General Guidelines for Maintaining Your Compressed Air System

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 filtersregulators, 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, CCASS

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 Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

Take It All In – Just Filter It

The Nose – Only the Nose Knows

Take a nice deep breath as you read this. In through the nose. If you are like me right now, due to Fall allergies you’ll have a little bit of a restriction, hold it for just a second and then breathe out through the mouth. The body is an amazing thing, when we breathe in through our nose the body has some natural filtration built in that is also known as nose hair. While not the most attractive thing to most, it is important. The hairs in the nose help to filter out allergens and catch foreign debris.

An Improperly maintained Cabin Air Filter on a car makes a great bed for mice

Other items you interact with daily have similar air intake filtration. A car often has both an intake air filter and even an in-cabin air filter, these both protect various parts. The engine air filter is vital to prevent dust, debris and even excessive water from entering into the precision machined and assembled motor. The HVAC system in every business or home generally has an intake air filter in order to protect the coils and heater box.

There’s another system in most manufacturing facilities that should always have a filter on it, and that is the compressed air system. Properly maintaining and filtering the incoming ambient air feed before it is compressed starts the process of on the right foot to optimize performance and insure efficiency is maintained from the start of the entire process. These filters are like many others and can be part of a preventative maintenance program. The air compressor manufacturer will have a recommendation on frequency for the various types.

Old Piston driven air compressor intake air filter.

If these filters are left unchanged then the compressor begins to have restricted flow on the intake which then results in less air being pulled in or maybe the filter is removed and then the debris all gets pulled in and sent through to become foreign debris inside the compressor. Both of these will cause the compressor to wear or overheat and work harder to compress the air and send it into the storage tank. This results in premature maintenance needed on the compressors and or point of use devices.

Thus, always filter your incoming air. Whether for your air compressor, car engine, or house, start with a fresh intake and then keep it optimized from there. The payback will be longer lasting equipment that operates at a higher efficiency. And remember, breathe in through your nose.

If you would like to discuss your filtration setups, feel free to reach out to an Application Engineer.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

Removing Oil From Your Compressed Air Helps Keep Your EXAIR Products Running Maintenance-Free

Most of EXAIR’s line of Intelligent Compressed Air Products have no moving parts and require no maintenance. The caveat to the “no maintenance” aspect is proper filtration at the point of use. Many products air demand products like nozzles, air knives and air amplifiers have very tight orifices that could get clogged from any contaminants such as particulate, condensate, and lubricant. Oil and dirt could build up inside of any of these products and keep them from working properly. EXAIR recommends point of use filtration to be installed just upstream of any EXAIR product for this purpose.

Oil is commonly present in a compressed air supply, whether that’s intentional or not can vary. Many air compressors are oil lubricated by a constant supply of oil, inevitably some of this oil ends up in the air supply. As the piston rings wear, more oil is permitted to pass by and ends up in the distribution system. While this is kept to a minimum with proper maintenance, it is impossible to prevent unless using an oil-free compressor.

Sometimes oil is present in the air supply intentionally, many pneumatic devices require a precise amount of oil to keep the internal moving parts lubricated. In the case of any EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product, we recommend particulate free, condensate free, and oil free air.

In order to remove oil from the air supply, EXAIR offers a line of Oil Removal Filters. These coalescing style filters are used to remove very fine water vapor as well as any residual oil. These filters are highly recommended to be installed just prior to any dryer that contains a media that would be compromised by any lubricant passing through it. Coalescing filters utilize an element typically made up of glass fibers that “coalesce”, or combine, the fine water vapor and oil aerosols until the droplet size becomes large enough that it drops off into the bowl or filter housing. With a coalescing filter, the most common cause of pressure drop increase is due to particulate clogging the filter element. Because of this, a particulate filter should always be installed just prior to any coalescing filters.

Without any filtration, any oil in the air supply will pass through the point of use device and into or on to your product or process. With the elimination of this problem such a simple solution, don’t neglect proper air preparation to ensure you’re delivering clean, oil-free air to all of your Intelligent Compressed Air Products.

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

Optimize Your Intelligent Compressed Air® Products with EXAIR’s Accessories

EXAIR offers a wide variety of various accessories that can help you to better control and fine-tune any of your compressed air operated products. Most of EXAIR’s line of Intelligent Compressed Air Products have no moving parts and require no maintenance. The caveat to the “no maintenance” aspect is proper filtration at the point of use. Many products have very tight orifices that could get clogged from any contaminants such as particulate, condensate, and lubricant. EXAIR recommends point of use filtration to be installed just upstream of any EXAIR Product for this purpose.

EXAIR has a line of Automatic Drain Filter Separators and Oil Removal Filters, available from stock, to make sure the quality of your air supply is sufficient for proper operation of any EXAIR product. Particulate filters remove any suspended solids from the airstream, ensuring the tight orifices in the products remain free of debris. If your system has residual oil, this should also be removed with a coalescing filter. Check out this short video from my colleague, Brian Farno, that demonstrates these filters in action:

Controlling your compressed air pressure at the point of use is an excellent way of minimizing your compressed air usage. Pressure regulators are available to control the air pressure within the system and throttle the appropriate supply of air to any pneumatic device. As the last of the six steps to optimizing your compressed air system, controlling air at the point of use can often be overlooked. using them to minimize your pressure can result in dramatic savings to your costs of compressed air. As pressure and flow are directly related, lowering the pressure supplied results in less compressed air usage. EXAIR recommends operating your Intelligent Compressed Air Products at the minimum pressure necessary to achieve a successful application. If you notice a desirable result at a pressure of 60 PSIG, or even less, there’s no need to run full line pressure. In-line point of use pressure regulators are the simplest and most reliable way to allow you to dial down to the pressure to any compressed air operated product.

Taking this idea of minimizing air usage one step further, you can achieve even greater savings by simply turning the air off when not needed. The most basic option for turning off the air supply is a simple manual valve. EXAIR offers a range of various sized valves to allow you to do just that.

This process can also be automated as well. If you’d like to automate the control of your blowoff, EXAIR offers solenoid valves that can tie into your existing PLC and eliminate unnecessary air usage. For those that want a solution ready to go right out of the box, EXAIR’s Electronic Flow Controller utilizes a photoelectric sensor and solenoid valve tied to a timer that allows you to shut off the air supply when a part or component is not present. This can lead to dramatic air savings in many applications where parts are traveling along a conveyor.

Once you’ve selected an engineered compressed air nozzle for your blow off application, you’ll likely need a solution to mount and position it as well. Here’s where EXAIR’s Stay Set Hoses and Magnetic Bases come into play. EXAIR’s Stay Set Hoses are available from 6”-36” in length with ¼ NPT male threads on each end, or a ¼ NPT male on one end and 1/8 NPT female on the other. The Stay Set Hoses are rigid and allow you to maintain precise positioning of the blow off nozzle. The hoses have “memory” and will not creep or bend. They’re easily repositionable as well, making them an ideal solution for applications that may require frequent repositioning due to varying parts.

In addition to the Stay Set Hoses, EXAIR also has Magnetic Bases available as well. The powerful magnet permits both horizontal and vertical mounting. A manual valve is also included that will allow you to vary the force and flow. Magnetic bases are available with one or two outlets and can be combined with any of our nozzles and Stay Set Hoses to create your own customized blowoff system.

Regardless of your application, EXAIR has the products available from stock to help optimize your processes. These accessories allow you to help optimize the use of your blowoff products and ensure reliable, repeatable performance. If you’d like to discuss an application, give us a call.

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