Heat recovery can turn your compressors into heating elements
Reducing the carbon footprint of your factory means eliminating waste and reusing the spent energy multiple times. Modern air compressors can do just that!
The target for reducing global warming necessitates the elimination of fossil fuel where possible. Oil and gas prices further accentuate this need, pushing the introduction of novel technologies and ideas into the production process. The energy bill of a production facility can be significantly lowered by reusing energy already paid for, and many companies are already in the process of modernising their equipment for exactly that purpose.
The production of compressed air has a residual effect: heat. Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat. The laws of thermodynamics – which are simply the laws of nature itself – dictate that heat is produced when gases are compressed. This heat was traditionally seen as an unwanted by-product of the compression process and something that needed to be gotten rid of, rather than another form of the energy already spent and paid for. Energy cannot be destroyed, as another elemental law of physics states, but only changes form. This energy, which has been transformed from electric energy into heat through the compression mechanism, could be discarded into the environment, essentially throwing it away, or it could be harnessed and put to good use.
This is the basic idea behind energy recovery systems. Of course, if your facility does not need heating of any sort, that energy could indeed be expelled. However, heating is almost always required and this very heat generated by compressed air systems is an excellent source! Air compressors are transforming 100% of the electrical energy they consume to heat, of which about 96% could be recovered and reused. The even better news is that losses are introduced every time energy needs to change form; the fact that heat remains heat eliminates the losses.
The applications of warm air are evident. Granted, some minor retrofitting shall be required in your facility to utilise the heat from the air compressor system, but the energy savings could be enormous, especially during winter. Heat will be transferred from both the compressed air and the lubricant of the compressors to the air of the heating system of your facility, eliminating the need for many hundreds of kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. Space heating can be either manually or automatically controlled through louvres, in order to maintain a consistent ambient temperature. The installation is very simple, linking the aftercooler and fluid cooler of the air compressors to the heating system, while a supplemental fan could sometimes be required, in order to eliminate back pressure and handle duct loading.
Your facility will see a reduction of energy consumption throughout, using the waste energy of the compressed air system for heating. The cost of installation will be quickly returned and, generally speaking, the larger the system, the faster the amortisation. Soon, your heating will be free of charge, both for you and the environment!