The Cost of Compressed Air

A question that is occasionally asked by our customers to Ash Air is 'what is the cost of compressed air?'  This article looks at the product costs involved with compressed air, as well as minimising the energy cost of compressors and cost allocation. When looking at these factors, we need to realise what causes dropped efficiency of your compressor, leading to increased costs of compressed air. 

  1. Air Leaks - are a common cause of wasted compressed air, infact 10%-30% is wasted through leaks.
  2. Pressure Drop -filters, air dryers, valves, and piping are all in-out systems which cause and create pressure drops. To compensate for pressure drops, you'll find that the compressor will have to be set to a higher pressure than usual, which in turn increases the energy cost.
  3. Pressure to high (Artificial Demand) - this is seen when you use a pressure that is higher that what you really need. If your compressor operates at 8 bar, but only really needs 7, then you'll find that the extra 1 bar isn't actually needed, and if your compressor has leaks at the higher pressure level you will unfortunately end up losing more energy. 
  4. Inefficient air production - assumptions are commonly made that the compressor runs at full load when operating, when really the compressor will sometimes start and stop, running unloaded and fluctuations of pressure and air demand will be evident.

Another point to make is about the power of knowledge - having knowledge of your compressor, its specifications and its suitable operating capabilities will definitely help you on your journey to understanding and recognising when your compressor is functioning well, and when it isn't. Caring for your compressor system, regular servicing and check ups will help you greatly to reduce wasted cost every day of the year. A compressor system that is say, medium sized can amazingly save between $10,000 and $30,000 per year!

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The production costs of compressed air 

The production costs of compressed air can vary. When planning a new investment, it is best to look as far into the future as possible and attempt to assess the impacts of new situations and demands that might affect the compressed air installation. Typical examples include environmental demands, energy-saving demands, increased quality requirements from production and future production expansion investments.

Optimised compressor operations are becoming more important, especially for larger, compressed air-dependent industries. Production will change over time in a developing industry and, consequently, so will compressor operation conditions. It is therefore important that the compressed air supply be based both on current requirements as well as on development plans for the future. Experience shows that an extensive and unbiased analysis of the operating situation will almost always result in improved overall economy.


Minimizing the energy cost of compressors

Energy costs are clearly the dominating factor for the installation's overall cost. It is therefore important to focus on finding solutions that comply with demands for performance and quality as well as the demand for efficient energy utilization. The added cost associated with acquiring compressors and other equipment that complies with both of these demands will be perceived over time as a good investment.


As energy consumption often represents approx. 80% of the overall cost, care should be taken in selecting the regulation system. The significant difference in the available regulation systems exceeds the significant differences in types of compressor. An ideal situation is when compressor full capacity is precisely matched to the application's air consumption. This frequently occurs in applications. Most types of compressors are supplied with their own on-board control and regulation system, but the addition of equipment for shared control with other compressors in the installation can further improve operating economy.


Speed regulation has proven to be a popular regulation method because of its substantial energy-saving potential. Think carefully and allow your application requirements to govern your selection of regulation equipment in order to obtain good results. If only a small amount of compressed air is required during the night and weekends, it may be profitable to install a small compressor adapted to this off-peak requirement.


If, for some reason, a particular application needs a different working pressure, this requirement should be analysed to find out whether all compressed air production should be centralised in a compressor central plant, or whether the network should be split up according to the different pressure levels. Sectioning of the compressed air network can also be considered to shut down certain sections during the night and on the weekends, in order to reduce air consumption or to allocate costs internally based on airflow measurements.


Cost allocation

Investment costs are a fixed cost that include the purchase price, building infrastructure costs, installation and insurance. The share of the investment cost as a part of the overall cost is determined partly by the selection of the compressed air quality level and partly by the depreciation period and the applicable interest rate. The share of energy costs is determined by annual operating time, the degree of load/unload utilization and the unit energy cost. Additional investments, for example, equipment for energy recovery, offer a direct payoff in the form of reduced operating and maintenance costs.


Talk to the team today to see how we can help you minimise costs and maximise efficiency.

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Ash Air is here for your business longevity!

Your business performance is what we strive for. Ash Air offers a full range of Chicago Pneumatic and Alup air compressors, tools and on-site solutions. We also provide oil-free compressors and food-grade oil to suit your needs. Ash Air are specialists in vacuum pumps, blowers, and medical gas solutions. Ash Air offers complete quality air solutions as well as advanced piping systems for the performance and efficiency of your compressed air system.

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Who we are and how Ash Air can help your business!

Ash Air has been around in New Zealand since 1979, and we’ve grown into a nationwide company with international support and a reputation for quality and reliability.We look after all things compressed air for your business!

  • Reciprocating, Screw, air compressors
  • Vacuum pumps
  • Nitrogen
  • An extensive line of air treatment components

Ash Air's range of Chicago Pneumatic, Alup, Pneumatech, and Quincy compressors are used extensively around the world in industries ranging from oil and gas to food, automotive and farming, and we bring you these world class compressors here in the land of the long white cloud.Our technicians are compressed air equipment experts and are dedicated to addressing customer needs. Supported by a 13 locations nationwide, Ash Air offers one of the widest selections of compressed air equipment and parts available today in New Zealand.

Reliability and Efficiency

With Ash Air compressors, you can count on reliability and high performance for even the most demanding applications. We focus our efforts on the following:

  • Increasing uptime
  • Reducing unexpected repairs
  • Reducing energy consumption
  • Improving the cleanliness of compressed air

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