Solving Performance Issues of Air Operated Industrial Vacuums

This blog will focus on the EXAIR Chip Vac, but the troubleshooting process and steps for achieving optimal performance are consistent among EXAIR’s entire line of air operated industrial vacuums.

There’s really not that much that CAN go wrong with an EXAIR Chip Vac System. They have no moving parts to wear or electrical components to burn out. As long as they’re supplied with clean air, they’ll run darn near indefinitely, maintenance free.

Murphy’s Law, of course, is still in full force, so if something CAN go wrong, it WILL go wrong.  The Chip Vac is, alas, no exception.  Good news is, because of the Chip Vac‘s simplicity, troubleshooting is simple as well.  The most common problems we see with ANY of our engineered compressed air products (not just the Industrial Vacuums) are related to compressed air supply:

  • New users might not consider the air demand required by a new product, and may provide an inadequate supply line.  The Chip Vac, for example, will consume 40 SCFM @80psig for rated operation, and will need a 1/2″ (inside diameter) hose to supply that, assuming a length of no more than 20ft.  Hooking one up to a common 3/8″ hose on a 50ft reel, for example, will “starve” the Chip Vac, resulting in degraded performance.
  • Also, the preferred method of connection is a hose with threaded fittings on the ends.  A local hydraulics/pneumatics shop can likely make these, while you wait.  Push-to-connect quick connect fittings are restrictive by nature, and should be avoided.  Quarter turn claw-type fittings are great…the main drawback (which can be solved with an upstream shutoff valve) is the line has to be depressurized to make or break the connection.
  • If you absolutely want to use a push-to-connect type, you can oversize it (use one made for larger hose with, say, 3/4 NPT fittings) and use bushing/adapters to get to your actual hose size.

    If you must use quick connects, the 1/4 turn claw type (left) is the least restrictive. Push-to-connects (center) are likely to starve your product, unless you oversize them (right) like we do in our Efficiency Lab.
  • Speaking of supply issues, make sure nobody’s bumped into a valve handle & partially closed it (I have,) ignored the maintenance schedule & didn’t change a clogged filter element (I have,) or ran something into a copper line hard enough to crimp it, but not rupture it (I haven’t…that was Tim, who, aside from this incident, was really pretty good with a forklift.)

The issues above apply to not only any compressed air system, but most fluid power/fluid handling systems.  Since this blog is about Chip Vac troubleshooting, let’s move on to some specifics.  If you’re sure you’re getting proper air supply to the Chip Vac (by the way, a pressure gauge right at the inlet – like the one that comes with our Premium Chip Vac System’s air hose – will eliminate any doubt,) then let’s look at some potential issues downstream:

  • Dirt & debris can collect inside the Chip Vac itself, obstructing the outlet holes, and lowering your vacuum flow.  You can disassemble and clean it pretty easily, though.
  • The Filter Bag can get clogged, especially if you’re vacuuming up a lot of dust or powdery materials.  If this happens, turn the Chip Vac off and shake the Filter Bag to dislodge the material, allowing it to fall back into the drum where it belongs.
  • Speaking of which, if you find that, all of a sudden, the Filter Bag is clogging, remove the drum lid and check for the Silencing Hose.  This serves two functions…the first is in the name (just a little discharge hose mitigates the sound level of the Chip Vac‘s exhaust flow.)  Secondly, it directs the vacuumed material positively into the drum, limiting the amount that is “dust-storms” in the upper area of the drum, where it’s more prone to make it into the Filter Bag.
Pro tip: check for the Silencing Hose when you remove the lid to empty the drum. DON’T throw the Silencing Hose in the trash.

I’m not going to unequivocally state that this is an all-inclusive list (see “Murphy’s Law,” above,) but these are the Usual Suspects if you’re just not getting the most out of your Chip Vac.  If you ever have any questions, though, give us a call.  We’re here to help.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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