Can You Hear Your Compressor Talking to You?

If you’ve ever been in your industrial plant during a shutdown, you probably noticed that your compressed air system was trying to send you a message. That hissing sound you heard was your money going down the drain. Compressed air is expensive; you don’t get a lot out of your system for what you put in. And having a leaky system makes matters even worse.

The energy input to an air compressor at one end of the system is much higher than what comes out the shaft of an air tool at the other end. About eight horsepower is consumed for every one horsepower of work produced by the tool. This makes the system just 10-15% percent efficient. But if a substantial amount of compressed air leaks out even before it gets to the tool, the efficiency falls even more.

Studies done by the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) and others show that leakage levels are typically around 20-30% of the installed compressor output. This waste can go even higher if nobody cares to find and fix leakage points in a system. Unmaintained systems can have very high levels of leakage, with some extreme cases leaking 80% of the compressor capacity.

How much is your plant leaking?

That’s a very good question that deserves an answer. And cupping your hand to your ear during plant production outages can lead you closer to the answer. Is your plant quiet, or does it sound like a pit of angry vipers?

In many cases, you can go to your compressor room armed with a watch and a calculator, and come up with an answer to your leakage question in short order. If your compressor runs start/stop or load/unload, you can do a timer test to calculate the percentage of time your air compressor is loaded and producing air compared to its run time. If this test is done during a time where there is no production, the result is your leakage level in percent of the running compressor. If you know the compressor output, most compressors produce about 4 cubic feet per minute per rated horsepower. Then you can calculate the cubic feet per minute leakage rate.

How much is this flow rate costing you?

Well, if you know your energy rate, you can calculate this, too, on your handy calculator. Typical air compressors will consume between 20 and 30 kilowatts per 100 cfm; for this article, let’s use 25 kW/100 cfm. Then your cost will be the flow in cfm x 25 x operating hours x energy rate divided by 100.

Let’s do an example calculation.

Let’s say that during your test, your compressor was loaded an average of 20 seconds and unloaded for an average of 50 seconds per cycle. This means the compressor has a total cycle time of 70 seconds. Being loaded for 20 seconds every 70 seconds means the compressor is 28% loaded. If the air compressor is a 25-hp unit with an output of about 100 cfm, the leak level would be about 28 cfm.

At 25 kW per 100 cfm, this level would consume 7 kW (25 / 100 x 28 cfm). And if you pay 10 cents per kWh and operate a two-shift operation for 4,200 hours per year, this 7 kW would cost you $2,940 per year in extra electricity costs (7 kW x 4,200 hours x $0.10).

If your air compressor does not load and unload, different tests may be required.

The easiest way to measure leaks, however, is to simply install a permanently mounted flow meter. Then you can do the test on a regular basis as part of a special efficiency measurement.

Why is my compressor cycle time so short?

Due to lack of adequate storage. In the example above, the total cycle time was 70 seconds. This means that there is only about 1.6 gallons of capacity per cfm. Best practices storage size for peak efficiency would be between 5 and 10 gallons per cfm, resulting in a cycle time of around 4 minutes, which will increase the compressor efficiency.

Does my compressor need to run at night and on the weekend?

Unnecessary compressor run time not only costs you energy, but also consumes operating hours, resulting in higher maintenance costs and reduced machine life. If you don’t need compressed air during production downtimes, then turn it off! If your plant can’t be shut down, then turn off the air to individual machines.

Why don’t I just fix the leaks and save the money?

Very good question. It is easy to fix most leaks, and many factories find that setting up a leakage detection and repair program saves significant dollars. In some cases, it can prevent the expensive purchase of a new air compressor.

The McCormick and Associates team is proud to represent AIRpipe. For more information, contact us at (302) 521-0125 or mike@mcassoc.com

Discover the Benefits of Aluminum Piping

Engineers use various piping materials for compressed air systems, these include black iron, galvanized steel, copper, stainless steel and even plastic (PVC). In more recent years, aluminum piping has become an option considered by many contractors, architects and engineering firms. Aluminum piping provides many benefits for compressed air systems in many different applications.

There are two common types of pipe used for compressed air systems are black iron and galvanized steel pipe. Due to a variety of factors, more compressed air systems installed today use black iron or galvanized pipe. These factors include:

  • Contractors are familiar with these materials.
  • Material costs are low.
  • The pipe and compressed air system fittings are readily available.
  • Steel pipe is rated for high pressure.

However, there are five important reasons why aluminum piping is a superior material to use for most compressed air installations today, each of which addresses a key disadvantage to traditional pipe systems.

1. Lowering Installation Costs

When it comes to a compressed air system, more time is needed to install the system when using steel pipe compared to installing a system using other materials. One factor behind this is that steel pipe needs to be threaded to join pipes and install the proper fittings. Properly threading steel pipe requires special threading equipment and skilled workers to operate it. Not only do these workers cost more than unskilled workers, it also drives up installation costs. Also, threading pipes is dirty work requiring cutting fluids to get a good thread, and that must be cleaned from the pipe before you can start using the system. Threading also creates a lot debris.

Modifying and maintaining a compressed air system made with steel pipe is more challenging than modifying and maintaining systems built from other materials. One reason for this is that steep pipe is much heavier than other materials. Steel pipe also so heavy, so it requires more labor to handle the piping while making modifications than it would to make modifications to a system made with other piping materials.

2. Minimizing System Leaks

Another problem with threaded connections is that they will inevitably leak. It has been estimated that eight to ten percent of the compressed air in a system will leak through connections, causing compressors to run harder and longer. This can drive up utility costs as a result.

3. Aluminum Piping Doesn’t Corrode

A common issue with using steel pipe is that moisture inside the system will cause pipes to rust from the inside out. Even if the compressed air system has a moisture trap, there will be some moisture in the system and corrosion will occur. Even galvanized steel pipe will corrode, as not all pipes are galvanized both inside and out.

Corrosion causes several issues, beginning with air flow restricted by a rough inner surface caked with deposits caused by corrosion build up. In addition, loose scale deposits collect over time and create pressure drops, making the air compressor work harder to maintain the pressure of the system. In extreme scenarios, loose scale can completely clog a line or damage equipment connected to a line. Of course, corrosion and loose scale affects air quality, making it unsuitable for applications that require clean air.

4. Aluminum Outperforms the Copper Alternative

Another solution for compressed air systems is copper. Copper is attractive because it doesn’t corrode as much as steel pipe. It can corrode, but it doesn’t have pipe scaling like steel pipe, which means that a copper system will have fewer air flow problems and air cleanliness problems than steel pipe. However, it can still experience flow restriction over time.

A copper solution still comes with its own set of disadvantages, though. One of the biggest being the cost of copper material itself. The price of copper increased by 20 percent in October of 2011, and subsequently, so did the price of copper pie. Prices have since dropped, but the fact remains that copper pipe continues to be considerably more expensive than steel pipe.

Another downside is that fitting must be soldered, and this causes its own set of issues. Soldering requires an open flame, which makes this a safety issue in some environments. Solder also requires some skill to accomplish, an increasing problem in an era when skilled labor is becoming harder to find. If a joint is not properly soldered, it will leak, and leaks increase energy costs.

Lastly, not all types of copper piping are suitable for use with high air pressures. So, if you are planning to use copper, you need to ensure that you choose a pipe that can handle the pressure.

5. PVC and Stainless Steel Present Obstacles in Cost and Durability

Steel pipe and copper pipe are the two most widely used materials for compressed air systems, but you will also sometimes find systems that use PVC pipe and stainless steel pipe. In fact, it is against OSHA standards and highly dangerous to use PVC pipe for compressed air systems. Over time PVC becomes brittle and may explode when transporting air under high pressure.

Stainless steel is another option, particularly when the compressed air system is to be installed in a corrosive environment. In some scenarios, stainless steel is considered an option depending on the fluctuating cost of copper pipe.

As with other steel pipe systems, however, stainless steel systems can be costly to install. Threaded stainless steel pipe can be challenging to seal, often requiring the use of lubricants to thread correctly. Welding stainless steel drives up installation costs and safety concerns through the need of a skilled welder, and the additional risk of smoke inhalation, damage to eye sight and fire.

The Case for Aluminum Piping

Recently, aluminum piping has become a solid alternative to other piping materials for compressed air systems. Compared to other materials, installing a compressed air system using aluminum piping offers many advantages, including:

Aluminum pipe systems are much easier to install and to modify than steel or copper pipe systems. Since aluminum pipe is supplied ready for use, labor savings of 50 percent can be achieved. No specific preparations beyond cutting, deburring and chamfering are required, nor are special tools needed. Aluminum pipe is calibrated, which means that its diameter is strictly controlled As a result, associated quick connect components will fit securely, and each connection is automatically secured.


Aluminum pipe is much lighter than other materials. This reduces installation and modification costs. Another factor that makes aluminum pipe systems easier to install and modify is that it doesn’t require threading or soldering.


The compressed air provided by a system built with aluminum piping is much cleaner than air delivered by a steel pipe system. The requires of ISO 8573-1: 2010 air quality standards are met with aluminum pipe systems, should the application require it. Cleaner air also means lower maintenance costs as well.


The corrosion-resistant properties of aluminum pipe mean optimal air flow, reduced energy costs and better air quality.


The fittings utilized with aluminum pipe systems fit securely and leak far less than the fittings used with threaded systems. This directly translates into energy savings and improved plant productivity.

Naturally, with any material, there are some disadvantages. For instance, material costs are higher for aluminum pipe systems compared to steel pipe systems. However, when compared to copper pipe systems, material costs for aluminum are about the same or even lower. Another great fact, the working pressure for aluminum is 232 PSI at 115 degrees. Overall, though, for many applications, aluminum piping is a solid alternative for compressed air systems. These are just a few of the many benefits of using aluminum piping systems for compressed air systems. Contact AIRpipe today for more information!

The McCormick & Associates team is proud to represent AIRpipe. For more information, contact Mike McCormick at (302) 521-0125 or mike@mccassoc.com

McCormick & Associates Proud to Represent AIRpipe

AIRpipe has been engaging in the air compressor industry and air transmission industry since 1997.

In 2008, the company purchased a campus to manufacture the aluminum pipe and fittings used for AIRpipe’s network system for the compressed air, vacuum, and inert gas applications. 

The AIRpipe system is designed to ensure users’ air quality, improve environment, reduce energy costs, and prolong the lifespan of equipment and tooling.

Engaging worldwide in the compressed air industry since 1997, AIRpipe has over 10 years’ of experience that includes more than 12,000 satisfied customers with  20,000 worldwide projects installing 42,000 kilometers of pipe in 21 countries. 

AIRpipe technologies have been designed & engineered based on feedback from installers, engineers, unions, and distributors involved in the compressed air piping industry.  AIRpipe’s easy to use and reliable products were made with you in mind and is backed by a 10-year quality guarantee.

The McCormick and Associates team is proud to represent AIRpipe. For more information, contact us at (302) 521-0125 or mike@mcassoc.com

McCormick & Associates Adds AIRpipe to List of Manufacturers

We are pleased to announce that we are now representing AIRpipe aluminum pipe systems.

AIRpipe is a provider of superior performing compressed air, vacuum and inert gas piping systems. The company advances the compressed air and inert gas industry with aluminum piping solutions; engineered for long-term reliability, improved productivity and environmental sustainability, all while reducing operating costs.

Since 1997, our team has served customers worldwide. We have successfully completed over 20,000 projects installing 42,000 kilometers of pipe in 21 countries.

We now manufacture our own aluminum pipe and fittings for compressed air, vacuum and inert gas piping systems. Our fittings are interchangeable with any piping system if they measure two inches or less.

Aluminum pipe can be supplied in single 20 foot lengths (box quantities not required) available from 3/4″ to 8″. Installation is flexible and easy. Resistant to corrosion, vibration and heat. The air is preserved throughout the system up to the point of use.

Performance of the AIRpipe system differentiates itself through superior design, high quality materials and controlled production processes. Integration with an existing compressed air main ring system is possible with the extensive range of pipe and fittings.

So, if you are currently using another pipe fitting, we can help you. All AIRpipe manufactured aluminum piping and fittings are backed by a 10 Year Quality Guarantee.

For more information, contact Mike at (302) 521-0125 or send me an email at mike@mccassoc.com

Ultra Clean Introduces Clean Capsule Dispenser

Now, you can easily store and dispense clean seal capsules using our Ultra Clean Clean Capsule Dispenser (UC-CDS).

The unit can accommodate the entire range of capsules. An attached lid seals and protects the capsules from airborne contamination.

A loading wand and size chart are included with your purchase.

The stand’s adjustable easel-like design allows to be applied to any bench top or may also be compacted for wall mounting. The Ultra Clean Capsule Dispenser Stand is easy to integrate into any production cell, hose shop, or warehouse setting.

When you choose Ultra Clean Technologies to control your fluid power contamination, you can be sure that your company is choosing the world’s most technologically advanced and comprehensive contamination control solutions, while dealing with some of the most highly knowledgeable sales and customer service representatives in the industry.

I’m proud to represent this outstanding company.

For more information, contact me at McCormick & Associates (302) 521-0125 or send me an email at mike@mccassoc.com