Why are There so Many Compressed Air Filters?

Compressed Air Filters are a necessary thing in modern manufacturing, and here at EXAIR we provide them in most kits. But what filter do you use, cleanliness standards require a variety of impurities to be removed, including oil mist, vapors and particulate matter. Impurities can enter the compressed air stream in several different ways. Intake air can introduce dust or debris particulates, rusted pipes can introduce rust and scale particulates. Oil and liquid vapors are often a consequence of using oiled compressors and must be filtered out before the compressed air can be used. There are distinct cleanliness standards for different compressed air applications, but the presence of impurities can exceed those standards, leading to damaged products or unsafe air. Filters fall into three categories: coalescing filters, absorption filters and the dry particulate filters. While each type ultimately produces the same result, they each operate on different principles.

Particulate Filters

Dry particulate filters are commonly used to remove desiccant particles after an in process dryer. But here at EXAIR we recommend using them at the point of use also to remove any rust particles from the compressed air before It’s used to clean, dry or cool in your process. Dry particulate filters function similar to a coalescing filter, catching particles within the filter media / or element.

The particulate element captures solids larger than 5 microns, and the centrifugal element eliminates moisture.

Coalescing Filters

Coalescing filters are primarily used for removing liquids and aerosols, if used in line with a particulate filter is the coalescing filter should be second in line. Small condensations are caught in a filter media and merged into larger drops that are then taken out of the filter typically into a bowl.  Most of the liquid coalescing filters remove is water and oil. Coalescing filters remove most impurities, reducing particulate levels down to 0.1 micron in size and liquids down to 0.03 micron.

The coalescing element catches oil and very fine particulate

Adsorption Filters: Vapor removal filters are typically used to remove gaseous lubricants that will go through the coalescing filter. Because they use an adsorption process, vapor removal filters should not be used to capture lubricant aerosols. Aerosols will quickly saturate the filter, rendering it useless in a matter of hours. Sending air through a coalescing filter prior to the vapor removal filter will prevent this damage. The absorption process uses activated carbon granules, carbon cloth or paper to capture and remove contaminants. Activated charcoal is the most common filter media because it has a large open pore structure; a handful of activated charcoal has the surface area of a football field.

Knowing the needs of your compressed air system can help you chose the right filter. If your air needs a high level of filtration or basic contaminants removed, cleaning your air is an important step in the compressed air process. Check out EXAIRS filter options here!

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer

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