When Accessories Become Essentials

In my almost three decades of home ownership, I’ve learned a great deal about maintenance in regard to dwelling structures. Among those lessons are:

  • The importance of the right tool(s) for the job.
  • Having the right materials on hand (I’m looking at you, every plumbing project I’ve ever attempted).
  • When it’s a one-person job, a team effort…or a call to the professionals is always in play.

When it comes to EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Products, the first and last concerns above are easily addressed. With precious few exceptions, basic hand tools are all that’s required for installation or maintenance, and they’re engineered & manufactured to be “user friendly”. One key aspect of the “user friendliness” is a comprehensive inventory of accessories.

Some of these accessories are unique to a particular Product Line:

  • Air Knife Plumbing Kits are great, especially for the longer Super Air Knives that need to be plumbed to multiple ports along their length. These consist of air hose and brass fittings (for Aluminum Super Air Knives) or Stainless Steel tubing and fittings (for the Stainless Steel models) that connect in to those multiple ports, allowing for infeed to just one (for Super Air Knives up to 54″ long) or two (for lengths up to 108″) 1/2 NPT fittings. These can actually be used on our Super Ion Air Knives as well.
  • Universal Air Knife Mounting Systems provide for ease of installation, and precise positioning of our Aluminum or Stainless Steel Super, Standard, or Full Flow Air Knives.
  • Coupling Bracket Kits can join Super Air Knives together for a continuous, uninterrupted curtain of air flow in any length that you need. They can also be used if you don’t always need air flow along the entire length of a Super Air Knife assembly. I had the pleasure of assisting a user once who had needed to blow off parts on a hanging conveyor. Some parts were a little under 2ft long; others were about 4ft long. They used the Model 110900 Coupling Bracket Kit to join two Model 110024 24″ Aluminum Super Air Knives together, plumbed them separately, and turned both of them on for the long parts, and just the ‘top’ one for the shorter parts.

Other accessories can be used for a variety of products:

  • Stay Set Hoses (with or without Magnetic Bases) make up instant Blowoff Systems when used with our engineered Air Nozzles. They come in lengths from 6″ to 36″, and can bent by hand to “stay set” (as advertised) to hold their position. They can repositioned, as needed. They’re also popular for use with our 3/4″ and 1-1/4″ Super & Adjustable Air Amplifiers, and can even be used with 3″ Air Knives.
  • Conveyance Hose is a great way to connect point A to point B in a Line Vac Air Operated Conveyor system. Bulk material conveyance really doesn’t get much easier than Line Vac + Hose = Instant Conveyor System (just add compressed air). It can also be used with our Air Amplifiers to duct or route the air flow on the inlet, or the outlet to, or from, one area to another.
  • Mounting Brackets are available for a number of our products:
    • Atomizing Spray Nozzles
    • Line Vacs
    • Filters and Regulators
    • Cabinet Cooler System Thermostats
  • Vacuum Cups are often used with our E-Vac Vacuum Generators for pick-and-place material handling applications. We stock fittings and push-in tubing as well, to complete the package. Those fittings and tubing can also be used for the liquid supply to our Atomizing Spray Nozzles (depending on what you’re spraying, you might want to verify chemical compatibility first; call me if that’s a concern).

Other EXAIR Compressed Air Product Accessories can be used with products that aren’t even ours, or, in conjunction with your compressed air system design for increased efficiency or flexibility:

  • Model 9500-60 60 Gallon Receiver Tanks can be installed near points of high air flow demand to prevent or limit fluctuations in supply throughout the system.
  • Compressed Air Hoses can be made to length, and a variety of Fittings (Hex or Close Nipples, Couplers, Reducers, Tees, Elbows, Crosses, and Bulkhead Fittings) are on the shelf in popular sizes.
  • Our 5 Micron water/dirt Filter Separators are a standard when needing clean, condensate free air to blow through and end-use product.
  • Pressure Regulators are an important factor to minimize compressed air consumption. EXAIR always recommends operating our products at the minimum pressure necessary for a successful application. For example, if using a Super Air Knife to remove dust and light debris, this could be achieved at 20 PSIG, a Pressure Regulator will provide that adjustability and keep the air consumption much lower than if it were operated at 80-100 PSIG.
  • Swivel Fittings, typically used with compressed air nozzles, provide the precision adjustability to focus in on the exact area you need to treat.

If you have any questions about how the above accessories can aid with your application, please relay on our expert team for answers and solutions. Having the right materials and accessories on-hand can simplify installation, enhance performance, save compressed air, and more!

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Top Factors for Air Compressor & System Maintenance

Performing regular maintenance on your compressor system helps to keep everything operating in peak condition and ensures you’re not wasting unnecessary energy. Just as you perform regular routine maintenance on your vehicles, a compressed air system also needs a little TLC to keep things running smoothly. Neglected maintenance items can lead to increased energy costs, high operating temperatures, and coolant carryover. Much of these issues can be eliminated simply by performing routine maintenance on the components of the system.

According to the Best Practices for Compressed Air Systems by the Compressed Air Challenge (1), components within the system that need maintained include: the compressor, heat exchanger surfaces, lubricant, lubricant filter, air inlet filter, motors, belts, and air/oil separators.  

The compressor and all surfaces of the heat exchanger need to be kept clean and free of contaminants. When these components are dirty, compressor efficiency is greatly reduced. Any fans and water pumps should also be regularly inspected to ensure that they’re functioning properly. The air inlet filter and piping should also be cleaned. The quality of the air in the facility will impact the frequency, refer to the manufacturer’s specifications for ideal intervals for performing scheduled maintenance.

The lubricant and lubricant filter must also be changed per manufacturer’s specifications. Old coolant can become corrosive, impacting useful life and damaging other components while reducing efficiency. While synthetic lubricants are available that have an extended life compared to standard coolants, this does not extend the life of the lubricant filter itself.

Belts should be routinely checked for tension (every 400 hours is reasonable) to alleviate bearing wear. Belts will stretch and wear under normal operation and must be adjusted periodically. It’s a good practice to keep some spares on hand in the event of a failure.

End use filters, regulators, and lubricators should also be periodically inspected and filter elements replaced as needed. If left unchecked, a clogged filter will increase pressure drop. This can cause both a reduction of pressure at the point of use or an increase in the pressure supplied by the compressor, leading to increased energy costs.

Another often overlooked maintenance item is leak detection and repair. Leaks contribute to unnecessary air usage, pressure drop, and increased energy costs. EXAIR offers an Ultrasonic Leak Detector that can be used to identify the leaks in your system and allow you to make the necessary repairs.

EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector

In order to keep your system running in peak condition, regular maintenance is critical. By paying close attention to the manufacture’s recommendations, and implementing a regular maintenance schedule, you can ensure you’re getting the most out of your system components.

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

(1) Scales, W. (2021). Best Practices for Compressed Air Systems : Second Edition (2nd ed.). The Compressed Air Challenge,.

Compressor system image courtesy of Compressor1 via Flickr Creative Commons License

The Importance of Compressed Air Filters

The last home I purchased had an all-seasons room, but the sellers told me the air conditioner that controlled the room temperature wasn’t working. When I moved in and tested the unit, the sellers were correct that it did not run. I started breaking it down and thought that maybe it could use a good cleaning. During this I found the filter, black and covered with pet fur. It was a washable filter so I cleaned it and let it air dry as I continued to clean remaining areas of the unit. When I put the filter back in and tried running the unit it was a miracle, it was running and producing cool air. I did nothing other than clean and clear the filter, no replacement parts, no tweaking and no repairmen.

I tell this story to many people now as it also relates to appliances, cars, lawn mowers and now I emphasize filters for compressed air systems. Using auto drain filters and oil removal filters is imperative to keeping your air clean before it gets to your tooling and equipment. Keeping water condensate and particulates contained to your filters is critical to the operation and life of your tooling and equipment. Older compressed air lines can begin to rust or corrode inside, creating scale which can jam and cause inefficiencies. Sediment and other contaminants will build up and could cause damage to your compressed air systems.

Good engineering practice calls for point of use filtration and moisture removal, such as that provided by EXAIR Filter Separators.

EXAIR carries multiple sizes and types of compressed air filters available from stock. Our Particulate and Coalescing filters can be found in our catalog and online (use the link above). If you have an application and need help selecting and sizing the right filter for your needs please contact one of our application engineers by calling 800.903.9247.

Eric Kuhnash
Application Engineer
E-mail: EricKuhnash@exair.com
Twitter: Twitter: @EXAIR_EK

Which Condensate Drain Is Best For Your Compressed Air System?

In a perfect world, your air compressor’s intake would be free of dirt, oil, and water. Proper maintenance (i.e., periodic cleaning and/or changing) of the intake filter will keep most of the dirt out. Oil and water vapor will pass right through…but that’s not the end of the world (however imperfect it may be); they’re easy to take care of later in the process.

Once these vapors have been compressed (along with all that air that was drawn in), it’ll go into the receiver (usually via an aftercooler in industrial compressors) where it cools down, and that vapor condenses. If it’s left alone, a couple of things can happen:

  • Standing water in the bottom of a steel tank will cause corrosion. This can be carried into your compressed air distribution system. Over time, it will also rust through the reservoir. You don’t want either of these things to happen.
  • Eventually, it’ll take up enough space that your reservoir’s capacity will effectively shrink. That can cause your compressor to cycle rapidly. You don’t want that either.

Even the smallest of compressors will have manual drain valves on the bottoms of their reservoirs. Users will simply blow down the gallon or so tank every so often and go about their business. The small amount of electrical power that the compressor will use to recharge those tanks makes this a perfectly acceptable practice.

In the perfect world I mentioned above, the large reservoirs on industrial air compressors could be drained of condensate in the same manner. There are a few challenges to periodic manual draining:

  • You could do it on a schedule, but varying levels of humidity mean different accumulation rates of condensation. Weekly blowdowns might be OK in the winter, but you may need to do it daily in the summer. And a couple days a week in the spring or fall. It can be a real chore to keep track of all of that.
  • A practiced operator may develop the skill to shut the valve immediately upon the last drop of condensate passing. More often than not, though, you’re going to lose some compressed air doing it manually.
  • File this under “don’t try this at home (or anywhere, really)” – an unfortunately all-too-common practice is to just leave a manual drain cracked open. It works, but it wastes compressed air. On purpose. There’s too much accidental waste to give this any further discussion. Just don’t do it.
  • Plain old forgetfulness, someone going on vacation, or even leaving the company could result in someone else noticing the compressor is frequently cycling (because the reservoir is filling with water…see above), and realizing nobody’s drained the tank in a while.

Again, these manual drains are quite common, especially in smaller air compressor systems…and so are the above challenges. I may or may not have personal experience with an incident similar to that last one. Good news is, there are automated products designed to prevent this from happening to you:

  • Timer drains are popular and inexpensive. They operate just as advertised: a programmable timer opens and closes the drain valve just like you tell it to. They don’t do anything at all to address the first two challenges above: they might blow down for longer than needed (and waste compressed air) or not long enough (and allow water to build up in the reservoir.) They come in two primary configurations:
    • Solenoid Valve: the timer energizes the valve’s coil to open the valve, and a spring shuts it when the timer runs out. Strainers will prevent blockage, and will need periodic maintenance.
    • Ball Valve: the timer operates an electric actuator to open & close the valve. The full port opening of the ball valve means a strainer is usually not necessary, so these are less maintenance intensive.
  • Demand (AKA “no waste” or “zero loss”) drains are actuated by the condensate level in the reservoir. They don’t discharge any of the reservoir’s compressed air, because they close before the last bit of water exits. There are a few common options to choose from:
    • Mechanical float drains can be internal or external…the latter is more common for use with air compressor reservoirs; the former is fairly standard with point-of-use filters (more on that later). When the liquid level rises, the float opens the drain; when liquid level drops, the float closes the drain…easy as that. They CAN be susceptible to clogging with debris, but many have screens to prevent or limit that.
    • Electronic types use a magnetic reed switch or capacitance device to sense the condensate level…so they require electric power.
    • These cost more than the timer types, though, and they’ve got a number of moving parts, so they can find themselves in need of repair. Inexpensive and user-friendly rebuild kits are oftentimes available, and many of these come with alarms to let you know when to use that rebuild kit.

Whether you have a manual, timer, or demand drain, keep in mind that some moisture can still be carried over, and rust/scale can still form in pipelines. Good engineering practice calls for point-of-use filtration, like EXAIR’s Automatic Drain Filter Separators and Oil Removal Filters. If you’d like to talk more about getting the most out of your compressed air system, give me a call.

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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