Department of the Environment

About us | Contact us | Publications

Settlements Header ImageSettlements Header ImageSettlements Header Image

Publications archive - Human settlements


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Air Compressors

For Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)

Cartoon Image - Greenhouse Challenge Plus Fact Sheet 4 - Water Efficiency

Climate Change

Climate change caused by greenhouse gases is one of the most serious challenges facing our community. Human actions—particularly burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) and land clearing—are generating more greenhouse gases. These additional greenhouse gases trap more heat and raise the earth’s surface temperature. This is called the enhanced greenhouse effect—it causes global warming and is changing our climate.

The impacts of climate change will have social, environmental and economic consequences that will affect all communities across the globe.

Why Small and Medium Enterprises

Greenhouse gas abatement is not just for the big end of town. Climate change will affect all of us and therefore it is to everyone’s benefit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Most measures to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions will save you money in the long term, increasing profitability. Some measures will even help to improve productivity and the marketability of your business. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be seen as an opportunity to provide your business with a strong business advantage.

Air Compressors

Optimising compressed air systems can provide energy efficiency improvements between 20–50 per cent. It is very easy to save energy and operating costs on your compressed air system by:

Simple No Cost Changes

Turn equipment off. Turn off compressed air equipment when it is not being used. Install a timer to switch compressors off outside business hours.

Reduce air pressure. It is important to ensure that the air pressure for your compressed air system is set at the minimum required to do the job. If the air pressure of your system is set too low your system may function inefficiently. If the pressure is set too high, damage to your equipment may be caused and the likelihood of leaks occurring will be increased.

Prevent unnecessary use. Do not use air compressors for tasks such as drying or cleaning, use a fan for these tasks as a fan can usually do the same job for a fraction of the cost of using an air compressor.

Educate staff. Make staff aware that unnecessary use of compressed air systems result in increased energy costs to your business. Encourage staff to be on the look out for waste and leaks and report these immediately.

Low Cost Options

Fix all leaks. Leaks can be the biggest waste of energy in a compressor system, with 20-50% of output typically being wasted. Check for leaks in all piping, joints, drains, relief valves, drain valves, flexible hoses, quick release hose fittings, filter and lubricator units. If a leak is found, repair it immediately as the leak may be costing much more than you think. E.g, a 6mm hole in an air compressor unit may cost around $3,000 p.a. in constantly operated system.

Further information on air compression systems and costs of leaks etc is available from

Set up a maintenance system. Maintain the compressors as recommended by the manufacturers, incorporating their advice on inspection intervals, maintenance and service procedures. Check for leaks on at least a monthly basis.

Install automatic controls. If your compressors do not need to be on at all times, install shut-off timers or automatic timer switches to turn off the compressor when it is not required thus reducing energy and maintenance costs, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions from your business.

Reduce air temperature. The temperature of the air drawn in by the compressor will have a significant effect on your running costs. Using cooler air from outside rather than the hot air often found in compressor rooms can save up to 6 per cent of compressor power. A cheap way to provide cooler air is to duct outside air directly into the compressor inlet. If the air is drawn from a cool, dry source, the system will operate more efficiently.

Reduce pressure drops. Pressure should only drop about 10% between the receiver tank and the discharge point. Measure pressures and if drop is excessive then investigate if system components and pipes are obstructed, restricted, rough or incorrectly sized. Repair or replace defective components.

Check all belt drives. Belt driven compressors need to have the tension of their belts checked regularly. Incorrect tension can cause energy losses due to belt slippage and exert excessive stress on the compressor and motor bearings.

Investment Projects

Purchase wisely. There are a number of key factors that you need to consider when installing a new compressed air system, which will impact on your energy usage for years to come:

Additional Benefits

Equipment longevity. Using compressors efficiently can help improve their life span.

Heating. Hot air ducted away from the compressor intake area can be used for space or water heating.

Case Study

Armstrong World Industries Inc. designs and manufactures floors, ceilings and cabinets and is the only manufacturer of resilient vinyl commercial flooring in Australia. Armstrong World Industries has operated in Australia since 1969 and has two Victoria based manufacturing facilities: one in Braeside, the other at Thomastown.

Armstrong has investigated options for improving the energy efficiency of their compressed air system at the Thomastown facility in turn reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. They discovered that by turning off their main air compressor and using a smaller compressor during off peak times, they would create an energy cost savings of around $9,000 p.a. The resulting greenhouse emission savings is estimated at over 100 tonnes p.a. 1

Air Compressor Fundamentals

1 Emission savings based on research undertaken by the student placement initiative run through North Link/NIETL and RMIT University, in partnership with the Greenhouse Challenge Plus program and are estimates only.

Download PDF