Five ways to detect air compressor leaks

16/07/2018

Air compressor leaks prevent your system from running at full pressure and can quickly eat into your compressed air capacity, wasting money and energy as you continually top up the lost pressure.

Here are five ways to spot air compressor leaks so that you can replace punctured air hoses, improve the seal around air hose connectors, and carry out maintenance and repair work by installing replacement air compressor parts where necessary.

1. Unloaded cycling

Run your air compressor up to full pressure with no output demands and then measure the length of time before the pressure drops and the compressor switches back on – a sure sign of air escaping somewhere in your system.

While some escaping air is inevitable even in the most well-maintained compressed air pipelines, you can quickly calculate the percentage of lost air by comparing the time the compressor is active with the total duration of each load-unload cycle, and should aim to keep leakage around 10% or below.

2. Pressure gauges

A pressure gauge makes it even easier to check if air has leaked before a particular spot on your compressed air pipeline – if the pressure is less than expected, and especially if the loss is greater than 10%, you could probably make improvements somewhere upstream.

3. Equipment and connections

Any connection – whether part of your pipeline or to a piece of equipment – is an increased risk of compressed air leakage, so check these first.

Disconnect inactive equipment and isolate the stop valves at those end points, and systematically check that connections along your air hoses are still properly sealed; you might need to replace certain valves and connectors, or just add some extra thread sealant to them.

4. Sonic detectors

Escaping air will make a high-frequency hissing noise, which can be hard for human ears to detect; however, sonic detectors can scan the pipeline and convert high frequencies into a visual indicator on-screen.

The clearer the visual signal, the bigger the leak, making this an effective way to flag up the most significant problems so they can be tackled first and get your leakage back under acceptable levels.

5. The bubble test

Finally, the good old bubble test is still a favourite in workshops and industrial facilities worldwide every day.

Where you suspect a leak in an air hose, spray a soap solution on the pipe and look for signs of the leaking air blowing bubbles in the soap – it’s the oldest trick in the leaky air compressor book, but it’s still often the fastest and easiest way to track down a cracked or split air hose.