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Compressed air systems have the potential to function at a high efficiency since compressed air is more controllable in its flow patterns and thermal properties. However, there is also a larger possibility of expensive malfunctions due to the heightened pressure, such as duct leaks. Additionally, not only is it important to maintain the integrity of all components free from damage individually, but the pressurization itself must be protected, and threats to this can indeed come from a system of intact parts if they are improperly installed or sloppily assembled. This is why compressed air systems, often more so than other comparable systems, need regular inspections and maintenance services at the manufacturer or designer’s recommended time intervals or in the event of any anomalous or unsatisfactory performance.
As stated in “Compressed Air Audits & Inspections,” these audits can span a broad range of topics and tests, including (but not limited to) “critical pressure applications inspected, piping system meeting flow requirements, energy storage, testing of system capacitance, evaluat[ion] of performance and operating condition of existing supply side, maintenance approach meeting demand requirements, financial evaluation, future planning for proposed plans, best operating format/ best practices, drawings, diagrams, plan views and other documentation”1. What is particularly notable about many of the items on that list is the potential for cost savings due to the system operating more efficiently. However, saving on recurring energy bills is only one of the reasons that a homeowner or building manager might be looking to ensure. Other motivations include decreased maintenance and part-replacement costs in a properly-calibrated system, environmental motivations for saving energy such as carbon neutral goals for the organization, and caps or price penalties for high energy users which can be governmental or originate from utility companies.
As you might notice in the list of services above, some are design-centered while others are building-centered. Services like examining the documentation can be performed without physical access to the building, if provided with the plans from the construction firm. However, services like “testing of system capacitance” must be performed with sensors placed on the actual component in question, necessitating access to the building. A skilled contractor will keep costs down by performing the design-based services first before ever walking on site, thereby gaining a deep understanding of the designed and rated performance of various components of the building’s compressed air system, which will then be useful in testing the components physically. A large part of the discrepancy between a system’s rated performance and its actual performance can be use patterns. Perhaps the original system was not designed with realistic use patterns in mind, or perhaps use patterns or the recommended standards for those patterns have changed. Whatever the reason, a system will become more efficient if it is brought into harmony and designed for the way a building is actually being used, at the capacity it regularly hosts.
Regular compressed air system inspections are important for the longevity and efficiency of a building’s air system, and a skilled private contractor can be the best option for many.