While environment-friendly compressors are all about efficiency, picking the right model still matters. That means buyers have to be aware of their compressed air needs: How much airflow and pressure do they need and for which applications? Will the compressor run constantly or intermittently? How important is air quality? Does the air demand fluctuate or remain steady?Carrying out a non-intrusive energy audit to measure the efficiency of an existing compressed air installation, involving the use of data logger, is the best way to discover possible energy savings from a compressed air system. Combined with plans for specific future requirements, this data allows plant operators to understand and improve their system’s energy efficiency. It also answers many of the questions that help to determine the ideal size and type of compressor − whether a model with variable speed drive is better for fluctuating air demand, whether a piston compressor is sufficient for intermittent use and limited air demand, or is a rotary screw compressor best suited for the application need.
If an application requires a constant speed at all times, then a fixed-speed compressor will often get the job done. Once it is switched it on, it gives full power. Most industrial applications, however, have a fluctuating air demand. In that case, a variable speed drive (VSD) compressor is the better choice because it matches output to user demand and will realise considerable energy savings in the long run. A VSD or VSD+ compressor will reliably deliver top quality air while lowering energy consumption by an average of 50%.When a business decides to go green and switch to an environment-friendly air compressor, then it has already made the most important and beneficial choice. However, in making that choice there is another major consideration, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Compressors are a prime example of how pronounced the difference can be between initial investment and the TCO.
The total cost of ownership of a compressor consists of the cost of buying, owning, and operating it during its lifetime. As a rule, because of manufacturers’ technology developments embodied in advanced, environment-friendly compressors, these units may carry a higher price tag, but they also offer much lower operating costs, which provide payback in the long run.In fact, the initial investment constitutes only a small fraction of the TCO. Energy costs make up the bulk of it and will likely become an even more important issue in the near future if energy prices continue to rise despite evident progress in, and nationwide dependence on, sustainable alternative energy sources. If energy costs take up an even bigger share of the total cost of ownership, premium quality compressor products capable of energy-saving operation must offer the best investment option, especially when coupled with the added benefit of government-driven energy efficiency incentive schemes. It is true that not all businesses are ready to embrace the need for “going green.” Sceptical managements may still believe that green investments are prohibitively expensive. Nothing could be further from reality. There is a wealth of evidence in the form of compressor-user case histories documenting annual running costs reductions of well over 30% and payback periods of less than two years. Going green is not just about buying a new compressor. Aside from the return on investment, taking the right level of care of an established installation can also make a substantial contribution to the cost benefits of going green. Apart from the basic function of providing an air supply to production processes, green compressor technology can contribute to comfortable workplace environments while at the same time achieving significant energy savings. That is its heat recovery role.
Energy has a remarkable feature – it never diminishes but is transformed into other types of energy. Compressors generate heat. Most businesses allow this heat to dissipate as quickly as possible to keep the ambient temperature down. But there is a better way - heat recovery.Instead of letting it go to waste, purchasing a compressor with integrated energy recovery or installing a heat recovery system between the compressor and the cooling- and heating circuits will recover and re-use 70-94% of the energy required to run a compressor. The hot water, heated up to 90 degrees C and recovered from the compressed air system, can be used for sanitary purposes and space heating but is particularly suitable for process-heating applications. Recovering heat from compressed air reduces the need for purchasing energy. It is this reduction that results in lower CO2 emissions and operating costs. Due to the high cost of energy, these savings can be significant in terms of helping companies to meet their carbon reduction targets and improve manufacturing plant profitability.
More and more companies are realising that “going green” is not just the right thing to do but also makes sense financially. However, this often raises the question of whether switching to ecological equipment and production processes can ensure quality.For businesses where it is critical to meet extremely high standards in their process air requirements, green technology should only be employed if it guarantees that final products are not compromised. It can be argued that for applications such as clean rooms in pharmaceutical production, food and beverage production, or electronics manufacturing, maintaining stringent quality standards is much more important than using the most environment-friendly equipment. That is why the compressed air industry’s offerings are subject to strict compliance with quality standards such as ISO 8573-1 and ISO 22000. In order to protect sensitive processes, premium air treatment equipment, such as oil-free compressors that are ISO 8573-1 Class 0 certified, produce high air quality air that is free of oil vapours, aerosols, and other contaminants. Supplier companies that are ISO 22000-certified have demonstrated a commitment to provide clean and safe food production systems.
Atlas Copco is a Carbon Trust accredited supplier. It was the pioneer of the revolutionary VSD compressor over 25 years ago and raised the energy efficiency bar even further with the invention of the VSD+ range. Its commitment to air quality goes further than many other equipment supplier companies and it became the first compressor manufacturer to be certified according to the industry standard of air purity ISO 8573-1 CLASS 0 as well as the first to be awarded an ISO 22000 certification for its oil-free air division production facility in Antwerp, Belgium.