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Home / News & Opportunities / Blog / August 17 / LIZ RUSHTON - DON’T LET YOUR PROFITS DISAPPEAR INTO AIR!

Date: 21/08/2017

As an Energy Efficiency Advisor working on the Business Energy Efficiency Programme (BEEP), my role involves visiting local businesses and encouraging them to become more energy efficient through free advice and grant funding.

After visiting over forty businesses to discuss energy efficiency since beginning this role  in October 2016, some key themes have emerged, one of which is a misconception around the cost of compressed air, which will be the focus of this blog.

Compressed air is present in approximately 70% of manufacturersand is a vital energy source with many uses such as driving machine tools, spray painting equipment and hand tools. Air is often thought of as a free and abundant resource that can be wasted; however, this is far from the truth.

In fact, compressed air is a very expensive utility due to the large amounts of electricity required to generate it. An entire air compressor system (compressor, pipe-work, receiver etc) can operate at just 10% efficiency; therefore, at an electricity tariff of 10p/kWh each one unit of compressed air energy costs £1 to generate.

Luckily, there are some low cost and easy measures businesses can take to reduce the cost of compressed air. Some key areas to focus on are highlighted below:

  • Fix leaks - walk around your facility and listen for the telltale hiss of a compressed air leak and fix these as soon as possible. Even a small leak left unfixed for a year could cost your business £500, whilst a large number of audible leaks could be costing your business thousands in wasted energy.
  • Reduce the pressure air is generated at. Most industrial plants are designed to operate at 7 bar, however, many run at higher pressures unnecessarily. Pressure can be decreased in small, incremental reductions to ensure operations are not affected. Reducing pressure by 10% can lead to 5% savings in compressed air energy use2.
  • Ensure air intake is as cool and dry as possible. Hot air requires more energy to compress and for each 4°C drop in intake temperature a 1% rise in compressor efficiency will be seen2.
  • Recover some of the heat your compressor generates. For example, hot air can be ducted in to a warehouse in the winter and outside in the summer. This has the added advantage of taking this hot air away from the compressor.
  • Eliminate unnecessary uses of compressed air for example cleaning or blowing down surfaces.
  • Finally, consider replacing old compressors with new, energy efficient technology, keeping in mind that the upfront capital costs of a compressor only account for 15% of lifetime costs, whilst the running costs account for 75%. Spending a little more initially on an energy efficient model makes good sense, particularly if grant funding is available to support these costs.

The above actions could reduce energy used by compressed air on your site by as much as 30%, reducing your overall expenditure on energy and therefore ensuring your profits do not disappear into “compressed” air.  
The Business Energy Efficiency Programme is part-financed by the England European Regional Development Fund Programme as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. For more information visit 


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Liz Rushton

Energy Efficiency Advisor

Having graduated from Southampton University with a BSc in Geography, Liz went on to specialise in Climate Change and Sustainability by completing a MSc at Exeter University. Following her studies Liz obtained a role within the Climate Change and Energy Management Unit at Derby City Council and then returned to the South West to provide resource and energy efficiency advice to over 150 businesses as part of the Improving Your Resource Efficiency project, run by Serco. Liz joins the Chamber after a career break to travel the world and is employed on the EU funded Business Energy Efficiency Programme. Liz’s role involves helping businesses identify where energy savings can be made and assisting them to apply for grant funding to support improvements.

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