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Improving compressed air practices to cut energy wastage

17 May 2022

Following the launch of its 10% Taskforce compressed air energy reduction campaign, the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) is continuing to educate operators on the simple steps that can be actioned to lower electricity consumption. Vanda Jones outlines some of the ways that costs can be reduced by changing behaviours and implementing good housekeeping practices.

COMPRESSED AIR is not free. In fact, as much as 10% of all the energy consumed by industry is used to generate compressed air. Taking small, incremental steps can led to significant cost – and carbon – savings.

Users are often not aware of the positive impact they can have on cutting energy costs from compressed air, meaning leaks can go ignored and air is used indiscriminately.

So, one of the best places to start is by involving staff and explaining the role they can play in identifying and minimising wastage. Substantial energy improvements can be made by implementing new processes and encouraging teams to use compressed air more efficiently and safely.

Which areas should be targeted?

In a typical production plant, the main areas of wasted usage to target include air leaks from inefficient or ageing pipework and leaving air-consuming equipment running unnecessarily, for example during breaks. It is also common to see teams using compressed air lines for cleaning down benches and equipment, when a simple brush or vacuum could suffice.

Draw up a usage policy

Appoint someone with overall responsibility to ensure coordination across the production facility. An action plan can then be implemented which should seek to raise awareness of the potential inefficient practices with employees, to establish compressed air costs and to set targets for reducing avoidable waste.

Switch off the compressor when there is no demand 

A simple way to realise significant energy savings is to switch off compressors when there is no demand for air. For example, compressors left switched on overnight unnecessarily, will consume electricity to feed any leaks in the system.  

Even when off-load, compressors can consume up to 70% of their full load power, so operators should check that compressors are also not switched on earlier than needed as well as checking time switch settings regularly.

Consider lower energy alternatives

Compressed air is used for many applications because of its safety, flexibility and convenience. But sometimes compressed air is used just because it is there, not because it is necessarily the best solution for the job.  

For example, in ventilation applications, fans or blowers can offer a lower energy alternative and for liquid agitation, a mechanical stirrer or blower can deliver the same results. Where there is a risk of explosion, electrical interference, or extreme temperatures, then compressed air remains the best option, however.

Vanda Jones is executive director at the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS)

For more information: 


Tel: 020 7935 2464


Top compressed air housekeeping tips

  • Involve staff in your energy-saving initiatives
  • Set simple goals to change inefficient practices
  • Switch off compressors when not in use
  • Look out for leaks
  • Consider alternatives to compressed air for some common applications