Given the rapid changes air goes through during the compression process, including fluctuating temperatures, air compressor condensate is inevitable. That being said, it's important to counteract this moisture as much as possible.
Leaving excess water vapor in your equipment poses such threats as rust, corrosion, and contaminants in compressed air. Regular maintenance and proper equipment such as separators, dryers, and drainage systems are your best line of defense against these risks.
With maintenance, you'll be able to spot potential air and water leaks before they become damaging to your entire system. For optimal performance, routinely check filters, seals, hoses, tubes, and other parts connected to air flow.
Although this step may seem obvious, it's important to mention that electricity costs make up to 80% of operating an air compressor. Keeping connections tight helps your system run efficiently, saving money and avoiding unnecessary downtime.
In addition to performing these checks, it's worth adding the equipment mentioned above. Below you'll find more information on how each of these solutions remove air compressor condensate.
The best way to manage excessive moisture is with drying systems. These machines lower the pressure dew point (PDP) of the air flow. It's important to pay attention to PDP as each industry has acceptable levels according to ISO 8573-1 standards. These are determined by the International Organization for Standardization.
When discussing air compressors, PDP refers to the amount of moisture in your system. There's generally two common ways of reducing PDP levels, refrigerant "fridge" and desiccant / adsorption dryers. For most pneumatic industrial applications, a fridge dryer is sufficient. These machines can reach PDP levels between +2˚C to +10˚C.
However, since fridge dryers use coolant, found in air conditioning units, they're not the best approach for sensitive applications, like food/beverage and medical. Also, these industries tend to require much dryer air with a PDP of at least -40˚C or lower. In these cases, you'll need a desiccant dryer.
These dryers use a hygroscopic material like silica gel to adsorb moisture from air. This process occurs typically through two drums where one is used for drying, and the other is used for desiccant regeneration.
The cooling capabilities of desiccant dryers make them much more expensive than fridge dryers. As mentioned, these are only necessary for certain end products. When choosing the right dryer, it's important to consider your application and PDP guidelines.
Not to be confused with dryers, some air compressors come equipped with an aftercooler. This equipment converts up to 70% of humidity into water before it is drained. The main benefit of an aftercooler is they don't increase air demand or energy costs. They also make it possible to invest in a smaller-size dryer.
With this, it's worth stressing that an aftercooler is not a replacement for a dryer. They're a first step in eliminating air compressor condensate. They're especially recommended for those working in high humidity environments.
If you operate an oil-injected air compressor, there's an additional risk that air compressor condensate contains tiny oil particles. When treating water vapor, it's important to remove this oil from the excess moisture. This process keeps oil from entering your sewage system and harming the planet.
The best way to manage excess oil is with an oil-water separator. This low-maintenance equipment includes filtration to make sure waste water meets the toughest environmental regulations. Activated carbon / organoclay separates stable emulsions. Additionally, there's easy to use cartridges to make cleaning simple and easy.
When draining condensate, you'll want to follow local guidelines considering waste removal. It's never acceptable to have this liquid run directly onto your floor or into a plastic container.
If you don't adhere to best practices, you could risk your business' reputation and run into environmental violations. This is why it's important to use a drainage system like an oil-water separator, mentioned above.
In this article, we covered topics like maintenance, dryers, aftercoolers, and separators and drains. When considering your unique setup and needs, there are various configurations for handling excessive moisture.
You may also want to consider smart monitoring controls like ICONS, which regularly checks the status of your machine. With such information, you can identify potential air leaks and areas of weakness.
With our high quality products and innovative solutions, we want to support your work in the best possible way. If you need any assistance in navigating the various options, feel free to reach out. Our team is happy to help.