Bindery boosts efficiency, cuts costs with air compressor upgrade

Image displaying operations of Pacific Bindery
Vancouver-based Pacific Bindery Service uses compressed air for most of their equipment, so an upgrade is saving them about $7.500 a year.

Why use three old compressors when one variable speed version will do?

Pacific Bindery Service's new air compressor knows when to take a break.

One of the biggest binderies in the Pacific Northwest, the Vancouver-based company completes a wide variety of printed materials, from book stitching to die cutting.

Most of the company's equipment uses compressed air. It's so essential that until a few years ago, no one questioned the array of three compressors that worked almost full-time to keep things humming.

"We would run various compressors, depending on what equipment was running throughout the day. The 50-horsepower alone would run the big binding line, and then the other ones would kick in if there was demand for more air," says Gary Lange, Pacific Bindery's maintenance technician.

Older compressors used energy even when no air was required

But when demand geared back again, the compressors didn't.

"These were rotary-screw compressors, which were fairly efficient at the time when they were bought," says Lange. "But when there was no demand for air, it would shut the unit off but it would still keep running. It wasn't very efficient, because it was actually using energy when it wasn't producing any air."

After a system assessment from a Power Smart Alliance vendor, the compressors showed up as the best option for investing in energy efficiency. The three previous compressors (25 hp, 30 hp, and 50 hp) were replaced with a single 50 hp variable speed compressor. Lange says the difference is noticeable.

"The cubic feet per minute of air that it can produce is much greater than the older compressors, so we pretty much only run that compressor now; the older ones are basically backup compressors," he says. And the compressor only works as hard as needed.

"For example, most people around here tend to go for lunch around noon," says Lange. "When everything is running, that compressor might be running at 80 or 90 percent of its capacity. But when they go for lunch, it drops down to its lowest compression, the minimum that it can run at, which is 16 percent. The old ones would just keep running."

Variable speed compressor upgrade saves $7,500 per year with payback period under two years

The compressor upgrade saves an estimated 109,000 kWh of electricity per year, approximately $7,500. With a project incentive of $21,406, its payback period was 1-2 years.

Lange says the new energy efficient air compressor saves in other ways too. "It still requires the same maintenance as the other ones, but the bonus is we only have to do one now.

"We don't have to do three. That's very nice."

Would Lange recommend a BC Hydro-supported compressor upgrade to others? "Oh, definitely. If they're using older-technology compressors that just aren't energy efficient, the payback is there. I'm very happy with what we did."