Do I Need A Dryer?

Do I really need a dryer?

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Does My Compressed Air System Need A Dryer?

The simple answer to that question is yes, the chances are your air compressor will need a dryer – buy why? And what sort of dryer?.

Air holds moisture. Every cloud is just a large sponge containing water or ice, after all. So when air is sucked into your air compressor, it’s inevitable that moisture gets sucked in too. Then, when the air molecules are squeezed together, the effect is a bit like squeezing a sponge. And all that water has to go somewhere.

Can water damage my air compressor?

Yes, and in a range of ways. Water that finds its way to the air tool can be spat out – and whilst that may not be a problem for some manufacturing processes, it can for others (notably ‘clean’ operations like food, drink and pharmaceutical production).

But water left to sit in the system can cause other problems. Rust gradually breaks down mechanical systems, switches and valves. And every motor will find it harder to push water around a system, which increases wear and the risk of breakdown.

Don’t air compressors come with a drain valve?

Yes. Every compressor has a valve to enable you to drain condensate (that is, the mix of water and oil that collects in your air receiver tank).

Many compressors drain automatically. The problem is that, whilst most of the moisture within the system can be drained in this way, you’ll still find water elsewhere in lines and hoses.

How do I know if there’s water in my system?

Water in your compressed air system really is an inevitability.

If you run an air compressor in the UK and don’t currently have a dryer installed, there will be water within the system (although, depending on the application, you may not find the volume of water is enough to cause problems).

If, however, you notice any of the following…

  • Water dripping from hoses
  • Water vapour coming from your tool exhaust
  • Water spots on the products you’re using air tools to manufacture
  • Signs of corrosion anywhere along your compressed air system

…it’s a clear sign that not only is there water in your air system, but that it is (or has the potential to) be doing damage.

What does an air dryer do?

Air dryers typically work in one of two ways.

Refrigerant dryers are most common, and remove moisture from the air by chilling it to a point at which it condenses, making it easy to remove from the system before it has a chance to cause problems. In most air compressor setups, the refrigerant dryer will be the natural and most cost-effective choice.

For applications requiring particularly dry air, an alternative dryer is used. Rather than chilling the warm, compressed air, desiccant dryers effectively ‘scrub’ it using an absorbent material.

Talk to us about the right dryer for your application.

Why doesn’t everyone use a desiccant dryer?

You might think, given that a desiccant dryer removes more moisture from the air, that it would be the natural choice for all air drying. The reality, however, is that there’s something of a trade-off in air flow when you use a desiccant dryer.

Think of what happens when you accidentally suck up a piece of paper when vacuuming. With even a thin piece of paper covering the vacuum nozzle, you notice an immediate drop off in air flow. The same is true of a desiccant dryer, which will consume between 2% and 20% of your CFM (depending on the specifics of the dryer).

So if you’re going to be using a desiccant dryer, you may need a more powerful compressor to maintain pressure and you’ll have to work the compressor harder – meaning more motor-wear and greater need for regular maintenance.

Some applications warrant that trade-off. But if yours doesn’t, a refrigerant dryer may be perfectly sufficient for the job while reducing running and maintenance costs.

Can I dispose of condensate anywhere?

No. Although your dryer will remove most of the moisture from the system, the moisture will contain more than water.

Oil vapour and other contaminants (like dust and dirt particles) will also be trapped by the dryers and these will need to be separated before you can send the clean water to your foul drains.

For that, you’ll need an oil/water separator.

If your compressor currently discharges into the drains, you will need to take action to prevent this. Not doing so could result in a fine.

Find the right air dryer with Algar Air

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