Anyone running compressed air equipment when the ambient temperature drops near or below freezing should be aware of some simple checks to make sure your production is protected and you avoid expensive repair bills. Follow these quick tips to safeguard your compressed air installation and your facility throughout the winter months.
1. What to consider when the temperature plummets
Cooling water or condensate from the compressed air itself could potentially be a problem area. Whichever type of system you are running it is paramount to make sure your cooling system has been treated, much the same as your car to prevent the cooling water freezing in low temperatures.
Make sure that any drains, pipework, etc. that are exposed (running outside of the building for example) are lagged, much as you would with your own water system at home. This can avoid not only split pipes but also prevents condensate from entering your air supply. In extreme cases it could be beneficial to also add some trace heating (a heating element that runs along the outside of the pipework or drain). This applies particularly if you are using a refrigeration type dryer where potentially the pipework could drop to a lower temperature than the dewpoint on your dryer, resulting in condensate being present after the dryer.
In wet weather, be sure to check air intake openings to make sure there is adequate protection from increased rain (or snow) blowing in from outside, which could potentially saturate the air filter or form ice on the air intake.
If a compressor, dryer or oil-water separator is standing and not being used then remove any free standing condensate or cooling water if not treated, as this can lead to cracked pipes or coolers.
2. Have you considered a heat recovery system?
In optimal conditions, as much as 90 percent of the heat produced by compressing air can be recovered. A heat recovery system can offset the cost of producing hot water for washrooms and equipment cleaning, or the costs of directing warm air into a workspace, warehouse, loading dock or entryway.
Look for rebates or grants from local utility providers to help offset the cost of investment in new, more efficient equipment with energy recovery capabilities. Some utility providers (for example Energia Northern Ireland) offer grants to promote sustainable energy, for example towards heat recovery systems, and for replacing a fixed speed compressor with a variable speed driven model.
If winter-proofing your compressed air system feels too daunting, invest in an ongoing maintenance plan from your air compressor provider. Well-maintained plants are often the most energy efficient and suffer from less downtime than plants that don’t make maintenance a top priority.