Compressed Air Filters: What They Are, And Why They Matter

The first time I ever bought a brand new car was in 1995…it was a Ford Escort Wagon. My plan was to pay it off quick and run the tires off it. Well, I DID actually put new tires on it several times over the 11 years and 200,000 miles I had it. But, aside from fuel & tires, that car cost me less than $2,000 in repairs over all that time…an achievement that my mechanic said was due largely to the aforementioned planned maintenance, which largely consisted of regular oil changes, which, of course, included a new oil filter, every 3,000 miles. For the record, I didn’t run the wheels off it; I sold it when I took a job that included a company vehicle. Also for the record, I found out the fellow I sold my car to was still driving it after I left that job (and company vehicle.) He, too, believed in regular oil changes, and he might still have that 1995 Escort on the road for all I know.

So, yeah, I’m a big believer in the importance of fluid filtration.  If you’re a regular reader of the EXAIR Blog page, you likely are too.  The two main culprits that cause the most problems in a compressed air system are solid particulates and water.  These are easily addressed with a Filter Separator, like EXAIR Model 9004 Automatic Drain Filter Separator.  It has a 5 micron particulate element, and a centrifugal element that imparts a spinning motion to the air flow.  Since water is denser than air, any droplets of moisture are “flung” to the inside wall of the bowl, while the moisture-free air continues on through the discharge.

 

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

Another common impurity in compressed air is oil.  Since oil-less compressors came along, this is easy to eliminate at the source…literally.  However, for other types of compressors (piston types in particular,) as they age, the oil that lubricates the moving parts can seep by the piston rings and get to the air side.  Oil doesn’t carry the same wear and corrosion problems that dirt & water do, but it causes particular problems in air conveyance and blow off applications: anything in your air is going to get on your product.  Ask any paint booth operator, for example, what happens when a metal surface hasn’t been cleaned of all traces of oil.  It really does look a “fish eye.”

The most common type of oil removal filter uses a coalescing element.  Oil entrained in pressurized gas flow isn’t as dense as water – so centrifugal elements won’t remove it – and it tends to act like particulate…but very fine particulate – so typical sintered particulate elements won’t remove it.  Coalescing elements, however, are made of a tight fiber mesh.  This not only catches any trace of oil in the air flow, but also much finer particulate than those sintered elements.  EXAIR Oil Removal Filters, like the Model 9027 shown below, provide additional particulate filtration to 0.03 microns.  That’s some pretty clean air.

The coalescing element of an Oil Removal Filter catches oil and very fine particulate.

For best results, we recommend both the Filter Separator and Oil Removal Filter.  Make sure you install the Filter Separator upstream of the Oil Removal Filter…that way, its 5 micron element catches all the “big” particles that would quickly clog the very fine coalescing element, necessitating an element replacement.  In fact, this arrangement will allow the Oil Removal Filter to operate darn near indefinitely, maintenance free.

If you have questions about keeping your compressed air clean, moisture free, and oil free, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Video Blog: Importance of Point-of-Use Filtration

When operating any of your Intelligent Compressed Air Products, something that often gets overlooked is the importance of delivering clean, dry air to those point-of-use products. Many of our products have very tight orifices to help reduce the volume of compressed air they consume. In addition, most have no moving parts to wear out and require no maintenance. That is, unless you’re using unfiltered compressed air.

Rust and scale are commonly found within the distribution system inside your facility. Old iron pipe and receiver tanks are the common culprits. A common misconception is that the air is already filtered as it exits the compressor. While this may be true, there’s still places in the distribution system that can cause issues downstream.

To eliminate the hassle of taking things apart to periodically clean, EXAIR recommends installing a point-of-use filter for all of our Intelligent Compressed Air Products. Kits are available for purchase that come with a properly sized filter to ensure your air is sufficiently clean. To see how quickly debris can clog your products, check out my video below demonstrating the difference between dirty and clean air with a Model 110006 6″ Super Air Knife.

If you’ve already purchased and installed products without filters, it’s never to late to go back and install one. Contact an EXAIR Application Engineer today and we’ll be happy to help you determine the proper size for the volume of air you’re products need.

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
E-mail: TylerDaniel@EXAIR.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD

Video Blog: Filter/Separator and Pressure Regulator Mounting and Coupling Kit Installation

Using EXAIR mounting and coupling kits you can assemble EXAIR Filters and Regulators into one plug and play assembly. Follow along with the video posted below to complete this task!

If you need a deeper understanding about how EXAIR’s products can be applied and help your process or product, feel free to contact us and we will do our best to give you a clear understanding of the benefits when using our engineered compressed air products. We can also explain proper implementation of accessory items such as compressed air filters and regulators.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer

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Do I Have To Install A Compressed Air Filter?

2″ Heavy Duty Line Vac Kit – Model 152200

Recently I took a call from an existing customer that is questioning their Heavy Duty Line Vac Kit setup. They are experiencing around a 38 psig pressure drop from before the filter in the system to the inlet of the Line Vac.  At first glance, they assumed this was due to the filter restricting the flow. They then posed the question, “Do I have to run this filter or can I take it out?  I mean I already have a filter at my compressor.” The answer is yes, install the filter. It will keep dirt, scale and condensate from entering the Line Vac or other components downstream. In the case of a Line Vac, a filter will also prevent this unwanted debris from getting into the material being conveyed.

Example of an Improper Filter Setup

However, this is a great question, especially when assuming the filter is causing the pressure drop – but that was not the case for this application.  So more questions were asked to our customer to determine what the root cause of the pressure drop could be. Seeing a pressure drop across a filter can be caused by several factors.

One would be an inappropriately sized filter. This can restrict the volumetric flow of air through to the point of use causing a pressure drop.  All of the filters supplied with our product kits are auto-drain, have 5 micron filter elements and appropriately sized to operate the product at 80 psig inlet pressure so this was not the problem.

The next issue could be that the filter is clogged, this brought on another question.  If you see more than a 5 psig pressure drop across a filter from EXAIR then we suggest changing out the filter element as it could be clogged and not permitting the full volumetric flow through.  This installation was fairly new and a quick test without a filter element installed proved it was not the filter element that was clogged.

That brought us to the last variable, the length, size, and number/type of fittings between the filter and the Heavy Duty Line Vac. This length of pipe was more than 30′ in length and was only appropriately sized for a 10′ length or shorter run.  The customer was using a 1/2″ Schedule 40 black iron pipe to feed a 2″ Heavy Duty Line Vac at 80 psig inlet pressure. The 2″ Heavy Duty Line Vac Kit will utilize 75 SCFM at 80 psig inlet pressure.  That will need a 1/2″ Sched. 40 pipe that is 10′ long or less in order to not have friction loss within the feed pipe.  Armed with this information the customer is researching whether or not the line needs to stay that long.  If it does, they will have to re-plumb the system with a minimum of a 3/4″ Sched. 40 black iron pipe.

Luckily this was all able to be discussed within a few hours of time and the customer is on their way to an optimal supply system for their in-line conveyor.  One brief phone call took this customer from lackluster performance and thinking a product was not going to work for what they need, to performing beyond their expectations, and being able to keep up with their production needs.

If you have a product or any part of your compressed air system that you question why it may be performing or not performing a certain way, please do not hesitate to reach out to our knowledgeable team of Application Engineers. We are always interested in finding a solution to your needs.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF