Compressed Air in Automotive and Collision Repair - SEMA

Maximizing value: Considerations for compressed air users in automotive and collision repair

When it comes to compressed air systems in automotive service, collision repair, customer builds and fabrication, there's more to consider than just the upfront cost of a compressor. To make an informed decision and ensure you're getting the best value for your investment, it's crucial to take a holistic approach and account for various cost components that affect the overall ownership and operation of your compressed air system.

Installation matters

The choice of equipment you select has a direct impact on installation costs. It's not uncommon for users to create separate spaces to isolate noisy and vibrating compressors for the safety and comfort of employees and customers. Too often these spaces are poorly ventilated (hot), dimly lit and don’t have enough space for good service access. So when evaluating equipment options, consider factors like sound pressure levels, vibration and compressor operating temperature. These affect where you can put your compressor. If you have to spend extra money to build a separate space for it you have to consider that when comparing compressor options.

Maintenance and longevity

Understanding the maintenance requirements of the equipment you're considering is vital. Not all compressors are created equal in this regard. Some may require more frequent preventive maintenance or more extensive periodic major maintenance. Additionally, the sizing of your compressed air system and its installation location can impact the duty cycle and heat load on the compressor, ultimately influencing its longevity. Investing in equipment with a reputation for durability and reliability usually pays off in the long run.

Hidden costs of downtime and poor air quality

Often felt but usually unmeasured are the costs associated with downtime, lost productivity, and poor air quality. Downtime can lead to wasted time and materials, not to mention reduced tool life due to poor air quality and over pressurization. These hidden costs can quickly erode any savings gained from selecting lower-cost equipment or skimping on dryers, filters and condensate drains.

Consider energy efficiency

Compressors are inherently energy-intensive machines, and energy costs can be a significant portion of your operating expenses. There can be significant % differences in the efficiency among compressor types and brands, but how much you’ll spend on power depends on a combination of compressor size (hp/kW), run time, and your local utility rates. If you have a 5-hp compressor and you only run it a few hours a day, the total energy costs may not be significant unless you have exceptionally high costs per kWh. If, however, you run a 10, 15 or 20-hp compressor several hours per day, choosing a more efficient compressor will make a difference even if you pay more moderate utility rates.

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