The weather outside is frightful! Use these tips to preserve the integrity of your compressed air system and help you ensure it operates safely and efficiently in the cold.

As autumn quickly gives way to winter, your industrial air compressor may face some operational challenges — especially if your region experiences below-freezing temperatures.icy

One of the primary reasons that compressed air systems may face trouble in the winter is the phenomenon of frozen condensate. All air compressors naturally produce condensate, but when condensate freezes, it can impede system functions, and may lead to frozen control lines, cracking heat exchangers, frozen valves, and more.

Follow these best practices for prepping and operating you compressor during cold winter months to ensure its continued durability and effectiveness.

1. Weather-Proof Your Air Compressor

Unless your air compressor was factory built in preparation for wintry conditions, you will want to winterize your compressor to protect it against rain, sleet, snow, and ice by conducting a thorough audit of your machine. Follow these general guidelines for weatherproofing:

  • Exposed Parts: Inspect any external parts that may be exposed to the elements. If subject to freezing conditions you will need to provide a heat source and/or insulation to prevent damage from frozen condensate.

  • Lubricant: Check the Pour Point on your lubricant to ensure it remains fluid in the environment.  Thick viscous lubricant won’t flow properly and can result in premature wear inside the compressor pump.

  • Dryers: If you haven’t already, it may be prudent to install new system dryers that are prepared to handle changing conditions or add additional dryers to mitigate condensate when the airlines are subject to sub-freezing ambient conditions.

  • Heaters: Consider fitting your compressed air system with a heater to keep the lubricant warm and to mitigate frozen condensate that could potentially impede critical functions. In addition, consider installing trace heating — which augment the functions of dryers and heaters — to keep pipes warm and free of condensate and harmful ice.

2. Practice Thorough Maintenance All Winter Long

Regular maintenance is perhaps as crucial as the initial weatherizing of your machine. If you are constantly running your compressor in temperatures near freezing, it will require regular weather-conscious servicing. Follow these critical maintenance guidelines:

  • Drains: Check all drains, as a backed-up or damaged drain can lead to frozen condensate that can break components and plug airlines or orifices. If you do not have an automatic drainage system, manually empty drains of condensate each day to prevent freezing.

  • Lubricant: Routinely check the state of your lubricant, as cold temperatures can cause lubricants to thicken and be less effective. Further, thickened lubricant demands more power to rotate the pump which strains and overloads the motor while, thick lubricant doesn’t flow well which can starve the rotating parts of lubricant resulting in premature wear.

  • Filters: Evaluate and change your filters on a regular basis.

  • Leak Detection: Leak repair is critical to ensuring your machine’s efficiency, as leaks can result in major energy losses. Watch for leaks and consider hiring a third-party servicer who can screen for undetected air leaks with ultrasonic leak detection technology.

3. Maintain an Ambient Indoor Environment

If your compressor is located outdoors, you may run into some major issues in freezing conditions — so when possible, it’s always best to keep your system in a heated and insulated compressor room. These tips will help you in maintaining ambient indoor conditions for compressor operation during the winter:

  • Room Heating: You simply need enough heat energy inside of the room to keep the room above freezing when the compressor is not in operation.

  • Ventilation: Every compressor requires a certain volume of ambient air changes within the room to ensure proper ventilation during the hottest months of the year.  Thermostatically controlled fans and exhaust louvers only operate when temperatures rise above a set point temperature and remain closed during cold conditions..

  • Temperature: No industrial air compressor should be operating in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and many experts recommend keeping your compressor room around or above 45 degrees during the winter.

To minimize energy losses while optimizing the productivity, energy efficiency, and durability of your compressed air system throughout the winter, ensure system operators weatherize it in advance, maintain it through regular auditing, and create acceptable ambient indoor conditions.

Topics: Air Compressor, sustainability, best practices

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