Inappropriate Uses of Compressed Air

Mar 23, 2021 by Brad Taylor

Table of contents

We all know what it is to go from room to room at home turning off all the lights that the kids left on. We are sensitive about the thermostat setting at home during the winter, keeping it lowered at night or when not home for an extended period. We fix the drippy kitchen faucet, or the toilet that runs continually. These are examples of cost cutting measures to keep our utility bills more affordable.

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But what about your compressed air system at your place of business? Compressed air is your fourth, and most expensive, utility. Minimally, it costs you electricity to run, as well as labor and materials to maintain. This is after the initial capital investment and depreciation. Yet, compressed air is highly disregarded, wasted, and abused utility. It is also powerfully dangerous. Read on…

What urged me to write this blog was a recent visit to the maintenance shop of a major international corporation who would be an OSHA target for workplace injuries. It was break time. I observed maintenance personnel dusting themselves off with blow guns. In a plant with a couple hundred horsepower of air, this was a relatively small, but highly wasteful, and very dangerous use of compressed air. Here are some sobering facts:

  • Dislodged particles from blowing off clothing can blow into your, or co-worker’s, eyes.
  • Compressed air accidentally blown into the mouth can rupture lungs, stomach, or intestines.
  • Compressed air could enter the blood stream by penetrating the skin, or through an open wound, potentially causing a stroke or fatality if it makes its way to the heart or blood vessels in the brain.
  • As little as 12 PSI can blow an eye out of its socket.

Other Poor Uses of Compressed Air and How to Avoid Them:

  • Clean up – Instead, use a broom on floors, brushes on benches, brushes on clothes
  • Drying, Process Cooling – Instead, use low pressure blowers or fans
  • Sparging – Instead, use low pressure blowers or electric mixers
  • Vacuum Generation (Venturi) – Instead, use electric vacuum pump
  • Personnel cooling – Instead, use fans
  • Air motor driven mixers – Instead, use electric mixer
  • Idle Equipment – Instead, turn off the air valve supplying the equipment
  • Abandoned Equipment – Instead, completely disconnect from air system
  • Leakage to Atmosphere – Instead, repair/replace bad hoses, couplers, solenoid valves, pipe joints, etc. THIS IS SORT OF LIKE GOING AROUND THE HOUSE TURNING OFF ALL THE LIGHTS THE KIDS LEFT ON!


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