Compressor Placement and Optimal Working Conditions

Dimensioning Compressor Installations Compressed Air Wiki Compressors

The place where the biggest part of the compressed air system is placed is called the compressor room. It could be a room that is designed and used for other purposes or it could be one created with the compressor itself in mind. In both cases, the room needs to meet some requirements in order to get the most out of your compressor installation.

Where should you install a compressor?

Optimal working conditions for a compressor, compressor in a working environment

The main rule for an installation is first and foremost to arrange a separate compressor central plant. Experience dictates that centralization is preferable, regardless of industry. Among other things, it provides improved operating economy, a better-designed compressed air system, service and user friendliness, protection against unauthorized access, proper noise control and simpler possibilities for controlled ventilation.

Secondly, a separate area in a building that is used for other purposes can be used for the compressor installation. Certain risks and inconveniences should be accounted for with this type of installation, for example: disturbance due to noise or the compressor's ventilation requirements, physical risks and/or overheating risks, drainage for condensation, hazardous surroundings e.g. dust or inflammable substances, aggressive substances in the air, space requirements for future expansion and accessibility for service.

However, installation in a workshop or warehouse can facilitate the installations for energy recovery. If there are no facilities available for installing the compressor indoors, it may also be installed outdoors, under a roof. In this case, certain issues must be taken into consideration: the risk of freezing for condensation pockets and discharges, rain and snow protection for the air intake opening, suction inlet and ventilation, required solid, flat foundation (asphalt, concrete slab or a flattened bed of shingle), the risk of dust, inflammable or aggressive substances and protection against unauthorized access.

Compressor placement and design

The compressed air plant should be installed to facilitate distribution system routing in large installations with long piping. Service and maintenance can be facilitated by installing the compressed air plant near auxiliary equipment such as pumps and fans; even a location close to the boiler room may be beneficial.

The building should feature lifting equipment that is dimensioned to handle the heaviest components in the compressor installation, (usually the electric motor) and/or have access to a forklift truck. It should also have sufficient floor space for installation of an extra compressor for future expansion. In addition, clearance height must be sufficient to allow an electric motor or similar to be hoisted, should the need arise. The compressed air plant should have a floor drain or other facilities to handle condensation from the compressor, aftercooler, air receiver, dryers etc. The floor drain must be implemented in compliance with municipal legislation.

Room foundation

Normally only a flat floor of sufficient weight capacity is required to set up the compressor plant. In most cases, anti-vibration features are integrated in the plant. For new installations, a plinth is usually used for each compressor package in order to allow the floor to be cleaned. Large piston and centrifugal compressors can require a concrete slab foundation, which is anchored to the bedrock or on a solid soil base. The impact of externally-produced vibration has been reduced to a minimum for advanced, complete compressor plants. In systems with centrifugal compressors, it may be necessary to vibration dampen the compressor room's foundation.

The intake air

The compressor's intake air must be clean and free of solid and gaseous contamination. Particles of dirt that cause wear and corrosive gases can be particularly damaging. The compressor air inlet is usually located at an opening in the sound-reducing enclosure, but can also be placed remotely, in a place in which the air is as clean as possible. Gas contamination from vehicle exhaust fumes can be fatal if mixed with air that is meant to be inhaled. A pre-filter (cyclone, panel or rotary band filter) should be used on installations where the surrounding air has a high dust concentration. In such cases, the pressure drop caused by the pre-filter must be accounted for during design.

It is also beneficial for the intake air to be cold. It may therefore be appropriate to route this air through a separate pipe from the outside of the building into the compressor. It is important that corrosion-resistant pipes, fitted with mesh over the inlet and designed so that there is no risk of drawing snow or rain into the compressor, be used for this purpose. It is also important to use pipes of a sufficiently large diameter to have as low a pressure drop as possible.

The design of the inlet pipes on piston compressors is particularly critical. Pipe resonance from acoustic standing waves caused by the compressor's cyclic pulsating frequency can damage the piping as well as the compressor, cause vibration and affect the surroundings through irritating low frequency noise.

The room’s ventilation

Heat in the compressor room is generated from all compressors. This heat is let off by ventilating the compressor room. The quantity of ventilation air is determined by the size of the compressor and whether it is air- or water-cooled. The ventilation air for air-cooled compressors contains close to 100% of the energy consumed by the electric motor in the form of heat. The ventilation air for water-cooled compressors contains some 10% of the energy consumed by the electric motor. The heat must be removed to maintain the temperature in the compressor room at an acceptable level. The compressor manufacturer should provide detailed information regarding the required ventilation flow. A better way to deal with the heat build-up problem is to recover the waste heat energy and use it on the premises.

a formula for dimensioning

Ventilation air should be taken from outdoors, preferably without using long ducting. Furthermore, the intake should be placed as low as possible, but without running the risk of being covered with snow during the winter. Even risks that dust and explosive or corrosive substances might potentially enter the compressor room must be taken into consideration. The ventilation fan/fans should be placed high up on one of the compressor room's end walls, and the air intake placed on the opposite wall. The air velocity at the ventilation inlet opening should not exceed 4 m/s.

Thermostat-controlled fans are the most appropriate in this case. These fans must be dimensioned to handle the pressure drop in the ducting, outer wall louver, etc. The quantity of ventilation air must be sufficient to limit the temperature increase in the room to 7–10°C. The possibility of using water-cooled compressors should be considered if there is a problem procuring sufficient ventilation in the room.

Learn more about the process of installing a compressor system below.

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