PROTECT YOUR AIR SYSTEM!
FIGHT FREEZING TEMPS
Here in the Midwest, winter’s cold ambient temperatures can cause serious issues in compressed air systems, creating blockages, mechanical failures, and increased operating costs. The following tips can help mitigate these impacts, or even eliminate them completely with optimized systems design!
ISSUE: FREEZING CONDENSATE
Winter conditions can create extreme temperature differences within compressed air systems (especially for air systems in exposed or unheated environments), which generally makes it easier for the moisture entrained in compressed air to form as liquid condensate within the system.
This liquid condensate can then freeze in things like piping, fittings, valves, instrument control lines, pneumatic cylinders, mufflers, drains, tanks, and more, preventing the component from operating properly and potentially creating a cascade of failures.
Complete blockages that can cause plant down time
Partial blockages or accumulated ice will increase pressure drop, leading to less air at the point-of-use while reducing compressor performance & efficiency
Malfunction of components and the processes they control
Increased chance of tank or component failure
A properly selected and sized air dryer is the #1 best defense against condensate, and will create clean, dry air that removes condensate before it has a chance to create problems!
- In general, dryers should be specified for a dew point 20°F below the lowest ambient temperature encountered.
- For air systems in unheated or outdoor environments, this will generally require desiccant air dryers, which can achieve dew points of -40°F (or even -100°F for some Ingersoll Rand desiccant dryers!)
- Because unheated or outdoor environments often have ambient winter temperatures below the Dew Point rating of most refrigerated dryers (often ~38°F), most are inadequate for these applications and will not remove enough condensate.
- “In almost every operation, clean, dry compressed air will result in lower operating costs” – from Compressed air and gas drying, Compressed Air and Gas Institute (CAGI)
Use heat trace tape and pipe insulation to winterize exposed piping, condensate drain lines and drip legs, and drain bowls. Regularly check that drains are working properly – a frozen drain can cause condensate to build-up significantly and create problems!
ISSUE: INCREASED OIL VISCOSITY
Air compressors are critically dependent on oil to lubricate moving parts, transfer heat from internal components to heat exchangers, and create seals between parts in the airend, increasing compression efficiency. Winter conditions can impede the ability of oil to perform these important roles, decreasing efficiency (which increases operating costs) while also decreasing performance and equipment service life.
Reduced lubricity and increased drag on motor, which can lead to breakers tripping, increased power consumption, and higher operating expenses
Cold starts can also cause wear and tear on the motor and airend, leading to catastrophic and/or premature failures in some cases
Use a full synthetic or blended synthetic air compressor oil, which will maintain the proper viscosity throughout a greater temperature range. Plus, this also allows a longer interval between oil changes!
Modifications like sump or crankcase heaters can keep lubricant warm
BONUS TIP: Regularly check that there are no signs of condensate in the oil, which will make it appear milky or light brown. Identifying this as early as possible can make a significant difference, possibly preventing huge damages!
- Diagnostic tools like oil analysis can also provide early warnings of issues that could be related to the effects of cold temperatures, and is standard with all our Preventative Maintenance service.
ISSUE: SNOW OR FREEZING RAIN IN AIR INTAKE
Intake filters that draw in air from the outdoors can be exposed to snow and freezing rain, introducing it into the air system
Snow or freezing rain that is drawn in through the compressor intake can lead to mechanical failure, including the possibility of catastrophic failure
Ensure that exposed air intakes have proper rain/snow hoods in place
These tips aren’t specific to one issue and can address a wide range of winter-related issues!
Weatherproof the Compressor Room:
- Repair weather stripping and replace worn areas
- Use cabinet or ambient heaters. If already installed, ensure they are working properly and set to the correct temperature
- Compressor rooms don’t need to be room-temp – even increasing the ambient temp to just 45°F will help significantly!
Ensure Proper Ventilation:
- Adjust louvers to minimize cold air and/or use automatic thermostatically controlled louvers.
- If possible, consider installing a heat recovery system that harnesses compressor heat and ducts it into the building during cold months. 80-93% of the energy used by a compressor is usually wasted as heat, but this will capture and reuse it for space heating, process heating, water heating, make-up air heating, boiler water pre-heating, and more! Learn more with this article on the “Heat-Reclaim Economics of Air and Water-cooler Air Compressors” from Compressed Air Best Practices
Sources & Further Reading:
- “Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late, Winterize Your Air Compressor,” Ingersoll Rand
- “Compressed Air & Gas Drying,” Compressed Air and Gas Institute (CAGI)
- “Cold Weather & Air Compressors,” FS Curtis
- “5 Tips for winterizing your compressed air system,” Kaeser Compressors
- “Winterization,” “Prepare your compressed air system for winter: More information,” “Prepare your compressed air system for winter: Final thoughts,” CompressedAirEducation.com
- “Using an air compressor in cold weather,” Kaishan
- “Heat-Reclaim Economics of Air and Water-Cooled Air Compressors,” Compressed Air Best Practices
What else can you do?
ONE STEP SOLUTION: CALL A-L-L EQUIPMENT
Our experts can do the heavy lifting needed to winter-proof your air system, giving maximum performance and reliability. Our Service Techs work on compressors from every manufacturer, and will thoroughly inspect your unit and perform all maintenance needed.
Ever wonder if your air system is sized and configured correctly, or just want a second opinion? Our Air System Experts have saved customers tens of thousands annually with just minor system changes – sometimes without purchasing any new equipment!
We can’t promise that we’ll find easy savings like that for every customer, but we can promise that our experts will take the time to learn your needs, provide honest information, and (if needed) recommend the best possible solutions!
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