Desiccant Dryers: Heat of Compression Type

Desiccant Dryers

Desiccant dryers come in different forms.  They are designed for water sensitive areas as they can reach a dew point to -40oF (-40oC) and below.  That means that water will not condense in the compressed air lines until the temperature is below the dew point.  The desiccant inside these units will adsorb the water vapor as compressed air passes through a bed.  Once the desiccant bed is full of water vapor, it will have to be regenerated.

A typical system will use two towers that will switch back and forth.  One tower is used to remove the water from the compressed air system, and the other is used to regenerate the desiccant.  In this blog, I will cover how the desiccant can be regenerated with a Heat of Compression (HOC) type of desiccant dryer.

An air compressor is not an efficient device.  For every eight horsepower of energy to make compressed air, only one horsepower is used as work.  And for compressed air drying, the type of desiccant dryer is important.  Regeneration of desiccant beads can be done either with non-heated or heated means. The non-heated, or heatless version will use 15% of your compressed air to purge through the regeneration tank.  The air escapes into the atmosphere with the water vapor and is wasted.

With the heated type desiccant dryers, they come in three different categories.  One type uses a heater to increase the temperature of the compressed air. At the elevated temperature, the purge requirement can be reduced to 7% for the regeneration of desiccant.  But, still compressed air is wasted.  To cut the purge to zero, a blower-type heated desiccant dryer can be used.  Instead of heating the compressed air, the blower will push ambient air through a heater to regenerate the desiccant bed.  But can you get more efficient than that?

Well, what if you can remove the heater and the blower?  The heat of compression type of desiccant dryers can do that.  Remember above when I mentioned that “for every eight horsepower of energy to make compressed air, only one horsepower is used as work”.  The seven horsepower of energy that is lost is given off as heat.  The HOC dryer uses that heat to regenerate the desiccant bed.  So, the overall energy is reduced even further.  There is a restriction when using this type of dryer.  The air compressor will have to be oil-free because oil will coat the desiccant beads and stop the adsorption rate.

When the air is compressed, heat is generated.  This heated air can reach around 200oF (93oC).  With the higher temperature, air can hold more water vapor.  As the heated air passes through the desiccant bed that needs to be regenerated, the water vapor is picked up from the desiccant beads.  The saturated air would then pass through an aftercooler.  The aftercooler reduces the air temperature below 100oF (38oC) which will cause the water to drop out.  From the aftercooler, the air will then pass through the desiccant bed in the drying tower.   When the cycle time is reached, the towers will switch to regenerate the second tower.

Line Vacs can convey many things.

With these types of dryers, the desiccant beads will start to degrade from regeneration.  To help replace them, EXAIR offers a Line Vac.  Instead of climbing a ladder with many bags of desiccant, the Line Vac can do this safely and ergonomically.   EXAIR Line Vacs use a small amount of compressed air to generate a powerful vacuum by a Venturi effect.  The unique design of the generators creates a high velocity of air to create a low pressure on one side and a powerful thrust on the other.  The Line Vac can pick up and move solid material vertically up to 20 feet (6 meters).  You can watch a video on the operation of a Line Vac HERE.  The EXAIR Line Vacs are very quiet, compact, rugged, and powerful.  To replace the desiccant, it can do it quickly and safely.

If you need to convey solid materials in a quick and easy way, an EXAIR Line Vac could be a solution for you.  We have them in a variety of materials and designs to match your application.  Ergonomically, they can save the back-wrenching labor of picking up bags, climbing stairs, and dumping material into towers.  If you want to know if the EXAIR Line Vac could work for you, an Application Engineer at EXAIR can help to recommend the best unit for you.

John Ball
Application Engineer

Twitter: @EXAIR_jb


Photo: Heated Desiccant Dryer by Compressor1Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivs 2.0 Generic

Supply Side Review: Heat of Compression-Type Dryers

The supply side of a compressed air system has many critical parts that factor in to how well the system operates and how easily it can be maintained.   Dryers for the compressed air play a key role within the supply side are available in many form factors and fitments.  Today we will discuss heat of compression-type dryers.

Heat of compression-type dryer- Twin Tower Version

Heat of compression-type dryers are a regenerative desiccant dryer that take the heat from the act of compression to regenerate the desiccant.  By using this cycle they are grouped as a heat reactivated dryer rather than membrane technology, deliquescent type, or refrigerant type dryers.   They are also manufactured into two separate types.

The single vessel-type heat of compression-type dryer offers a no cycling action in order to provide continuous drying of throughput air.  The drying process is performed within a single pressure vessel with a rotating desiccant drum.  The vessel is divided into two air streams, one is a portion of air taken straight off the hot air exhaust from the air compressor which is used to provide the heat to dry the desiccant. The second air stream is the remainder of the air compressor output after it has been processed through the after-cooler. This same air stream passes through the drying section within the rotating desiccant drum where the air is then dried.  The hot air stream that was used for regeneration passes through a cooler just before it gets reintroduced to the main air stream all before entering the desiccant bed.  The air exits from the desiccant bed and is passed on to the next point in the supply side before distribution to the demand side of the system.

The  twin tower heat of compression-type dryer operates on the same theory and has a slightly different process.  This system divides the air process into two separate towers.  There is a saturated tower (vessel) that holds all of the desiccant.  This desiccant is regenerated by all of the hot air leaving the compressor discharge.  The total flow of compressed air then flows through an after-cooler before entering the second tower (vessel) which dries the air and then passes the air flow to the next stage within the supply side to then be distributed to the demand side of the system.

The heat of compression-type dryers do require a large amount of heat and escalated temperatures in order to successfully perform the regeneration of the desiccant.  Due to this they are mainly observed being used on systems which are based on a lubricant-free rotary screw compressor or a centrifugal compressor.

No matter the type of dryer your system has in place, EXAIR still recommends to place a redundant point of use filter on the demand side of the system.  This helps to reduce contamination from piping, collection during dryer down time, and acts as a fail safe to protect your process.  If you would like to discuss supply side or demand side factors of your compressed air system please contact us.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer


Heat of compression image: Compressed Air Challenge: Drive down your energy costs with heat of compression recovery:


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
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD


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