What are the consequences of undetected leaks in a pressurized system?

June 03, 2016

The consequences of an unplanned leak in an air compressor may be higher than you think.  Air leakage can occur in any part of an air system, at any given time. Many users are blindsided by this issue. Air leaks are a significant source of wasted energy, often wasting 20-30% of a compressor’s output. Did you know that unmaintained plants waste at least 20% of air production capacity? In addition to wasting energy, undetected leaks can contribute to financial and operational losses.


  • Costs depend on the size and time durationleak_size_graphic.jpg of the leak (See Figure 1)
  • Cost = # of leaks * leakage rate (CFM) * kW/CFM x operational hours * $/kWh
  • Example:
    • We have 10 leaks of ¼” at 100 PSI which occurred during 5,000 operating hours at $0.05 kWh with a 10 kW/100 CFM requirement of compressed air
      • Assume leak rate for ¼” at 100 PSI = 104 CFM
      • Assume a sharp edged orifice, reducing leak rate by .67
    • Cost for ¼” leaks = 10 * 104 * .61 * .10 * 5000 * 0.05= $158,600
    • Note that by preventing the leak we would have been able to save $158,600
  • The best way to avoid the financial repercussions of air leaks is by proactive leak detection and system maintenance to prevent the leaks from occurring


  • Lower production levels
    • Air leaks can cause a drop in the general_industrial_-_leak_costs.jpgsystem pressure, leading to air tools functioning less efficiently, which can directly impact production
  • Short Equipment Life Span
    • To make up for the drop in the system pressure, tools and equipment are forced to cycle more frequently which decreases the life of all system equipment including the compressor



CLICK HERE to learn how to conduct a pressure leak decay test.

Topics: Test and Measurement, General Industrial