Air Compressor Works
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Don’t Let Your Compressor Be a Turkey

November 18, 2019

Your compressor can be considered a “turkey” depending on the type of control it has. The more time the compressor control allows your compressor to be partially loaded or unloaded the more power is used costing you money.

Here are the control types with the “turkey” rating – the bigger the turkey the more money it will cost you to run it. Piston Compressors: Here are the control types you would find on a reciprocating compressor.

Start/Stop
Most commonly used in 5-10 HP compressors to allow the pressure to build and the unit to shut down. The pressure band is usually 40 PSI so that the unit only starts 6/8 times in an hour. If the compressor starts more than 8 times an hour, the motor could overheat causing damage. Small turkey

Constant Speed
In Constant Speed mode, the motor is always running. However, the compressor loads and unloads mechanically so that when the maximum pressure is reached, no air is produced.  The usual pressure band on this is 10-15 PSI. Normally we will see this type of control on 10 HP and up for reciprocating compressors. The downside is that a compressor running more than 50% unloaded is using energy and making no air. Medium Turkey Rotary Screw Compressors: The rotary screw compressor, which started in the mid-’60s, has 3 basic control types each designed to provide control for less than full load output.

Modulation
This was the first control on rotaries and was designed to give constant pressure without regard of energy usage. A butterfly valve on the inlet is constantly moving to maintain discharge pressure on the compressor by restricting the amount of air going into the airend.

If a rotary compressor has a constant tone and pressure and is over 10 years old, it’s most likely using modulation control. This also can be determined from the manual as well as the control panel. Unfortunately, as simple as this control may be to maintain a constant pressure, it is an energy hog. At 50% load it uses approximately 85% of KW. Example – 50 HP unit with modulation making 100 CFM uses 43 HP or $10,920 a year at 4,000 hours over more efficient controls. Super Large Turkey

Load/No Load
The next step in control logic was to load and unload the rotary screw compressor much like a reciprocating unit. This works well with the appropriate amount of storage so that the unit does not cycle more than once every minute or two. Many compressors have been installed using the load/no load control but due to lack of storage, causes fast cycling. As a result, these were changed back to modulation. This was done in good faith to preserve the machine, but the compressor now consumes an extraordinary amount of additional energy.

You can tell if you have a load/no load machine by listening for the change in tone as well as blow down cycle, which must exhaust air every time the machines unloads. If your machine has load/no load and will not run appropriately, additional receiver capacity should be designed and added to use this energy saving control feature. Medium Turkey

VFD Control
This is the latest control system that started in the early 90’s by bolting a VFD on an existing rotary air compressor. This was moderately successful as the units were not necessarily designed to run at the lower speeds both from an airend and motor standpoint.  Current VFD compressors are designed to have a 75% turn down so that a 500 CFM machine can operate efficiently as low as 125 CFM.  A current VFD rotary screw air compressor can save 35% over modulation machine and 10-15% over a load/no load machine in most applications.
To determine whether you have a VFD machine, by sound is easy as it will have a ramp up and ramp down sound as the drive changes the motor speed to meet flow demands. It will also be evident on the control panel as most show load percentage or motor hertz. NO TURKEY (only gravy)

Hopefully this takes some of the mystery out of compressor controls and lets you know if you have a turkey in your facility.

For a reciprocating compressor choose the control that most fits the load on the unit. For the rotary screw determine what type of control you may have and how you can make it the most efficient.

Still not sure? Give us a call or drop us an email and we will be happy to determine if you have the best type of control set up on your compressor. Call Us at (561) 264-8362 or email sales@ACWUS.COM

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