How to Maintenance Your Air Compressor System During Every Season - Atlas Copco USA
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How to Maintenance Your Air Compressor System During Every Season

Why Does My Air Compressor Need to Be Serviced Seasonally?

Routine compressor maintenance is key for maintaining a fully functional compressor system. However, each season brings its own challenges that impacts your compressor. In summer, the challenges center around extreme heat and humidity; in winter, it's freezing temperatures and frozen condensate. Preparing your compressor for these seasonal shifts will ensure its longevity and continued efficiency.

How Do I Get My Compressor Ready for Summer?

A few simple maintenance checks can ensure your compressor system is ready to go for the summer heat! Check your drains, which need to be in great condition so they can handle the extra flow produced by higher humidity levels. Cleaned coolers are great at helping to prevent compressors from overheating, as are cleaned air and oil filters; these help compressors run cooler.

How Do I Get My Compressor Ready for Winter?

Plummeting winter temperatures can wreak havoc on your compressor system. Pay attention to condensate and make sure to drain it often; unaddressed condensate can freeze and burst pipes. Winterize & insulate your outside pipes and condensate drains. And pay attention to your compressor room! If your compressor is in an unheated room, a small space heater can offer additional warmth to prevent the temperature dropping below 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

Seasonal Compressor Maintenance Tips

Routine maintenance is key for maintaining a fully functional and efficient compressor system. By adhering to a set maintenance schedule, the risk of equipment failure and system downtime is greatly reduced; you can also identify potential problems early, before they get out of hand and evolve into something more serious. Regular maintenance also saves time in the long run, as it lowers the risk of costly downtime – and can help prevent unforeseen emergency breakdowns. 

There are also tasks that should be completed seasonally, as each season brings its own unique issues for your compressor. In summer, high heat might result in shutdowns due to overheating or increased moisture levels; in winter, cold temperatures can result in frozen condensate and burst pipes. Learn tips about how to tackle each season's challenges!

Spring into Spring Maintenance

After a long, cold winter, compressor maintenance might be the last thing on your mind. But maintaining an energy efficient compressor installation – and avoiding unnecessary downtime - requires that ongoing maintenance be a top priority during early spring months.

  • Get Ready for Increased Humidity. Spring and summer mean hotter temperatures, and with increased temperatures comes increased humidity. When air is warmer, it’s capable of holding more water vapor. As air is compressed and cooled, that moisture condenses, turning back into liquid water. If water gets in your system, it can lead to a myriad of problems. Prepare by making sure your condensate traps, drains and dryers are all working at peak performance.
  • Monitor Compressor Temperatures. Temperatures tend to fluctuate in spring; some days are full of sunshine and warmth while others are cooler and rainy. Air compressors generate a large amount of heat which, combined with the higher ambient temperatures, can lead to issues. Monitoring and logging compressor temperature throughout the course of the day can help you take quick action if their temperatures rise too high. You’ll also want to check that the cooler is functioning appropriately!
  • Compressor Room Ventilation is Key. If a compressor is in an enclosed room without proper cooling or ventilation, the machine might overheat. This can lead to unnecessary and costly downtime. If you have a compressor room, make sure that it’s ventilated properly. This can help prevent unnecessary shutdowns or downtimes to keep your operation buzzing throughout the spring.
  • Monitor Your Filters. With spring comes pollen - lots of it, which can aggravate your compressor system. When compressors take in ambient air, they also get all the particulates floating around. In the spring, increased allergens means filters will be working hard to remove contaminants from the compressed air supply. The best way to know if your filters need to be changed is by sticking to a preventative maintenance schedule. If you aren’t, be on the lookout for unusual pressure drops; they could indicate clogged filters.

Beat the Summer Heat

The shift to skyrocketing temperatures means it’s time to prep for the heat! Though we often think about outfitting our facilities for colder months, it’s just as important to maintenance your compressor system prior to the summer heat setting in. With hotter and more humid weather, compressor loads can easily reach peak levels and cause energy consumption to rise.

  • Check Drains. Higher humidity in the summer causes more condensate to come out of drains. Be sure drains are in perfect working order so they can handle the extra flows. You should also remember that the additional water being produced during the summer must go somewhere. Because the condensate is mixed with compressor oil, the water should not be released directly into the drain, but should be treated first. Check the state of your treatment units’ filters and separation tanks to make sure they are still operational. It is also a good idea to have the replacement service kit on hand so that no downtime is required during maintenance.
  • Clean Coolers. Blocked or clogged coolers can cause an air compressor to overheat on hot summer days. Get a jump on this by making sure coolers are clean before the heat hits!
  • Clean Air and Oil Filters. A compressor will run cooler and on less energy if the air filters are clean. Dirty filters lead to pressure drops, which the compressor must then accommodate for through higher run levels. Filters are also affected by additional moisture; the increase in pressure drops seen in coalescing filters leads to higher compressor running costs. To decrease the pressure drops, replace the filter element with a new one.
  • Continue Checking Ventilation. Just like with air filters and oil filters, check and adjust your compressor room so that there is sufficient air flow – just like you did in the spring months! Summer is when the real heat hits, so this becomes even more important.
  • Adjust Water Cooling Systems – On water-cooled compressors, adjust the temperature of water entering the compressor to ensure that it is cool enough for summer conditions.

Don’t Fall Behind on Maintenance

Fall is the start of cooler temperatures, so starting the “winterization” of your compressor system now will save headaches as you head into the colder months. Use this time wisely. Your compressor will thank you when its able to handle winter weather with ease!

  • Check and Double-Check. Visually inspecting your system can lead to many efficiency wins. Check insulation to make sure the heat is staying inside. You should also start look at the weather stripping and replace areas that are worn out and no longer working properly. And inspect your fittings and hoses! Normal wear and tear, along with small leaks, will result in a less efficient system and increased energy costs. Replace any that are leaking, corroded, cracked, or worn.
  • Explore Heat Recovery. What if you could 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? Compressor room efficiency can be maximized by utilizing heat recovery, a process that captures the heat byproduct from your compressed air and reuses it in other areas of the facility. In optimal conditions, as much as 90 percent of the heat produced by compressing air can be recovered. Not a bad thing to consider, to save on energy costs in the winter!

Winter is Coming

When true cold weather hits, the last thing you’d want to realize is that haven’t prepped your compressor system for the cold. Compressor systems can struggle in winter, leading to issues like slow starts, frozen lines, burst pipes, and equipment failure. Being proactive and preparing your equipment for freezing temperatures means you’re protecting your compressed air system from having to deal with a cold weather “crisis”.

  • Drain Condensate. Condensate is a common occurrence in air compressors. It forms in the system and settles in low places, including tanks. In the winter, unaddressed condensate can freeze and burst pipes. It’s important to inspect your tanks several times each week during winter – as well as throughout the other months of the year – to ensure that condensation buildup doesn’t occur. If even the slightest amount of moisture accumulates, drain it immediately. Whenever an abundance of moisture appears within the span of a couple days, it could be a sign of something much worse within your system. You can also consider installing an automatic drainage valve; it’s a small fix that will prevent the need for larger repairs.
  • Winterize the Outside Pipes and Condensate Drains. If temperatures in your area are expected to drop to freezing levels, apply heat trace tape over any exposed parts of your drain lines; this will stop them from freezing. Insulate any outside pipes as well!
  • Frozen Water & Icy Oil.  Of all the issues that tend to arise when temperatures drop below freezing, one of the most troubling has to do with water and oil. It’s essential to do timely assessments of every location where liquid could be isolated and to identify any possible areas where leaks might occur. Oil temperature should also be monitored and regulated; else, the oil could drop to a coldness level that renders it unable to lubricate or seal the machinery. Icy oil can also cause a compressor to malfunction or stop working altogether.
  • Heat Your Compressor. If your compressor is in an unheated room, a small space heater can offer additional warmth to prevent the temperature dropping below 41°F.
  • Use Trace Heating. Trace heating on pipes can help prevent freezing throughout the air compressor and distribution system. This is especially important if any pipes pass through cold or outdoor areas where they could freeze and pass ice particles down the line to end-uses.
  • Know Your Dew Points. Winter months require a lower dew point. A compressor that works sufficiently during daytime temperatures might prove insufficient after dusk! Some facilities also have systems where compressed air is sent from one point to another with lines that go both inside and outside of the facility. In these kinds of plants, the system handles two differing temperatures simultaneously with the same equipment. Generally, a compressed air system should have its dew point set at least 20 degrees below the lowest expected.

Compressor Technique