Diffused Aeration: You Get What You Pay For

Life Cycle

How do you buy a new automobile? Do you compare prices and buy the lowest priced one you can find? For most of us, the answer is a resounding, “NO!” A new car is a big investment. You want one that’s reliable and well built. You want it to last at least as long as your car loan. As you do your due diligence, you typically look for the car that’s the best overall VALUE.

Why should investing in a new fine-bubble aeration system for your wastewater treatment plant be any different? It’s a long-term investment. Performance and reliability are paramount to the success of the system. Any time you must shut down your biological wastewater treatment process for repairs, the costs can be shockingly high.

In reality, the ideal yardstick for comparing fine bubble aeration systems is not principal cost, but life cycle cost. The latter includes your initial investment, operating costs and repairs. Here are the key factors you must keep in mind:

A tailored solution is a must: Various factors, such as the chemical makeup of your influent, will drive the diffuser design selected for your system. A reputable supplier will work closely with you to ensure that your aeration system is tailored to perform in your specific application. For example, if there is significant oil in the wastewater, it can leach oils from EPDM membranes, causing them to become inflexible and unable to produce uniform fine bubbles. Your biological treatment process suffers. When this happens, the pressure increases on your aeration system’s blower, which increases energy costs and may lead to less than anticipated blower life. Choosing the right style of diffuser is imperative – so make sure your supplier is experienced and reliable.

Downtime is enormously expensive: Any time you must take your biological wastewater treatment processes offline on an unscheduled basis, it costs you – dearly. The influent never stops coming, whether your aeration system is working or not. Wastewater may discharge into a nearby waterway (resulting in discharge violations) or it must be diverted to another unit process (which is also very costly). Replacing the broken or worn out components is a complex, multi-step process that can take several weeks:

  • The basin must be drained, which can take several days.
  • Next, it must be cleaned. Most basins are deep enough to be considered confined spaces by OSHA, requiring additional labor and equipment and increasing cleanup cost.
  • The aeration system must be inspected. This can be a very time-consuming process, which is amplified for the various plants with many thousands of diffusers.
  • New parts must be sourced, and the broken ones replaced. If parts are available, the aeration system can potentially be back up and running fairly quickly. However, if parts must be sourced from overseas suppliers, delays could stretch into multiple weeks.
  • The basin must be refilled, and the aeration system tested and restarted.

All of the hard and soft costs (components, labor and effluent violations) must be factored into the life cycle cost of your diffused aeration system. When considering life cycle cost, make sure to obtain a list of your supplier’s warranty claims over the last ten years. This will give you an idea of your system’s future downtime.

Investing more in a quality aeration system can save you money in the long run: Remember, when you’re comparing life cycle costs of aeration systems, you must take a long-term approach. Higher-quality construction now means fewer problems later. What does Aquarius Technologies do to help ensure a long, trouble-free life for its fine bubble aeration systems? Here’s what to look for:

  • All Aquarius Quantaer™ Fine Bubble Aeration systems are robotically assembled for consistent, repeatable quality. All components are U.S. sourced.
  • Diffuser holders are ultrasonically welded to the headers; Aquarius is the only aeration system manufacturer that uses this technique to provide a hermetic seal between the holder and the header. This technique fuses the holder and the headers into a single piece and eliminates an otherwise common source of leaks. Competitors may only utilize a manual gluing process to join the holders and headers together or use less consistent and reliable mechanical methods for attachment.
  • It doesn’t stop here however; reliable air distribution piping support and attachment varies from one competitor to another. Don’t let commodity thinking – “all diffusers are created equal” – be a factor in your decision to purchase.
  • Aquarius Technologies offers in-house aeration system design services. Its staff has 150+ years of collective experience in the wastewater industry. This ensures that each customer’s designs are closely optimized to their unique application and needs.

After seeing the importance of life cycle cost, are you concerned about sourcing an aeration system from an overseas supplier to save a few dollars on capital costs? If not, you should be. Read this article to learn more about the risks of doing so.