likely exists already throughout your system, save you money? It starts with the function of the device: measuring and displaying compressed air from pressure. This information is valuable. Pressure is one of the primary measurements that determine the ability of compressed air to do work. Machines that use compressed air state their compressed air requirements in pressure and flow. Identifying the pressure requirement of a production machine, and then setting the pressure to the point-of-use requirement by using a regulator and gauge ensures that the machine operates the way it was designed. Using too much pressure is potentially harmful to your machine, and will certainly use and cost more energy and money to do so.
The pressure gauge also helps us understand whether or not the air pipe feeding the machine is adequately sized, a well sized pipe should show a relatively stable pressure reading at the gauge, where the pipe feeding the machines is too small expect to see a wide variance in the pressure reading through each cycling of the machine.
Using gauge templates with the target pressure shown in green can be helpful and we’ve seen some impressive digital pressure gauges being used in some advanced systems.
While we see many pressure gauges installed, we do not see nearly as many compressed air flow meters. Flow is a measurement of the amount of air needed to do work. We speak of flow and pressure requirements when speaking of compressed air required to do work.
Flow meters take the guesswork out of understanding and managing your compressed air system, because they accurately display exactly how much compressed air you are using in real time. If you have a look at a flow meter when you are not running production, it can be an accurate quantifier of your compressed air leaks, and having this information is the first step towards remedying them.
Stop driving your compressed air system blindly; make use of your pressure gauges and flow meters. If you don’t have them, install them soon.