Maintain to gain

27 July 2021

We caught up with Vanda Jones, Executive Director at the British Compressed Air Society, who are event sponsors of this year’s Maintec event, to find out more about the importance of an efficient maintenance regime for compressed air.

When it comes to the cost of owning a compressed air system, operators will be well aware that energy accounts for the biggest ongoing outlay.  But, maintaining the compressor over a potential 10-15-year lifespan will also represent a significant expense – making it of prime importance that the installation is serviced by a professional.

Safety first

A vital part of safely and efficiently managing a compressed air system is in the installation, servicing and auditing - all of which have varying amounts of regulation.

Just like other items of industrial equipment, the compressor needs to be installed and maintained correctly to ensure it offers maximum performance and operates safely.

As a result, BCAS continues to remind all compressed air end users to ensure that their employees are fully trained on the requirements of the Pressure Systems’ Safety Regulations 2000 (PSSR), and in particular, the importance of the written scheme of examination

If pressure equipment fails during operation, it can seriously injure or even kill people nearby and cause damage to property

As a result, the HSE states that ‘everybody operating, installing, maintaining, repairing, inspecting and testing pressure equipment should have the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out their job safely’, meaning suitable training is essential.

In particular, a written scheme of examination is required for most pressure systems, which should be drawn up (or certified as suitable) by a competent person – and the system should not be operated or hired out until the scheme is in place and the system fully examined.

The Pressure System Safety Regulations define the legal responsibilities of users and owners and these are many and varied.

It is therefore of prime importance that operators are aware of their duties. For example, before the system can be designed or installed it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure that the safe operating limits are specified (and that they are subsequently reviewed and kept up to date).  

This is where it is advisable to consult with a proven service provider, such as a verified BCAS member - who can help to determine which of the regulations apply to the pressure equipment subsequently provided.

In addition, the user of an installed system and the owner of a mobile system must ensure that the system is kept properly maintained and in good repair, so as to prevent danger.

BCAS is currently offering a 25% discount on its popular ‘Certificate in Understanding the Pressure Systems’ Safety Regulations’ course at (available to customers of BCAS members only, excluding trade) to help businesses train their staff.

This blended learning workshop, one of a number of specialist training courses in our portfolio, covers the written scheme of examination in relation to compressed air systems. It provides knowledge of the PSSR, related standards and codes of practice and is designed to provide the understanding required as a user, manager or provider of written schemes of examination.

Ongoing maintenance

Generating compressed air can be very energy intensive, representing between 5-30 per cent of a site’s total electricity bill.  Coupled with this significant overhead, poor practices and housekeeping can also contribute to unnecessary wastage.

A low cost and regular maintenance regime will help retain low leak rates and reliability of equipment.  Operators should also consider a policy that specifies that energy efficient options are purchased when replacing all equipment – whether it is a basic drain valve through to the actual compressor unit itself.  

Training and involving staff in the safe use of compressed air can also pay dividends. For example, not allowing benches or equipment to be cleaned down with compressed air will save a significant amount of air being vented into the atmosphere.  It is far safer to carry out such cleaning using a vacuum system to reduce the risk of injury.

Genuine spare parts

A compressor, like any piece of industrial equipment is a machine and all machines eventually breakdown.  At some point component parts will need to either be repaired or replaced.  

Therefore, operators should always specify genuine spare parts and avoid the temptation of using initially cheaper alternatives – because in the long term, genuine spare parts can result in significant savings in excess of 25 per cent.

It’s also advisable to question the manufacturer’s policy on spare parts availability and obsolescence.  Some cheaper options offer little in the way of on-going support. This is less of a concern for equipment that is purchased at a discount to only last for a couple of years, but a compressed air system is a long-term investment. End users should therefore take the time to check the credentials, the ongoing availability and the longevity of the spare parts they are investing in, to avoid costly mistakes at a later date.

Energy audits

As part of an ongoing compressed air maintenance programme, it is advisable to have regular energy audits taken out on all aspects of the compressed air system as they don’t always run to their best potential, with incorrectly specified equipment, leaks, poorly sized pipework, long distance, excessive bends, fittings and improper use all affecting energy efficiency levels.

Around six years ago, the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) made EN ISO 11011, the International Standard for compressed air efficiency, an approved European Standard.  

Prior to EN ISO 11011, individual manufacturers and suppliers had to decide for themselves how to measure compressor energy consumption, and what recommendations to make to their customers. With the introduction of EN ISO 11011, companies now offer advice and carry out assessment and auditing procedures on a level playing field. Like for like energy audits can only benefit the end-user and make it easier to decide what action to take.

BCAS would strongly encourage end-users to see the value in assessing their compressed air usage within a standardised framework. It’s likely that many businesses do not know how much compressed air they use, or how much it costs them. EN ISO 11011 will help deliver sustainable results for the businesses that take it on board, saving energy and reducing carbon emissions.

To find out more about the PSSR training course visit To find a BCAS member that can assist with your obligations under the PSSR and that can provide professional service and support visit

BCAS is an event partner at this year’s Maintec event and will be exhibiting on stand M103, from the 3rd to 4th November 2021 at the NEC, Birmingham.