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Specifying a compressor: To hire or to buy?

24 July 2018

There are now a myriad of ways to purchase a stationary air compressor, with tried and trusted sales channels competing with newer e-commerce initiatives for buyers’ attention.  Stef Lievens, business line manager, industrial air, Atlas Copco Compressors UK & Ireland also considers an alternative approach

Although procuring a compressor may be easier than ever, there is an alternative school of thought that asks, in specific circumstances, why buy when all you need is air? This is because of the introduction of pay-as-you-go compressed air schemes, which are designed specifically for customers who may experience periodic extra usage demands or have limited capital reserves at their disposal.

One recent example of this type of contract air scheme is AIRPlan. It embraces the latest energy-efficient air compressors and predictive maintenance technology, backed up by full after-sales service support, to provide end users with a guaranteed and reliable compressed air supply under a flexible agreement. Crucially, customers only pay for what they use. A monthly fixed service charge and a variable compressed air usage fee, measured by an intelligent monitoring system, enable users to plan and manage their operational costs according to current needs and budgets.

The scheme covers the installation of all the equipment required in a plant’s compressed air system, and is based upon VSD rotary screw compressor technology that is capable of delivering average energy savings of 50% compared with fixed-speed alternatives. It also includes all quality air ancillaries, such as dryers, filters, air receivers, condensate drains, oil-water separators and a modular alloy pipework system.

Peace of mind

Parts, service and breakdown cover during working hours are included within the fixed monthly fee. This eliminates any unexpected or hidden costs for unforeseen repairs. For added peace of mind, on-time preventive maintenance is provided by expert engineers who only use genuine OEM parts to assure uninterrupted performance at optimum efficiency. In addition, equipment can be upsized or downsized where necessary, with the option to exchange for alternative capacity units; or even return them at the end of the contract period. 

Despite the advantage these type of pay-as-you-go schemes offer, hiring a stationary compressor is not the right option for everyone. Thankfully, when it comes to buying a compressor, companies now have the flexibility to choose between outright purchase or finance deals; not to mention the availability of government funding via the Carbon Trust’s Green Business Fund.

For many years, the traditional way for air users to buy smaller workshop and industrial compressors directly was to approach authorised distributors, who can still be relied upon today, with the supply of larger capacity units and systems usually handled directly by the manufacturer.  

However, more recent e-commerce initiatives mean it is now possible to buy smaller compressors online; directly from the manufacturer. This is particularly helpful for companies seeking 2-7kW ex-stock units for use in garages, bodyshops, workshops and small manufacturing and light engineering applications, backed by warranty and full after sales service.

Another option for companies who don’t want to dip into their cash reserves is to consider hire purchase schemes. These types of scheme are highly flexible and provide the option of purchasing a compressor outright at the end of contract. 

In addition, what shouldn’t be overlooked when considering upgrading or installing a new compressed air system is the availability of national and local funding schemes that encourage manufacturing companies to invest in energy-efficient machines and systems. Once such high-profile initiative is the Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) scheme from the Carbon Trust, and associated government sponsored Energy Technology List (ETL). These enable businesses that pay income or corporation tax to claim a 100% first year capital allowance on any product if it’s on the ETL list at the time of purchase.

Finally, what compressed air users may not be aware of is that many local authorities run their own schemes offering grants to encourage the adoption of energy efficient industrial machinery. For instance, there are two such initiatives in Derbyshire and Worcestershire, which have been running for some time now and have benefited companies in their respective areas.