Cost of Compressed Air Systems

The costs associated with producing and using compressed air

Delivering Compressed air can be an expensive operation as air delivery requires expensive equipment which consumes a vast amount of electricity and requires frequent maintenance.

Typical Cost of an Air Compressor

Over the first ten years of life of a typical air cooled compressor, with two shift operation, the operating cost (electricity and maintenance) will equal about 88% of the total lifetime cost.  The electricity cost accounts for the majority of this cost with the cost of the original equipment and installation accounting for the remaining 12%.

Typical Lifetime Ownership Cost of Compressed Air Systems

Assuming 100 HP energy input, approximately 91 HP ends up as losses, with only 9 HP as useful work.  In other words, about 90% of the energy to produce and distribute compressed air is typically lost.  Therefore, one must always question if compressed air is the most appropriate power source for an end use application.

Understanding Costs

Due to the relatively low initial cost of the compressor when compared to the lifetime electricity expenses, users should utilize life-cycle cost analysis when making decisions about compressed air systems.  Overall efficiency is key to maximum cost savings as to often users are only concerned with initial cost and accept the lowest bid on a compressed air system, often ignoring system efficiency.  Therefore, it is extremely important that the most efficient components for your compressed air system are purchased and that purchase decisions are made on the overall expected lifetime operating costs, and NOT just on the initial cost of equipment.

FSFM Tip for choosing a compressor

Organizations should know how much their compressed air systems cost them on an annual basis as well as how much they could save by improving the performance of these systems.  Therefore it is advised to not neglect these areas as doing so could result in additional energy and maintenance costs.


CEA Technologies Inc. (CEATI) (2007) Compressed Air: Energy Efficiency Reference Guide.

USA Department of Energy (1998) Improving Compressed Air System Performance.

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