Practical Winter Maintenance Tips to Safeguard your Compressed Air System
Scottish winters can be notoriously harsh. Prolonged periods of cold weather or sub-zero temperatures can adversely impact your compressed air system and supply.
If your compressor installation is not well maintained and, therefore, ready for freezing winter temperatures, it could lead to reduced efficiency, costly downtime, interruptions to productivity and even a lower life expectancy of your compressed air equipment.
In this seasonal Kerr ‘Know How’ blog, we have some practical winter maintenance tips and recommendations to help combat the winter weather and to safeguard your air compressor installation over any seasonal shutdown period.
How to safeguard your compressed air system & supply to keep it operating efficiently throughout Winter
One of the many ways our experienced team and specialist engineers look to help customers throughout the year is to assess and advise on all aspects of their compressed air systems and installations.
This includes providing professional advice about protecting compressed air equipment from cold winter conditions in winter. Most recommendations are straightforward winter maintenance tips and procedures that will help extend your system’s operational service life, efficiencies and reliability.
Below, we have provided you with some key areas of your compressed air system that you might like to consider as part of general Winter preparations and good housekeeping routine:
CONDENSATE MANAGEMENT & DRAINING OF AIR RECEIVERS
To avoid the risk of moisture or any build-up of compressor condensate freezing in winter, ensure that compressed air receivers (pressure vessels) are regularly or continually drained.
Electronic zero-loss condensate drains automatically discharge any moisture from receivers, compressed air dryers and system components to help ensure condensate does not enter pipework distribution systems. Most electronic models feature a test button that should be used periodically throughout the year and more regularly in winter to check that the drain is functioning correctly. Condensate management products should always be included in preventative maintenance agreements.
If you have manual condensate drains on your system, these should be checked weekly and operated when necessary. Bear in mind that very cold or sub-zero temperatures can result in less effective moisture control measures, which could lead to moisture carry-over and corrosion. In addition, a noticeable increase in the condensate can be indicative of a more serious system issue.
WINTERISE EXTERNAL CONDENSATE DRAIN LINES & BOWLS
Unprotected external condensate drain lines can lead to frozen pipes, which may result in your compressor operating slower or not working at all.
If your system has condensate drain lines or bowls that may be exposed to sub-zero temperatures, use heat trace tape and insulation to protect them from freezing. Any external pipework should always be fully insulated and protected from temperature extremes.
Remember, heat trace tape requires power to protect from freezing. Keep this in mind if you are shutting down your system over the festive period or if any of your equipment is likely to be turned off due to reduced seasonal production demand. In this instance, drain any moisture from the lines in advance to help avoid freezing.
TEMPERATURE, VENTILATION & LOUVRES
To ensure your compressor can achieve its proper operating temperature as quickly as possible, it is important to minimise the amount of cold air around the compressor inlet. This helps ensure proper lubrication, minimises moisture formation inside the compressor oil circuit for the compressor outlet and increases service life.
Thermostatically controlled louvres for a compressor house are highly recommended to control and optimise ventilation automatically throughout the year. Alternatively, you will need to manually adjust the inlet louvres to your compressor house to reduce exposure to volumes of cold air.
Many applications provide an opportunity to reduce costs and recover up to 96% of the energy used to generate compressed air. While heat recovery systems vary, the simplest and most effective winter application involves ducting the hot air from the compressor outlet and recirculating it back into the compressor room to keep the system from running too cool. Alternatively, the warm air can be ducted to an adjacent room to help reduce energy/heating costs.
AMBIENT & COMPRESSOR CABINET HEATERS
To ensure your compressed air system’s performance, efficiency and reliability, the ambient temperature of your compressor house or installation should always be maintained above freezing. Some products and equipment may be prohibited from operating if the ambient temperature drops below the manufacturer’s minimum recommended operating parameters.
Most modern compressors can be equipped or retrofitted with optional cabinet heaters to pre-heat and help maintain the temperature of the lubricant.
Ambient heaters can also be utilised in the compressor house. These heaters help ensure the lubricant remains above its minimum allowable temperature to help prevent cold starts that can cause premature wear, impacting the efficiency and service life of the motor.
If your compressor installation features cabinet or ambient heaters, adjust them for the lowest operating temperature recommended by your compressor manufacturer and regularly check to ensure they are operating and functioning correctly.
MAINTAINING SYSTEM COMPONENTS
Some plants reduce production over the winter months, while others may shut down over the festive period for preventative and planned maintenance. This provides an ideal opportunity to inspect separators, valves, and condensate drains within the system susceptible to moisture. Proper maintenance, cleaning and repair during a winter shutdown will keep valves from sticking and condensate from freezing.
Filters should be replaced as part of routine maintenance, which is particularly important for winter. In cold weather and periods of low temperatures, compressor lubricant can thicken and not circulate as easily. This requires your compressed air system to work harder to continue to produce high-quality compressed air. Maintaining and replacing filters helps to combat the effects of thicker oil.
Maximum availability is one of the most important requirements of a compressed air supply. Winter is another crucial period of the year to safeguard your compressed air system.
Ensuring that it is professionally serviced and in optimum condition means that your system is prepared for the challenges that the cold winter months can bring. To ensure the maximum long-term efficiency and reliability of a compressor installation or compressed air system all year round, it must be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations by experienced, qualified engineers using genuine spare parts.
EXPERT SUPPORT, SPECIALIST ADVICE & PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANCE
We provide expert support and advice for all makes and types of air compressors and compressed air equipment. Our specialist compressed air engineers are multi-skilled, factory trained and have a wealth of experience installing, servicing and maintaining compressed air systems all year round in all manner of locations and environments.
With Winter upon us and temperatures continuing to plummet, this is the ideal time to give your compressed air system the once over; consider a general service to ensure that it is prepared and in the best condition, ready to cope with the Scottish winter.
If you are:
- noticing or experiencing problems with your compressor system
- concerned about how best to protect your compressed air supply through the cold winter months
- looking for expert advice or would like some simple winter checks that you can conduct yourself
Source & Credit:
Many thanks to our colleagues at KAESER – USA for kindly allowing Kerr to repurpose and share this ‘KAESER Know How Blog’.