Help Your Air Compressors Beat the Heat
Jane Alexander | June 16, 2017
Summertime: The word conjures up images of relaxing on a beach with peaceful waves lapping at the shore. Most people equate summer with some degree of fun in the sun. For facility mangers, though, it can be a stressful time, given the unscheduled “vacations” that air compressors like to take during summer months and an associated rise in maintenance and energy costs.
With often-extreme temperatures and substantial increases in humidity, summertime presents textbook conditions for unexpected compressor shutdowns. Failure of this equipment can result in high repair costs and, more important, a disruption in production schedules that can lead to more costs and, ultimately, less revenue.
What can your operations do to battle the effect of summer on these systems? Beth Morgan of Atlas Copco Compressors (atlascopco.com, Rock Hill, SC) points to the following items that deserve special attention in terms of summer maintenance.
Sufficient and temperate airflow is crucial to compressor performance. During the sweltering months of summer, confirm there is nothing prohibiting air from flowing freely around the unit and that the recommended ambient temperature is maintained. Repair loose foam or panels and remove any obstructions in or around the unit.
A compressor’s oil isn’t protected from the consequences of hot weather. Sweltering heat can decrease oil life expectancy, leading to damaging repercussions on the unit’s element. Using the correct oil (replaced at proper intervals, of course), and keeping oil filters clean will help ensure that your compressors run cool and consume less energy.
Inspect the quality of compressor coolers. Clogged or blocked coolers can cause an air compressor to overheat. Be sure to examine the cooling fan for dust and residue that can prevent it from working properly. A neglected cooler may become blocked, requiring removal for a deeper cleaning.
Summer’s humidity can lead to greater levels of condensate from a compressor than what you would see in cooler months. Make sure drains are working properly and capable of handling the extra water. Confirm that the condensate is filtered properly to prevent oil from being released into the drain.
When air filters become dirty, airflow is inhibited. If that happens, the compressor must compensate for the drops in pressure, which leads to higher running temperatures. Oil filters are another matter. Oil quality deteriorates at higher temperatures, leaving behind greater deposits in the filter. Be sure to replace your units’ air and oil filters at the beginning of summer. Your compressor systems will run cooler, and use less energy with clean filters.
Beth Morgan is a manager with the Compressor Technique Service (CTS) division of Atlas Copco Compressors LLC, Rock Hill, SC. For more information, visit atlascopco.com.