Air & Water DO Mix – Why That’s A Problem for Compressed Air Systems

Wherever you go, humidity – and its effects – are an inescapable fact of life. Low humidity areas (I’m looking at you, American Southwest) make for a “dry heat” in the summer that many prefer to the wet & muggy conditions that areas with higher humidity (like much of the rest of the United States) encounter during the “dog days” of summer.

Regardless of human comfort level issues, all atmospheric air contains water vapor in some finite proportion…in fact, next to nitrogen and oxygen, it makes up a bigger percentage of our air’s makeup than the next eleven trace gases combined:

Reference: CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, edited by David R. Lide, 1997.

And, because warmer air is capable of holding higher moisture concentrations (a 20°F rise in temperature doubles the potential for holding moisture), chances are good that it’ll become a bigger problem for your compressed air system in the summertime. So…how BAD of a problem is it? Let’s do some math. Consider a nice, typical summer day in the midwest, when it’s 80°F outside, with a relative humidity of 75% and we’ll use the data from the tables below to calculate how much water collects in the compressed air system:

Source: Compressed Air & Gas Institute Handbook, Chapter 3
Source: Compressed Air & Gas Institute Handbook, Chapter 3

Let’s assume:

  • An industrial air compressor is making compressed air at 100psig, and at a discharge temperature of 100°F.
  • The demand on the compressed air system (all the pneumatic loads it services) is 500 SCFM.

Table 3.3 tells us that, at 80°F and 75% RH, the air the compressor is pulling in has 0.1521 gallons per 1,000 cubic feet.

Table 3.4, tells us that, at 100°F and 100psig, the compressor is discharging air with a moisture content of 0.0478 gallons per 1,000 Standard Cubic Feet.

The difference in these two values is the amount of water that will condense in the receiver for every 1,000 SCF that passes through, or 0.1521-0.0478=0.1043 gallons. Since the demand (e.g., the air flow rate out of the receiver) is 500 SCFM, that’s:

500 SCFM X 60 min/hr X 8 hr/shift X 0.1043 gallons/1,000 SCF = 25 gallons of condensate

That’s 25 gallons that has to be drained from the receiver tank over the course of every eight hours, so a properly operating condensate drain is crucial. There are a few types to choose from, and the appropriate one is oftentimes included by the air compressor supplier.

So, you’ve got a condensate drain on your compressor’s receiver, and it’s working properly. Crisis averted, right? Well, not so fast…that 100°F compressed air is very likely going to cool down as it flows through the distribution header. Remember all that moisture that the hot air holds? Assuming the compressed air cools to 70°F in the header (a reasonable assumption in most industrial settings), a bunch of it is going to condense, and make its way to your air tools, cylinders, blow off devices, etc., which can cause a host of problems.

Reversible Drum Vacs have tight passages where contaminants (like pipe rust) can accumulate and hamper performance. Fortunately, they are designed to be easy to clean and returned to peak performance.

And…I trust you saw this coming…we’re going to calculate just how much condensation we have to worry about. Using table 3.4 again, we see that the header’s air (at 100psig & 70°F) can only hold 0.0182 gallons per 1,000 SCF. So, after cooling down from 100°F (where the air holds 0.0478 gallons per 1,000 SCF) to 70°F, that means 0.0296 gallons per 1,000 SCF will condense. So:

500 SCFM X 60 min/hr X 8 hr/shift X 0.0296 gal/1,000 SCF = 7.1 gallons of condensate

Qualified installers will have sloped the piping away from the compressor, with drip legs strategically placed at low points, so that condensate can drain, collect, and be disposed of…oftentimes via similar devices to the condensate drains you’ll find on the compressor’s main receiver. Good engineering practice, of course, dictates point-of-use filtration – EXAIR Automatic Drain Filter Separators, with 5-micron particulate elements, and centrifugal elements for moisture removal, are also essential to prevent water problems for your compressed air operated products.

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

EXAIR Corporation remains dedicated to helping you get the most out of your compressed air system. If you have questions, give me a call.

Russ Bowman, CCASS

Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Humidification Calculations Related To Atomizing Spray Nozzles

I had an application where a customer needed to have a room at 75% relative humidity (RH).  They produced a nylon backing for carpet, and they needed the high RH to reduce the “stickiness” in the gluing process.  Currently they were at 40% RH in a room that was measured at 40ft long by 20ft wide by 20ft high (12.2m long X 6.1m wide X 6.1m high).  They wondered if our Atomizing Nozzles could help him to increase the relative humidity in the room.  I decided to put on my engineering hat to calculate the amount of water that he would need to increase the humidity.

Relative humidity (RH) is the percentage of water vapor as compared to the saturation level at the same temperature.  So, at 100% RH, the ambient air is saturated and cannot hold any more water vapor. You can feel the difference in the Amazon versus Arizona at the same temperature.  With dryer conditions, water can be added to increase the relative humidity; like a humidifier.  With the EXAIR Atomizing Nozzles, we can break liquid water into very small droplets to help increase the humidification rate.  For the customer above, I will have to determine what size and how many Atomizing Nozzles are required. 

Equation 1

H = V * ACH * (Wf – Wi) / (v * 7000)                                        


H – mass flow rate of water, Lbs/hr                                         

V – Volume of room, ft3                                                                

ACH – Air changes per hour                                                        

Wf – Final Water Content, Grains/lb of dry air                     

Wi – Initial Water Content, Grains/lb of dry air                   

v – Specific Volume of Air, ft3/lb                                               

Conversion Constant – 7000 Grains/lb                   

The customer stated that the room was set to 68oF (20oC), and they used an air handling unit (AHU) that produced 1,600 cfm (44.5 M3/min) of air into the room.  From these factors, we can determine some of the variables above.  For the Air Changes per Hour (ACH), we can use Equation 2. 

Equation 2

ACH = 60 * Q / V


ACH – Air changes per hour

Q – Volumetric flow rate, CFM

V – Volume of room, ft3                

The volume of the room is V = 40ft X 20ft X 20ft = 16,000 ft3.  The volumetric flow rate by the AHU is 1,600 ft3/min.  From Equation 2,

ACH = 60 * (1600 ft3/min) / 16,000 ft3

ACH = 6/hr. 

In determining the water content values, you can find a chart online to determine the amount of water vapor that is contained in the air at a specific temperature and RH.  At 68oF (20oC), I was able to find the following information:

Wi = 40.58 Grains/lb of dry air at 40% RH                              

Wf = 76.71 Grains/lb of dry air at 75% RH                             

v = 14.286 ft3/lb @ 68 deg. F, 1 atm                        

V = 16,000 ft3                    

If we plug in the numbers that we have into Equation 1, we can determine how much water that we will need to spray into the air to increase the RH from 40% to 75%.

H = V * ACH * (Wf – Wi) / (v * 7000)                                        

H = 16,000 ft^3 * 6/hr * (76.71 – 40.58 Grains/lb) / (14.286 ft^3/lb * 7000 Grains/lb)

H = 34.68 lb/hr                 

With my prior line of work in room humidification, we know that there is a lead/lag time between measuring and humidifying.  This may seem complicated, but it is important to get a steady state condition for the Relative Humidity.  To help this customer, I recommend a cycle time of 15 second to turn on and wait 105 seconds to re-measure the RH.  This will help to not over-saturate the room.  As for the location of the Atomizing Nozzles, we want to be near the ceiling to get the most “air” time to vaporize.  We also have to be careful to not allow the water spray to hit any objects or each other as this will cause the water to condense. 

To start, I suggested our model AT2010SS No Drip Internal Mix 360o Hollow Circular Pattern.  This type of nozzle helps to extend the settling time of the water droplets; the amount of time that the droplets are suspended in the air.  The orientation of the spray is outward in all direction to increase coverage.  With the No Drip option, it is controlled by the air pressure to open and close the liquid side for spraying.  When the compressed air is turned off, a valve will seal the liquid side to not allow any drips.  It also helps to eliminate the need for any liquid valves next to the Atomizing Nozzles.  When it comes to cycle spraying, the No Drip option works wonderful. 

In taking into consideration the flow rate required during operation time, we can calculate the amount of liquid flow required for the Atomizing Nozzle in Equation 3.

Equation 3:                                                                                        

Flow rate: Q = H / (D * T * f)                                                       


Q – Liquid flow rate (gal/hr or GPH)

H – Mass Flow Rate (lbs/hr)                                         

D – Density of Water (8.34 lbs/gal)                                           

T – Span division (no scale)                                                          

f – Intermittent Factor (no scale)

To determine the number of Atomizing Nozzles, we want to look at the time determination with the controller and the intermittence of operation.  With the ACH = 6/hour, the air in the room will change over every 10 minutes.  We want to have a balance between the new air and the existing air.  So, with the time measurement of 15 seconds on and 105 seconds off (2 minutes), we will have 5 humidity checks over the 10 minutes.  We can divide the amount of water to be injected into the room by the span division, T, to cover the time span for check and atomization.  Thus, T = 5.  We will also have to adjust the amount for only running 15 second intervals.  So, the intermittent factor, f, will be 0.0042 (the 15 seconds portion of the hour).

With these values, we get:

Q = (34.68 lbs/hr) / (8.34 lbs/gal * 5 * 0.0042)                     

Q = 198 gal/hr (GPH)                                                                     

In the catalog, the model AT2010SS will flow 14.7 GPH (55.7 LPH) of water at 60 PSIG (4.1 Bar) liquid pressure.  If we divide these out, it will tell us how many atomizing nozzles that is needed to humidify the room.  

Number of Nozzles: 198 GPH/14.7 GPH = 13.5 or 14 Atomizing Nozzles.

With the above Atomizing Nozzles, the company was able to control the RH at a high level for his manufacturing process.  In turn, he was able to increase productivity and reduce downtime.  If you need to increase the level of humidity in your area, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR for help.  We can make it feel like the Amazon.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Photo: Forest by janeb13Pixabay License

Refrigerant Dryers for Compressed Air

A refrigerant air dryer is is used with compressed air for removing moisture from the compressed air system . Compressed air always contains water because your are taking in outside air which contains moisture. It is vital to have a compressed air dryer system in place to protect your equipment and tooling from damage. How does a refrigerant dryer work and why select this type of dryer system?

Refrigerant air dryers are commonly used as they are easy to operate, economical and low maintenance. Once installed it is likely that you may never have to think about it again. The system works by cooling the air to around 37 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point all the water vapor condenses into water. The water can then be removed by a simple water trap. Once the liquid water has been removed the air gets reheated to room temperature. Since most of the water has been condensed and removed the reheated air will be significantly dryer than from before.

Fundamental Schematic of a Refrigerant-Type Dryer

The cooling process of refrigerated dryers is the same process used in refrigerators and freezers. The liquid refrigerant is evaporated in a separate circuit and used to cool down the compressed air. As the air cools the refrigerant gets warmer. The refrigerant moves into a compressor and gets re-cooled in a condenser, this process is a continuous cycle as more air is introduced into the compressor.

Here a few items to consider when making your purchase:

Maximum pressure: The dryers max pressure should be the same or higher than your compressor.

Inlet Temperature: If you exceed maximum inlet temperature you are at risk of damaging parts of your equipment. Some refrigerated dryers have an after cooler making sure your compressed air stays within acceptable temperature ranges.

Maximum Flow: Make sure your dryer has the capacity needed to there are no drops in air pressure.

Maximum Room Temperature: If you are placing your refrigerated dryer into a room with a hot environment there is a change that it could overheat, Make sure that your max operating temperature for the dryer is able to accommodate the max temperatures in the room where it will be operating.

EXAIR wants you to be successful in every aspect of your compressed air system. If you have a need for any of EXAIRS Intelligent Compressed Air Systems please give any of our Application Engineers a call or contact us through our TecHelp.

Eric Kuhnash
Application Engineer
Twitter: Twitter: @EXAIR_EK

The Impact of Cold Temperatures and Lower Humidity on Static Electricity

This time of the year it is not uncommon to feel a slight shock after walking across a carpeted surface and touching a door knob. This little “jolt” is a result of fast-moving electrons leaping from your body to the door knob, or vice versa. As your feet shuffle across the surface of a rug or carpet, your body will either gain or lose electrons. Touching a conductive surface then causes these electrons to leap from one place to another. This is known as static electricity.


If you notice, this happens to occur much more often during colder winter months (if you’re one of those fortunate people to live outside of this sensation we call “cold” please don’t rub it in!). The reason that you experience static shocks more frequently during winter is due to the relative humidity. At colder temperatures, air does not hold as much moisture as it does when it’s warm and moisture helps to conduct electrical charges. Even though you’re heating your house to a similar temperature, the air that is being drawn into your home and heated is still the dry cold air containing less moisture.

The amount of moisture in the air is expressed as relative humidity. This value is given as a percentage of water vapor in the air, compared to how much it could hold at that temperature. In conditions of lower relative humidity, static charges build up much easier. When the relative humidity is high, there’s a higher concentration of water molecules present in the air. These water molecules “coat” the surface of the material, allowing electrons to move more freely and form a layer over the material. This layer of water molecules acts like a lubricant, reducing the forces that cause static to generate. This is why static is much more noticeable during the winter months.

Gen4 Static
Gen4 Static Eliminators

There are many applications that static only appears when the seasonal climate changes. Issues can manifest in the form of nuisance shocks to operators, materials jamming, tearing or curling, product sticking to itself and to rollers, dust clinging to product, and many more. If static is causing problems in your processes, we have a wide variety of Static Eliminators available from stock. Don’t just deal with the problems until humid conditions return, get a permanent solution in place that’ll neutralize the static and eliminate a troublesome application. Contact an EXAIR Application Engineer today and we’ll help to diagnose the root cause of the problem and recommend the best solution.

Tyler Daniel
Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_TD


Photo courtesy of Ken Bosma via Flickr Creative Commons License