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Energy Program
Determine the Cost of Compressed Air for Your Plant PDF Print E-mail
Written by USDOE Office of Industrial Technologies   
Wednesday, 09 June 2010 11:09

Determine the Cost of Compressed Air for Your Plant

Most industrial facilities need some form of compressed air, whether for running a simple air tool or for more complicated tasks such as the operation of pneumatic controls. A recent survey by the U.S. Department of Energy showed that for a typical industrial facility, approximately 10% of the electricity consumed is for generating compressed air. For some facilities, compressed air generation may account for 30% or more of the electricity consumed. Compressed air is an on-site generated utility. Very often, the cost of generation is not known; however, some companies use a value of 18-30 cents per 1,000 cubic feet of air.

Compressed air is one of the most expensive sources of energy in a plant. The overall efficiency of a typical compressed air system can be as low as 10%-15%. For example, to operate a 1-horsepower (hp) air motor at 100 pounds per square inch gauge (psig), approximately 7-8 hp of electrical power is supplied to the air compressor. To calculate the cost of compressed air in your facility, use the formula shown below:

Cost ($) = ((bhp) x (0.746) x (# of operating hours) x ($/kWh) x (% time) x (% full-load bhp)) / Motor Efficiency

bhp—Motor full-load horsepower (frequently higher than the motor nameplate horsepower—check equipment specification)
0.746—conversion between hp and kW
Percent time—percentage of time running at this operating level
Percent full-load bhp—bhp as percentage of full-load bhp at this operating level
Motor efficiency—motor efficiency at this operating level

A typical manufacturing facility has a 200-hp compressor (which requires 215 bhp) that operates for 6800 hours annually. It is fully loaded 85% of the time (motor efficiency = .95) and unloaded the rest of the time (25% full-load bhp and motor efficiency = .90). The aggregate electric rate is $0.05/kWh.

Cost when fully loaded
= ((215 bhp) x (0.746) x (6800 hrs) x ($0.05/kWh) x (0.85) x (1.0)) / .95
= $48,792
Cost when unloaded
= ((215 bhp) x (0.746) x (6800 hrs) x ($0.05/kWh) x (0.15) x (0.25)) / .90
= $2,272

Annual energy cost = $48,792 + $2,272 = $51,064

Typical Lifetime Compressed Air Costs in Perspective—Costs Over 10 Years

Electricity - 76%
Maintenance- 12%
Equipment- 12%

Assumptions in this example include a 75-hp compressor operated two shifts a day, 5 days a week at an aggregate electric rate of $0.05/kWh over 10 years of equipment life.

EERE Information Center 1-877-EERE-INF (1-877-337-3463) www.eere.energy.gov
Industrial Technologies Program Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy U.S. Department of Energy
Washington, DC 20585-0121 www.eere.energy.gov/industry

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