Why Drying Is Needed on Industrial Air Compressor Systems. Along with electricity, gas and water, compressed air is one of the most important utilities for buildings. At certain times of the year, however, a compressed air system needs to be dried. The reason for this is due to
the presence of water vapor in all atmospheric air. When the temperature of compressed air or gas lowers to a certain level of coldness – generally referred to as the dew point – where it can no longer hold vapor, the vapor turns to liquid, which in turn causes condensation on a compressor system. Among air compressor servicing specialists, the dew point is studied to figure out how much drying is needed on a unit.
- Check the tanks for condensation– Throughout the months of winter, an unchecked tank can potentially accumulate moisture inside, which could ultimately freeze if temperatures get icy cold. Therefore, it’s important to inspect your tanks several times each week during winter – as well as throughout the other months of the year – to ensure that condensation buildup doesn’t occur. If even the slightest amount of moisture does accumulate, drain it immediately. Whenever an abundance of moisture appears within the span of a couple days, it could be a sign of something much worse within your system.
In order to get the condensation removed as thoroughly as possible, place the drain on the receiver tank at the lowest possible angle. Some systems that drain automatically are also equipped with tester buttons that allow you to see whether the function has worked according to plan.
- Winterize the condensate drains and bowls outside– A common mistake that owners make is to neglect their outdoor drains in the months of winter. If temperatures in your area are expected to drop to freezing levels, apply heat trace tape over any exposed parts of your drain lines; this will stop them from freezing.
On the other hand, if you don’t even plan to use your equipment in the wintertime, or intend to shut off your plant during the holiday season, there won’t be a need for heat tape because it won’t even receive energy without the system running. In that case, drain all water from the lines to ensure that they don’t freeze in the coldest of weather.
- Make adjustments to the louvers– Various applications are now being employed that make it possible to salvage the heat that escapes from an air compressor. The methods for doing this vary, but the easiest consists of ducting the heat so that it can recirculate. In the hotter months, you can duct the hot air in a direction opposite the compressor room to keep temperatures at a modest level. When winter comes along, heat can be directed toward the compressor to prevent it from cooling down too much; or the heat can be ducted toward nearby rooms to save on heating bills. However, if the louvers on your compressor aren’t controlled via thermostat, they need to be adjusted by hand in order to meet the right levels of temperature.
- Try a cabinet or ambient heater– On some compressors, the lubricant can be preheated with the use of cabinet heaters. If your unit cannot be equipped in such a way, there’s also the option of ambient heaters. This way, you can keep the lubricant at an above-minimum temperature, which will safeguard the compressor from wear on the motor and lower the possibility of system failure. If you currently have either one of these heater types installed on your premises, inspect its functionality and see whether it’s set for the lowest temperature allowed by the manufacturer.
Air Compressor Servicing Neglect: Damage Caused by Moisture
In manufacturing plants, compressed air with moisture has been responsible for all kinds of problems in machine operation and production. For decades, the issue regarding compressed air moisture was treated as an inevitable factor of industrialization, despite the long list of consequences. Moisture:
- Rusts machinery and erodes the joints of moving parts by rinsing off lubrication.
- Diminishes the brilliance, adhesion and texture of paint.
- Causes pneumatic controls to malfunction due to scale and rust in various parts, all of which can lead to product damage and factory shutdowns.
- Corrodes instruments that are operated with air or gas, which can cause processes to shut down due to misreadings.
When water deposits form on industrial machinery, the dispersion of corrosive particles can shorten the lifespan of equipment by causing a range of damaging effects, from clogged valves and fittings to ice formation within various components. Compressed air moisture contains various elements – dirt, oil, water – that cause untold damage to everything from pipes and paint layers to joints and fittings. In every function, machines perform with far greater efficiency for much longer stretches of time when operations are conducted in surroundings of dry and clean compressed air.
- On cylinders and valves– The seals and bearings on pneumatic cylinders require a lot more upkeep as soon as watery, oily air begins depositing on these components. Dirty moisture eats away at the essential oils of various parts of an air cylinder, such as the head and rod. In the valves, dirty moisture can lead to stiffening and cracks of the rubber diaphragms. Moisturized air will also cause surface corrosion and hinder the functionality of such parts, leaving things less efficient and productive. Furthermore, moisturized air can hinder spools and pistons, and lead to stuck cylinders during high-speed operations. In certain worst-case scenarios, the damage caused by bad air will bring everything to a full stop. All of these problems can be avoided, however, with a steady supply of clean, dry air.
- Instrument air– Clean, dry air is essential for maximum, efficient operation of pneumatic controllers and instruments in all industrial settings, from textile mills to chemical, power, sewage and manufacturing plants. Every part of the machinery – including relays, recorders, gauges, indicators, converters, transmitters and integrators – must be supplied with compressed air that’s free of oil, water and dirt in order to stay in optimal working condition. Even when just a tiny amount of liquid seeps into an orifice of the machinery, it can lead to a malfunction that triggers a chain reaction. The presence of moisture can also leave corrosive particles that clog supply lines and eat away at instruments. Clean, moisture-free air is further required in the thermostats that trigger the heating and cooling functions in buildings of all sizes.
- Product protection– Air should also be dry and dirt-free whenever it’s used to operate machinery or for cleaning or mixing purposes. A knitting machine that runs on compressed air, for instance, could get its needles stuck in the latches if oil or moisture condenses from the air. Likewise, when compressed air is used to clean lint off newly woven fabrics, dirt within the air could ultimately ruin the sheets.
Dirty, moisture-ridden air can also cause contamination in jarred and bottled products where the containers are blown clean in advance of packaging. When compressed air is used in control line productions, the presence of dirt, oil or water in said air could offset the mixes in liquors, the ingredients in baked goods, the balances in cleaning products and the blends in paints.
In printing where air is utilized to put paper into place, any trace of moisture could damage the paper and inhibit the application of inks. Compressed air must also remain water-free during the pneumatic conveying of numerous other products, including cement, paper towels, and disposable plates and cups.