Compressed air is a valuable utility and understanding what makes up a solid system is very important. Most all manufacturing facilities have a demand for compressed air, so today we’ll discuss how when managed well, and with the proper equipment, how valuable this utility can be.
The equipment begins with the compressor. Specifying which compressor is best for you is genuinely specific to your needs, and many times even your geography. How many “users” of the air, the distance the air has to travel, how many and how sharp of turns need to be made are all specific to your building and setup. Drastic temperature changes, night and day, and many times summer to winter, can effect the compressor as well. Here is a list of things to consider when purchasing or upgrading the compressor itself:
- What is the actual air requirement? (SCFM) – as a rule of thumb – every 1 HP = 4 SCFM
- How many shifts, and do these shifts vary in air consumption?
- Average and Maximum Flow requirements
- What about leaks?
- What about the future?
- What is the highest pressure needed and why?
- How far away form the source are the users?
- Would a receiver tank/intermittent storage in the loop benefit your situation?
Compressor: Once you fully have a grasp of your demand, you can now move on to the compressor. There are 5 main types of compressors. One of the most common is the single-stage lubricant injected rotary screw compressor. This compressor is also offered in 2 stage. The other 3 types are a) 2-stage double acting reciprocating compressor b) Lubricant free screw compressor and c) Centrifugal 3-stage compressor. Each of these compressors have their own unique characteristics, benefits and faults. We highly recommend getting a local Air compressor company or professional involved to ensure the correct type and size.
Dirty Inlet Filter: Once the compressor is specified, you will need to ensure you have the best solution for dirty, ambient air being pulled into the compressor. The air coming out, begins with the air coming in, so this filter needs careful consideration based upon your individual ambient conditions. We’ve all heard the saying “garbage in – garbage out”… This filter should be checked, washed or changed often.
Receiver tank: The compressor(s) feed into a receiver tank. Many times this is call the Control Receiver, or the wet tank or cooling tank. Receiver tanks take in the air from the compressor and hold it under pressure for future use. These tanks reduce the cycles on the compressor, and prevents excessive loading and unloading in the system. These are not used on every system, but should be.
Dryer: Regardless of where you are in the world, all atmospheric air has some amount of vapor which will begin to condense into water when the air is cooled to the saturation point (This saturation point is better known as the dew point). The amount of moisture in the air depends on the temperature and relative humidity. As a rule of thumb, the moisture in the air will double for every 20°F increase in temperature. Your dryer should be able to dry the air to a dew point that is at least 18°F below the lowest temperature at the use point of the air. The size and amount of dryers is completely dependent on your companies needs.
Coalescent filter: Right after the dryer, it is recommended to put this type of filter to remove any other condensate, oils, or lubricants from the compressor. Unwanted oil in in the system can effect the machines and tools being used with the air.
Once your pipes have been laid to your point of use areas be it a machine or tools, you will want to have another filter at the point of use. Regardless of the age of your system, piping corrosion will happen leading to particulate in your air lines. You will want to filter this out prior to the final use of the air. The style and size of these filters should be determined at the point of use for the air. If your end use utilizes an EXAIR product – we recommend using our Automatic Filter Separators.
As the final step prior to use, it is recommended to have a pressure regulator and gauge on the line. Over time, every system will deplete air with small leaks, added users, or dirty filters. The most common cause of failure with EXAIR products, is actually lack of the appropriate air at the point of use.
Please keep in mind that this is a fairly simplistic explanation of a common Compressed Air System. Some systems have multiple receiving tanks, refrigerant coolers, dryers, and many different types of filters. The main goal is having enough clean, dry air to ensure that machines and tools function at peak performance.
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