About Compressed Air Dryers – What Are They and Why Use Them

All atmospheric air contains some amount of water vapor.  When air is then cooled to saturation point, the vapor will begin to condense into liquid water. The saturation point is the condition where the the air can hold no more water vapor. The temperature at which this occurs is knows as the dew point.

When ambient air is compressed, heat is generated and the air becomes warmer. In industrial compressed air systems, the air is then routed to an aftercooler, and condensation  begins to take place. To remove the condensation, the air then goes into separator which traps the liquid water. The air leaving the aftercooler is typically saturated at the temperature of the discharge, and any additional cooling that occurs as the air is piped further downstream will cause more liquid to condense out of the air. To address this condensation, compressed air dryers are used.

It is important to dry the air and prevent condensation in the air. Many usages of the compressed air are impacted by liquid water being present. Rust and corrosion can occur in the compressed air piping, leading to scale and contamination at point -of -use processes. Processes such as drying operations and painting would see lower quality if water was deposited onto the parts.

dryers.png

There are many types of dryers – (see recent blogs for more information)

  • Refrigerant Dryer – most commonly used type, air is cooled in an air-to-refrigerant heat exchanger.
  • Regenerative-Desiccant Type – use a porous desiccant that adsorbs (adsorb means the moisture adheres to the desiccant, the desiccant does not change, and the moisture can then be driven off during a regeneration process).
  • Deliquescent Type – use a hygroscopic desiccant medium that absorbs (as opposed to adsorbs) moisture. The desiccant is dissolved into the liquid that is drawn out. Desiccant is used up, and needs to be replaced periodically.
  • Heat of Compression Type – are regenerative desiccant dryers that use the heat generated during compression to accomplish the desiccant regeneration.
  • Membrane Type– use special membranes that allow the water vapor to pass through faster than the dry air, reducing the amount water vapor in air stream.

The air should not be dried any more than is needed for the most stringent application, to reduce the costs associated with the drying process. A pressure dew point of 35°F to 38°F (1.7°C to 3.3°C) often is adequate for many industrial applications.  Lower dew points result in higher operating costs.

If you have questions about compressed air systems and dryers or any of the 15 different EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product lines, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or any of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer
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What Makes A Compressed Air System “Complete”?

It’s a good question.  When do you know that your compressed air system is complete?  And, really, when do you know, with confidence, that it is ready for use?

A typical compressed air system. Image courtesy of Compressed Air Challenge.

Any compressed air system has the basic components shown above.  A compressed air source, a receiver, dryer, filter, and end points of use.   But, what do all these terms mean?

A compressor or compressed air source, is just as it sounds.  It is the device which supplies air (or another gas) at an increased pressure.  This increase in pressure is accomplished through a reduction in volume, and this conversion is achieved through compressing the air.  So, the compressor, well, compresses (the air).

A control receiver (wet receiver) is the storage vessel or tank placed immediately after the compressor.  This tank is referred to as a “wet” receiver because the air has not yet been dried, thus it is “wet”.  This tank helps to cool the compressed air by having a large surface area, and reduces pulsations in the compressed air flow which occur naturally.

The dryer, like the compressor, is just as the name implies.  This device dries the compressed air, removing liquid from the compressed air system.  Prior to this device the air is full of moisture which can damage downstream components and devices.  After drying, the air is almost ready for use.

To be truly ready for use, the compressed air must also be clean.  Dirt and particulates must be removed from the compressed air so that they do not cause damage to the system and the devices which connect to the system.  This task is accomplished through the filter, after which the system is almost ready for use.

To really be ready for use, the system must have a continuous system pressure and flow.  End-use devices are specified to perform with a required compressed air supply, and when this supply is compromised, performance is as well.  This is where the dry receiver comes into play.  The dry receiver is provides pneumatic capacitance for the system, alleviating pressure changes with varying demand loads.  The dry receiver helps to maintain constant pressure and flow.

In addition to this, the diagram above shows an optional device – a pressure/flow control valve.  A flow control valve will regulate the volume (flow) of compressed air in a system in response to changes in flow (or pressure).  These devices further stabilize the compressed air system, providing increased reliability in the supply of compressed air for end user devices.

Now, at long last, the system is ready for use.  But, what will it do?  What are the points of use?

Points of use in a compressed air system are referred to by their end use.  These are the components around which the entire system is built.  This can be a pneumatic drill, an impact wrench, a blow off nozzle, a pneumatic pump, or any other device which requires compressed air to operate.

If your end use devices are for coating, cleaning, cooling, conveying or static elimination, EXAIR Application Engineers can help with engineered solutions to maximize the efficiency and use of your compressed air.  After placing so much effort into creating a proper system, having engineered solutions is a must.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer
LeeEvans@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_LE

Intelligent Compressed Air: Membrane Dryers – What are they and How Do they Work?

Recently we have blogged about Compressed Air Dryers and the different types of systems.  We have reviewed the Desiccant and Refrigerant types of dryers, and today I will discuss the basics of  the Membrane type of dryers.

All atmospheric air that a compressed air system takes in contains water vapor, which is naturally present in the air.  At 75°F and 75% relative humidity, 20 gallons of water will enter a typical 25 hp compressor in a 24 hour period of operation.  When the the air is compressed, the water becomes concentrated and because the air is heated due to the compression, the water remains in vapor form.  Warmer air is able to hold more water vapor, and generally an increase in temperature of 20°F results in a doubling of amount of moisture the air can hold. The problem is that further downstream in the system, the air cools, and the vapor begins to condense into water droplets. To avoid this issue, a dryer is used.

Membrane Dryers are the newest type of compressed air dryer. Membranes are commonly used to separate gases, such as removing nitrogen from air. The membrane consists of a group of hollow fiber tubes.  The tubes are designed so that water vapor will permeate and pass through the membrane walls faster than the air.  The dry air continues on through the tubes and discharges into the downstream air system. A small amount of ‘sweep’ air is taken from the dry air to purge and remove the water vapor from inside the dryer that has passed through the membrane tubes.

Membrane Dryer
Typical Membrane Dryer Arrangement

Resultant dew points of 40°F are typical, and dew points down to -40°F are possible but require the use of more purge air, resulting in less final dry compressed air discharging to the system.

The typical advantages of Membrane Dryers are-

  1.  Low installation and operating costs
  2.  Can be installed outdoors
  3.  Can be used in hazardous locations
  4.  No moving parts

There are a few disadvantages to consider-

  1. Limited to low capacity systems
  2. High purge air losses (as high as 15-20% to achieve lowest pressure dew points
  3. Membrane can be fouled by lubricants and other contaminants, a coalescing type filter is required before the membrane dryer.

If you have questions about getting the most from your compressed air system, or would like to talk about any EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Membrane Dryer Schematic – From Compressed Air Challenge, Best Practices for Compressed Air Systems, Second Edition

 

 

 

Intelligent Compressed Air: Refrigerant Dryers and How They Work

We’ve seen in recent blogs that Compressed Air Dryers are an important part of a compressed air system, to remove water and moisture to prevent condensation further downstream in the system.  Moisture laden compressed air can cause issues such as increased wear of moving parts due to lubrication removal, formation of rust in piping and equipment, quality defects in painting processes, and frozen pipes in colder climates.  The three main types of dryers are – Refrigerant, Desiccant, and Membrane. For this blog, we will review the basics of the Refrigerant type of dryer.

All atmospheric air that a compressed air system takes in contains water vapor, which is naturally present in the air.  At 75°F and 75% relative humidity, 20 gallons of water will enter a typical 25 hp compressor in a 24 hour period of operation.  When the the air is compressed, the water becomes concentrated and because the air is heated due to the compression, the water remains in vapor form.  Warmer air is able to hold more water vapor, and generally an increase in temperature of 20°F results in a doubling of amount of moisture the air can hold. The problem is that further downstream in the system, the air cools, and the vapor begins to condense into water droplets. To avoid this issue, a dryer is used.

Refrigerated Dryer
Fundamental Schematic of Refrigerant-Type Dryer

Refrigerant Type dryers cool the air to remove the condensed moisture and then the air is reheated and discharged.  When the air leaves the compressor aftercooler and moisture separator (which removes the initial condensed moisture) the air is typically saturated, meaning it cannot hold anymore water vapor.  Any further cooling of the air will cause the moisture to condense and drop out.  The Refrigerant drying process is to cool the air to 35-40°F and then remove the condensed moisture.  The air is then reheated via an air to air heat exchanger (which utilizes the heat of the incoming compressed air) and then discharged.  The dewpoint of the air is 35-40°F which is sufficient for most general industrial plant air applications.  As long as the compressed air stays above the 35-40°F temperature, no further condensation will occur.

The typical advantages of Refrigerated Dryers are-

  1.  – Low initial capital cost
  2.  – Relatively low operating cost
  3.  – Low maintenance costs

If you have questions about getting the most from your compressed air system, or would like to talk about any EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Product, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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Twitter: @EXAIR_BB

 

Intelligent Compressed Air: Desiccant Dryers – What are they and How Do they Work?

Desiccant dryer
Heat of Compression Desiccant Dryer

No matter where you are in the world, the atmospheric air will contain water vapor. As this air cools to the saturation point, also known as dew point, the vapor will condense into liquid water. The amount of this moisture will vary depending on both the ambient temperature and the relative humidity. According to the Compressed Air Challenge, a general rule of thumb is that the amount of moisture air can hold at a saturated condition will double for every 20°F increase in temperature. In regions or periods of warmer temperatures, this can create a significant problem. Some problems that can be associated with moisture-laden compressed air include:

  • Increased wear of moving parts due to removal of lubrication
  • Formation of rust in piping and equipment
  • Color variation, adherence, and finish of paint that is applied using moisture-laden compressed air
  • Create unstable conditions for processes that are dependent upon pneumatic controls. Malfunctions due to rust, scale, or clogged orifices can damage product or cause costly shutdowns
  • In colder temperatures, moisture in the compressed air flow can freeze in the control lines

To remove moisture from the lines, a dryer must be installed. One of the most commonly found dryers in a facility are referred to as desiccant dryers. There are three variations of desiccant dryers: Regenerative-Desiccant Dryers, Heat Reactivated Desiccant Dryers, and Heat of Compression Desiccant Dryers.

A Regenerative-Desiccant Dryer uses a porous desiccant that collects and adsorbs the moisture. This allows for large amounts of water to be retained with a minute amount of desiccant. Most regenerative-desiccant dryers consist of two towers. One where wet, moisture-laden compressed air flows through a desiccant bed. A second tower contains desiccant that is being regenerated. A controlled amount of dry air flows through the tower being regenerated, which causes the moisture to release from the desiccant and flow out with the purge flow. This saturated air exhausts to atmosphere. After a set time, the towers will switch and continue this cycle of drying/regenerating.

Another, and more efficient, regenerative-desiccant dryer uses heat to assist in removing water from the desiccant. As the tower is heated, the moisture is no longer adsorbed by the desiccant and is purged through the flow. This style is more efficient than the other styles of dryers because less compressed air is wasted removing the moisture in the tower.

The third type of desiccant dryer is the Heat of Compression dryer. This style utilizes the heat that is generated during compression to accomplish the regeneration of the desiccant. Typically, the heat that is generated from the air compressor is exhausted to atmosphere and wasted. With a heat of compression dryer, this heat is captured and used to regenerate the desiccant. The compressed air passes through the drying section of the desiccant bed, is dried, and exits through the discharge. A portion of the captured heat flows through the opposite side of the dryer to regenerate the desiccant. Afterwards, this hot air passes through a regeneration cooler and is combined with the main air stream. This results in ZERO loss of purge air, making this style of dryer the most efficient available.

If you have questions about how to optimize your compressed air system, contact EXAIR. An Application Engineer is standing by ready to assist you!

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

 

Heated Desiccant Dryer by Compressor1.  Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.

Safety Air Gun Improves Aluminum Extruding Machining Process

I was doing some work around the house Saturday when I heard my wife shouting out from our laundry room….”Something is wrong with our dryer. This is the 3rd time I’ve restarted it and the clothes are still wet!”. Now having been in this situation before, I knew this meant that the exhaust was probably clogged with lint (again).

See, our laundry room runs parallel to our family room and the exhaust ducting goes up and then across the laundry room, across the family room and then exhausts on the side of the house. (I would like to find the person who thought this was a good idea!). I have thought about re-routing the ducting but the only other option would be to have the exhaust on the front of the house which will “never happen” (per my wife). So I usually end up taking my vacuum and attaching as many extensions as possible to reach as much of the ducting as I can. I have tried a few other methods with no success – like taking my leaf blower and, from the outside of the house, blow the lint back towards the laundry room and into a garbage can. (hint: make SURE your wife is not in the laundry room when attempting this…. They don’t react too well when they get covered in lint!)

This made me think of an application I worked on last week with an aluminum extrusion company. The customer cuts lengths of aluminum siding from 1’ up to 10’ in length and, standing at one end of the material, are using a standard blow gun to try and blow out the chips but are unsuccessful. They reviewed our website but were still unsure what product may fit their needs best, so they gave us a call.

We discussed their application and the customer was able to email pictures. After reviewing the pictures I recommended using one of our Soft Grip Safety Air Guns with our Model # HP1125, 2” Flat High Power Super Air Nozzle and a 72” extension.  The Soft Grip Safety Air Gun is constructed of cast aluminum and includes a hook for hanging in a convenient location. The Model # HP1125, 2” High Power Flat Super Air Nozzle, produces 2.2 lbs. of force @ 80 PSIG and utilizes 37 SCFM with a sound level of 83 dBA. This would also meet or exceed the OSHA standards for safety, per Standard 1910.242(b) for 30 psi dead end pressure, and allowable noise exposure per Standard 29 CFR – 1910.95(a).

HP1230
An EXAIR model HP1230 Soft Grip Safety Air Gun

To discuss your application or help with selecting the right product, contact an application engineer.

Justin Nicholl
Application Engineer
justinnicholl@exair.com
@EXAIR_JN

Dirty Compressed Air Consequences Are Avoidable

I would like to discuss the importance of clean and dry filtered air.  This all comes from some discussions I have had with customers over my time here at EXAIR, as well as from my time in the machine tool industry. It is notable to state that we simply ask for clean/dry air to run through our products, not “instrument” or “process” air which is typically held at a different pressure, temperature, or volume and can be more expensive to generate. All of EXAIR’s products use general plant air and can be cleaned up with simple point of use filters.

Clean and dry compressed air is essential for ensuring a long and easy life of almost any compressed air product.   One product in particular that I have some data on is the EXAIR Line Vac.  The pictures below show the inside wall of a Stainless Steel Line Vac.  This unit was used in a harsh outdoor environment.   The compressor was not maintained and did not have any form of filtration on the lines feeding the Line Vac unit. The first picture shows where all the dirt and particulate were impacting the internal generator wall as it entered the air chamber.

Damaged Generator

The two dark grey marks are actually the impact points on the unit.   There is only one air inlet on the Line Vac, this means that the unit was taken apart during the two months and actually inspected then put back together and the generator was rotated slightly during this process.  These spots are similar to what sandblasting does to metal, just to illustrate how much particulate was in the air stream. Since the air has not yet reached its full velocity within the Line Vac, it has left only those visible surface blemishes.

As the air begins to exit the array of small generator holes it begins to rapidly increase in velocity while it is trying to expand to atmospheric conditions.  Because of this increased velocity, the wear the generator holes experience is greater and as seen below it is causing some extreme wear.

Worn Generator Holes

To give you an idea of what a new generator should look like is below. Here you can see uniform holes that go precisely through the generator.

IMG_4283

To prevent a disaster like this from happening to your end-use compressed air products, all you need are some simple, low maintenance filters.   EXAIR offers dirt / water filter separators that will filter your compressed down to 5 micron particulate size.   The will catch the good majority of rust, water, and dirt within your compressed air system.   Then you can also install an oil removal filter which will filter all oils and particulate out of your compressed air system down to 0.03 micron particulate level.

Each of these units are great point of use filtration to keep any of your processes from experiencing what this Line Vac experienced.   If you have any questions about the quality of your compressed air or why you are seeing failures in product on your compressed air system, contact us.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF