Reliability & Maintenance Center

Consider Your Air Compressor’s Maintenance Budget

Jane Alexander | October 10, 2016

Forgetting or deferring maintenance can cause annual air-compressor costs to skyrocket. Updated annually, an air-compressor’s maintenance budget can reveal maintenance patterns that help you schedule and perform future preventive work.

Large capital purchases, such as compressors, require careful planning and financial forecasting. After the initial cost, many organizations still have to pay down interest and principle. While they typically include those line items in their budgets, they often forget to factor in another crucial cost: annual maintenance. According to Atlas Copco’s Trey Ragsdale, while maintenance only composes about 5% to 10% of annual compressor-related expenditures, those costs can increase exponentially if maintenance is forgotten or deferred, causing unexpected and expensive downtime.

Compared with the overall life-cycle cost of compressor ownership, maintenance expenditures are minimal. A sound maintenance budget will help ensure they stay that way. To develop an accurate picture of these costs, Ragsdale, who’s with the company’s Compressor Technique Service (CTS) division in Rock Hill, SC, says it’s important for end users to pay attention to these seven aspects of their compressor systems:

Type of compressor
The type of compressor(s) you run can greatly affect service costs. For instance, oil-lubricated compressors have more oil to change than oil-free compressors, thus increasing the cost of service.

Installation conditions
Equipment installed in severe-duty applications may require more-frequent service. If your compressor is housed in a hot, humid, or dusty area, take that fact into account when planning your maintenance budget.

Operating cycle
If your equipment operates on a cyclical schedule—seasonal production is a good example—your maintenance schedule will need to be adjusted accordingly. Remember that your equipment should never go more than a year between service interventions.

Degree of utilization
Generally, maintenance requirements grow with increased equipment-operation hours. If you have back-up compressors and auxiliary equipment, operating hours can be cycled and the maintenance schedule lengthened.

Cooling system
Your cooling-system’s maintenance requirements should be evaluated separately from your compressed-air equipment. The type of cooling system also affects the compressor service schedule. If you house an open cooling tower or air-cooled compressors in a space with dust, particulates, or lint in the air, the compressor’s coolers could need more frequent cleaning.

Auxiliary equipment
It’s not just your compressors that have to be serviced regularly; dryers, filters, and other associated compressed-air equipment also require service. Keep in mind that auxiliary equipment often needs more-frequent servicing than the compressors.

Safety levels
An organization’s safety policies also define how often its equipment must be serviced or inspected. Knowing your company’s requirements up front can help you avoid unforeseen costs later.

In addition
Ragsdale said it’s important to review and restructure your air-compressor’s maintenance budget each year. Changing conditions, i.e., added compressor units, increased air demand, and other factors, may alter how much money you need to set aside to keep equipment and processes running smoothly. Annual maintenance can also reveal inefficiencies in equipment that is underperforming or overworked. Generating and updating this type of budget can reveal patterns that will help you schedule and perform future preventive work.

Regarding the service-agreement approach: High-quality agreements will detail a plan that covers regular maintenance, machine upgrades or improvements, and breakdown repairs at a fixed annual cost. A baseline of your annual compressor-maintenance costs can show you if a service agreement is worth your time
and money.

For more information on compressed air systems and services, visit



Jane Alexander

Sign up for insights, trends, & developments in
  • Machinery Solutions
  • Maintenance & Reliability Solutions
  • Energy Efficiency
Return to top