Use of Compressed Air Based on National Averages

Compressed air is often called the “fourth utility,” after electricity, natural gas and water. Approximately 70% of all manufacturers having a compressed air system and up to 30% of electricity consumed by the manufacturing sector can be attributed to compressed air usage.

For many, this system is a vital input in production widely used due to its cleanliness, availability and ease of use. However, compressed air systems are highly inefficient, resulting in significant wasted energy and costs. It is estimated that 25% of compressed air is wasted through leaks!

Effects of Air Loss

As with any wasted product, wasting this much compressed air has effects on production.

  • Reduces system reliability
  • Wastes energy
  • Decreases productivity

Those effects do not even consider the actual cost of compressed air leaks. The wasted air is costing money! So the IWRC sought out to find out how much energy Iowa small businesses could save if compressed air leaks were fixed. A 6-month pilot project funded by the Iowa Economic Development Authority provided the answer.

Money and Energy Wasted through Compressed Air Leaks

After conducting audits at 25 Iowa small businesses to identify and tag compressed air leaks, the IWRC was able to determine the actual cost and energy wasted through compressed air leaks. Outcomes showed a range of results depending on type and size of business.

One small body shop had only one leak, 47 leaks were identified at a structural steel fabricator. While a potential for energy savings and air emission reductions exist, the most valuable outcome for the business is cost savings – nearly $50,000 annually just for the 25 participating businesses.