4 Techniques to Determine Accurate Compressed Air Needs

Oct 12, 2020 by Brad Taylor

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How to know the right amount of compressed air your facility needs.

There are many ways and methods that can be used in determining how much compressed air is needed to supply your facility, and believe it when we tell you – Getting a properly sized compressed air system is very important. Why do we say that?

  • Under-sizing an air compressor will cause the system not to work.
  • Both over-sizing and under-sizing your equipment can lead to large budget constraints that management never likes to deal with.
  • Over-sizing your equipment can be costly too due to long-term maintenance and higher energy costs.

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As you can see, knowing how much compressed air you need is not only important for your day-to-day operations but is critical to managing operating costs. A bad calculation could lead to budget problems and a major fallback on production. We’re here to help make sure that this isn’t a problem for your business.

Now, for some facilities, there are simple calculations that determine how much compressed air is needed; such as in an auto repair facility, where the number of bays and mechanics will determine the compressor size. On the other hand, there are large manufacturing applications where the equipment with compressed air is almost 100% custom built for that facility.


4 Techniques:

Have a new facility? Here’s how to calculate how much you need.

New facilities that have no historical data or baseline to start from can be the most difficult to engineer.

Technique 1: The easiest way to start out is by entering all of the proposed production equipment into a spreadsheet and break it down by technical specifications. You will need information such as:

  • Minimum and maximum CFM
  • Minimum PSI requirements
  • Time or duration that the machines will be running

When coming up with total numbers, consider whether or not you will have all of your machines running at once. For example, if you have 6 air-powered sanders, what is the chance they will all be running at one time – for an extended period of time?

Quick note: Using this method of calculation is the best way to start when no previous data is known, but often results in a machine being sized on the large side. The likelihood of this happening is increased when there is a mix of manual versus automatic equipment.

How to know how much compressed air you need for facilities with systems already in place:

Technique 2: Figuring out the best sized compressed air system for existing facilities is typically a bit easier than new facilities. If the air usage is fairly stable through the day, simple pump-up timings and on/off or load/unload timings can be compiled in order to determine compressor system efficiency and remaining capacity.

Technique 3: A more accurate method is to perform data logging that records system pressure and electrical usage. This will give you hard data which can then be broken down to show the minimum and maximum CFM requirements. This is extremely useful in applications with varying demands and multiple shifts of operation.

Technique 4: Lastly, there are flow meters that can be installed on individual pieces of equipment to determine their specific usage. These can also be installed on complete systems to give you an instant reading of usage.

Important tip: Make sure to have a receiver tank strategically installed near the flow meter so that you get data without a lot of peaks and valleys.

Trust the experts at Fluid-Aire Dynamics for all your compressed air needs.

These are a few of the techniques that we use at Fluid-Aire Dynamics to determine the right amount of compressed air a facility needs. If you’re not sure or have a question about your facility, we recommend reaching out to us before making a capital investment. Being second generation air compressor system engineers, we have most likely seen an application similar to what you are doing, or are about to do. With that experience behind us, we can compare similar industries with similar size operations in order to make sure you are in the ballpark for the right compressed air system size.

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