Why Clean Air?
Why Does My Air Compressor Need Clean Air?
Clean air & air compressors are essential companions. But why?
When air compressors suck in air to compress, that’s not all they take in.
Your typical factory floor or workshop isn’t a sterile environment, which means there’s lots of opportunity for ‘contamination’. Depending on your business, not all of that contamination may be bad – some of it may even be beneficial at times, but there’s a balance to be struck which will be different for every business.
What contaminants affect my air compressor?
Water: There’s really nothing you can do to prevent water appearing in your compressor – it’s an inevitable by-product of compression. Too much water, however, can rot tanks. It can also rust air tools and potentially cause production problems (a little water spitting out of your air drill may not be a huge problem, but water in your paint sprayer probably will be).
Oil: Any compressor that uses oil as a coolant will emit a little oil as vapour, which the compressor can then suck back in. In small amounts, this may not be major issue. A little oil might actually help to keep your air tools lubricated. Too much oil in the air, however, could cause problems.
Dust: When dust, pollen or other particles are sucked into your compressor they have the potential not only to contaminate products or finishes, they can clog lines, tools, filters and separators. Depending on your compressor type, they can also wear down screws or cylinders.
Clean air is important to protect production, to protect quality and to protect the working life of your equipment.
Not every business will need the same standard of clean air, but every business will need to consider what their optimal standard is.
There’s clean & there’s clean
Depending on where your air compressor is being used, you’ll have a different definition of ‘clean’.
In food production, pharmaceuticals or for compressors used in dentistry and other medical applications, ‘clean’ means scrupulously clean. In particular, that means removing oil vapour, which is why all the above applications will typically use an oil free compressor.
How do we ensure our compressor can access clean air?
Effectively there are two approaches to this issue.
One is to rely on inline filtration, driers and oil/water separators to scrub the air that enters your compressor. This option may be fine in relatively clean environments or where compressors are used only occasionally. Where the workplace is dusty, however, you could find the filters and separator quickly become clogged.
In dirtier working areas, therefore, the second option would be to install ducting to ensure a flow of clean air to the compressor and the efficient removal of exhaust afterwards.