There is a creature – a snake in the grass – that should strike fear into the hearts of air compressor operators everywhere. His name is Hissing Sid.
Who is this villain? That’s the really terrifying part – he’s a part of your own air compressor line, a weak link in the delivery of compressed air from the compressor itself to the place where it is to be used.
You might not hear him over the noise of your workshop, but in a silent room you would hear his hiss, a steady, sibilant sound, the sound of your business’s profits leaking away.
A Hissing Sid is a leaky air compressor hose, and while the description above might sound a little alarming, it should be – fail to fix a Hissing Sid, and your profits could take a big hit over the course of a year.
For instance, a hole in your hose of just 0.75mm in diameter can allow losses of 1.6 CFM and 300W of power. Double the diameter of the hole and your losses roughly quadruple to 6.5 CFM and 1,100W of power.
The exact cost of this will depend on your energy tariff, but it can easily add up to over a million cubic feet per year if you are open 7 days a week all year round.
Your energy losses can be in excess of six megawatts – meaning each leak is costing you hundreds and hundreds of pounds.
If you have two leaky compressor hoses, you can add a zero to that figure, as you’re likely to be into the thousands of pounds in terms of how much you’re out of pocket.
So how do you know if you have a Hissing Sid? There are a few symptoms – for instance, if your air tools have not been working as well as usual, it could be an indication of lower system pressure due to a leak.
If variable speed compressors seem to be operating at a higher level than expected, this could also be because they are compensating for a leak in the compressor line.
Once you’re confident that there is a leak, you need to be able to locate it, and it’s sensible to check for any loose-fitting couplings and line fittings first, before you go searching for a hole in the pipe itself.
While you might not be able to hear Sid’s hissing in a noisy workshop, there are methods to detect leaks using ultrasound equipment; these ignore the audible frequencies that distract your human hearing, and just receive the very high frequencies that are likely to be unique to the leak’s location.
Find your leak and fix it, ideally by replacing the worn component, whether it is a length of hose or a line fitting, and your main problem is solved – but there’s still more you can do.
Recalibrate your air compressor system to make sure it is functioning correctly now the leak has gone, as the internal pressure is likely to be higher – in this way, you maximise your system efficiency, and can start to claw back some of the losses you may have incurred due to Hissing Sid.