Remember when air used to be free? When every school building and business ran on air? We are talking here about compressor, dried, and pneumatic air. The kind of air that used to make the world go round – or so it seemed. Well I hate to break it to you but it’s not free anymore but maybe you know that already. So what does all this mean?
Pneumatic systems have not disappeared by any stretch of the imagination. Most school system have removed their pneumatic systems for temperature control and moved to electronic actuators. All this in the name of maintenance and cost savings.
The cost of making this dry, pure, perfect air for the movement of valves comes at a high cost. Compressors which run non-stop with air leaks around the building and build-up of contaminants that never seems to go away follow the system to every possible corner. The plug power required adds up and takes from the bottom line. There are online calculators (and we have most of them in our office) for calculating the cost of operating even one specific valve. This calculation shows bleed rate and loss and tells you how much (just with air) that valve costs to operate. There are options now days to alleviate this. Many HVAC and industrial valves come with electronic actuator options. Pneumatic valves (in this author’s opinion) still have the fastest response time. They also come with a lot of maintenance. Based on bleed rates, diaphragms, environment, air quality, and many other things, these valves just seemed to need a hand a little more often.
Warren Controls has come out with a 10 second acting valve with changeable fail-safe positions, feedback and torque that really save time and money. This isn’t a sales pitch on electric valves (we both know it kind of is…) but valve companies are finally responding to demand for high torque, quick acting, and maintenance free actuators. There is a cost savings here that can be shown. So the next time you have a pesky pneumatic valve, remember, options are out there and can save you energy ($$) as well. I’ve even worked with utility companies to give a rebate!