AS energy prices continue to soar across Europe, operators may be tempted to delay the recommended maintenance intervals and routine service on compressed air systems in order to save cost. However, this can be an expensive mistake and a false saving.

V-belts, separator cartridges, air filters, filter mats, coolants and lubricants as well as operating fluids are just a few examples where improper or deferred maintenance of components can have serious consequences.

This can include decreasing separation rates, increasing lubricant consumption, damage to bearings or increased material wear or, in worst case scenarios, irreparable damage to the compressor block itself.

As part of its 10 per cent Taskforce Campaign, the British Compressed Air Society (BCAS) – the UK’s trade association for the compressed air and vacuum industry - discusses the importance of maintenance in helping to reduce the energy consumption of compressed air systems and avoiding unnecessary energy costs.

The report by the British Compressed Air Society states: "Where rising energy costs are a concern, it makes good sense to ensure (the) system is operating efficiently – and an effective compressed air maintenance regime can help to lower costs."

It further says: "Maintaining (the) system in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommended service intervals is essential; not only to ensure long life and reliable operation, but to help prioritise energy performance. Using genuine spare parts, fitted by an authorised service agent will lower repair costs, minimise downtime and improve energy efficiency."

Elsewhere in Europe, in its guideline ‘Compressed air systems - safe and economical operation’, the VDMA - the largest network organisation of German machine builders - highlights the responsibility of individual companies in the safe operation of compressed air systems.

Regarding stationary compressors, it states that part of this responsibility is, among other things, the selection of a reputable service company, which should make appropriate maintenance recommendations as soon as a compressed air system is delivered and commissioned.

Manufacturers globally highlight, that among other consideration, a dirty air filter increases the differential pressure, which in turn leads to increased power consumption – and ultimately has a direct impact on the site's overall electricity bill.

Both BCAS and the VDMA experts also point out that care must be taken to use high-quality spare parts and components that comply with the manufacturer's specifications in order to mitigate the risks of equipment downtime.

Changes to work equipment or practices may require a revision of the risk assessment, making the case for adhering to the recommended maintenance cycles, even in economically volatile times stronger still.