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How to Find a Leak in Your Air Compressor?

Expert corner Air compressors

Air compressor leaks are very common in all applications, but can be very costly and difficult to find. On average, 20-30% of the compressed air used in a manufacturing plant is wasted as leaked air. Finding and fixing these leaks can save your business thousands of wasted dollars a year.

So how do I find and fix my air compressor leaks?

Some leaks can be found simply by listening when walking by your air compressor system. Walk by the compressor and any lines attached to the compressor and listen for a hissing noise. However, if you work in a loud factory, plant or body shop this isn't always the best option. 

The most reliable tool in detecting any air compressor or air line leaks is an ultrasonic acoustic detector. These detectors can recognize the high frequency hissing sounds that are associated with air leaks. An ultrasonic acoustic detector usually consists of audio filters, microphones, amplifiers and visual indicators or headphones that help in the detection of air leaks. These devices detect turbulent air flow, which is air that is flowing in different directions. Turbulent air flow is caused by a leak somewhere in the line. This air creates a noise that is detected by the ultrasonic acoustic detector either by visual representation on a screen or by the earphones that are included with the device. These devices are ideal for noisy facilities because they are able to filter out any background noise to accurately detect a leak.

Without using any type of device, you should have a supply shut off valve to the facility. Locate this valve and turn the valve off. Let the compressor build up to set pressure and observe the pressure gauge over a period of time. If pressure maintains, your compressor system is leak-free. If the pressure drops off, there is a leak somewhere in the system.

Where are leaks typically found in an air compressor system?

The most common areas you will typically find a leak in your system are:

  • Couplings
  • Fittings
  • Pipe sections
  • Hoses
  • Joints
  • Drains
  • External unloader valves

Most leaks can be resolved by tighting fittings, couplers or valves. Hoses may need to be replaced if a small hole has punctured the hose or pipe. A small 1/4'' hole in your hose lines can result in almost $5,000 a year in wasted energy if you are running constantly at 100 psi. A 3/8'' hole can result in over $10,000 a year.

Compressed air leaks are common, but are costly for your business and can be easily detected and fixed if checked often and properly. Make sure to perform routine checks around your facility to prevent energy and money lost. If you have questions about how to detect leaks, please contact our technical support team.

CP service technician in fron t of CP compressor

Whether you have questions about which compressor is right for you, or if you’re ready to improve your operations and start saving on expenses. Chicago Pneumatic has been around for over 100 years because we offer reliable and hardworking air compressors, as well as expert advice and support.

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