Detecting and Preventing Compressed Air Leak in Buildings or Facilities

Unlike the supply of power, compressed air is often generated onsite by users. It is usually designed without accounting for any measures, like spare capacity, dimensioning the air distribution system correctly, proper selection of piping material, and air treatment. The outcome is compressed air systems, which are costly to operate and don’t help users get productivity, which the units are made for. Using the right piping materials and proper air treatment are important as they lead to major cost impacts to users by simply generating leaks in an air distribution system. Compromising either of these may result in implications on productivity and cost, with untimely air leaks.

Why Worry about Compressed Air Leaks?

Apart from being the main source of wasted gas/air and increased costs of operating, leaks might be a point of ingress for any contamination entering the unit, too. Leaks propagate as well as worsen over time when you don’t take remedial action, making small leaks grow to high hidden costs. Basically, industrial plants have a higher degree of background noise and can mask obvious signs of small leaks, making it difficult to know the magnitude of the leak. This becomes one of the hidden expenses for maintenance planners and plant operators. Detecting the problem using a compressed air leak detector and rectifying every fault can improve delivered gas/air quality and minimize operating costs. In addition, air leaks have a significant impact on the environment. Although leaks are basically air, they use more energy; thus, increasing carbon emissions.

Why Detect Compressed Air Leaks?

Scheduling for compressed air leaks on a regular basis will help to repair and prevent leakages. The modern technological advancements are non-invasive, letting operations run smoothly as you survey areas of concern as well as develop strategies for minimizing leaks in the future. Some of the benefits of detecting compressed air include reduced costs, improved efficiency, eliminating potential hazards related to gas, and avoiding gas leaks in the future.

Signs of Compressed Air Leaks

Compressed air leaks may go overlooked in noisy environments. Some of the common signs of compressed air leaks include the following:

  • Frequent system downtime – Leaky systems suffer from wear and tear as they work hard to compensate for loss of pressure. This results in frequent system downtimes.
  • Unexpected increase in energy bills – Undetected air leaks can be silent culprits behind sudden spikes in the costs of energy. As the unit compensates for air loss, it consumes a lot of energy. This leads to high bills.
  • Reduced equipment performance – A compressed air system with a leak can’t perform as a unit, which is maintained better. This leads to decreased output and productivity.
  • Audible whistling or hissing – When the air escapes from a system, it often produces whistling or hissing. However, a smaller leak can produce sounds below your hearing threshold. Plus, you might not be able to notice any audible sounds in loud environments. Therefore, the absence of hissing sounds doesn’t necessarily mean there are no leaks.

The Process of Detecting Compressed Air Leaks

The process of compressed air leaks is the start of a detection program. The program involves the best corrective/preventive maintenance practices carried out to reduce leaks in compressed air systems, which are recurring and get documented to ensure the efficiency and reliability of a system. The process of detecting compressed air leaks also encompasses auditing every part of a compressed air unit for any air leaks. Why does this matter? Standard compressed air systems, which don’t have management programs may attribute about 30% of air requirements to air leaks. This results in a high demand requirements for compressors as well as more run-hours. Based on the system, leaks might have a significant effect on the energy costs of a facility. Apart from preventative maintenance and auditing practices, detection may also involve the following strategies and tools:

  • Air flow meters – These meters are important for detecting and tracking changes in air that flow through the system. These tools often measure the amount of air, which passes through, highlighting discrepancies that suggest leaks. It serves as a diagnostic tool for compressed air systems since it monitors the flow of air constantly. If paired with an IO-Link tech, you may get digital visualizations and real-time data. All these features will immediately let you know where and when there is an air leak or decrease in pressure.
  • Ultrasonic leak detector – Ultrasonic acoustic detectors help to detect a high-frequency sound wave that escaping air produces. The hissing sound indicates the exact area of the problem. Ultrasonic leak detectors may help to identify them as well as show the exact location for timely and precise repairs.
  • Soapy water – One of the simplest yet effective ways of finding a leak is to spread soapy water over joints, connections, or patches, which might leak. Air leaks cause bubbles to form, showing the area with the problem. However, this strategy consumes time and may not always be effective in industrial settings or large plants.

Fixing and Preventing Compressed Air Leak

Fixing a compressed air leak may seem costly upfront to a few people, but if you consider the annual savings, the maintenance investment outweighs the costs of losing a lot of money to a wasted flow of air. Some air leaks can easily be heard, but you can’t detect others with human ears. After identifying air leaks and making the necessary repairs, you can start preventing more issues in the future. The best way to do that is to ensure your team conducts a regular leak audit using a detector. Your team must also record the size and location of leaks that help to identify the leakage’s costs. Other things you can do to prevent leaks using high-quality materials/components, keeping your unit free of debris/clean, inspecting your unit for signs of damage/wear, and installing proper lubrication/filtration systems.


The bottom line is that compressed air is a costly utility whose cost and maintenance should be taken seriously. This is why, it is important to know how to detect compressed air leaks, fix them immediately, and prevent future issues from occurring in the future.


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