Compressed Air Systems Equipment Reliability & Maintenance Center

Regular Checks Keep Compressed Air Efficient

EP Editorial Staff | September 1, 2021

Compressed-air systems typically have 25% of their air production diverted through leaks in lines, gaskets, fittings, valves, clamps, and connections.

Poorly maintained compressed-air systems can be the source of significant energy waste and reduced production efficiency.

If your system was properly specified and the compressor seems to be running more than normal and/or workers are constantly asking for more air, it’s likely that your maintenance program needs some adjustment. A first step is to establish a regular, preferably daily, check of basic compressed-air-system components. The larger the system, the more critical the checks become. These tips and tricks, compiled by Brad Taylor of Fluid Aire Dynamics, Schaumburg, IL, provide a good starting point for a program aimed at optimizing your compressed-air system performance.

Follow instructions

It may seem obvious but reading the manual for your air compressor is a brief time investment with big payoff. You’ll learn the recommended maintenance schedule and operating guidelines for your unit. With this information, you can extend equipment life and minimize downtime.

Check oil levels daily

Operating with insufficient oil is a quick way to seriously damage a compressor.

Clean intake vents

Keep air intakes clean, especially if the environment is dirty or dusty. Buildup on intake vents forces the compressor to work harder and robs it of pressure.

Replace the separator element

The separator element needs to be replaced every 2,000 to 8,000 hr. of use (depending upon make and model of the compressor) and prevents excessive oil usage. Analysis has shown that compressor energy costs rise by 1% for every 2 psi of separator pressure drop.

Keep things tight

Vibration from compressor operation can loosen screws, nuts, and bolts. Check them periodically and tighten the loose ones.

Keep an eye on hoses

Inspect all of your compressor’s hoses regularly because any cracks can lead to leaks, which in turn strain the compressor’s other components. Replace any hoses that are cracked or damaged.

Drain moisture and contaminants

The receiver tank collects moisture from the air that it’s compressing. Empty this regularly to prevent water build up in the system. Also, check systems such as filters and separators that remove oil and other contaminants. Watch for condensate stuck upstream of the drain.

Monitor temperature

The manufacturer will specify acceptable operating ranges. Excessive heat will cause extraordinary wear and shorten your compressor’s life. To help with this, the compressor may have a built-in safety shutdown system if it gets too hot. Test this feature to make sure it’s functioning properly.

Patrol for leaks

Leaks can originate from lines, gaskets, fittings, valves, clamps, and connections. They can divert an estimated 25% of compressed air, so check the entire system regularly. Ultrasonic leak detectors can be helpful.

Look and listen

Keep your ears tuned for strange noises and watch for things such as excessive vibration or belts that slip. Know what your compressor’s gauges should read when it’s operating normally. If you monitor your machine closely, you can prevent major damage. EP

For more information about compressed-air systems, visit


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