Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for accuracy, comprehensiveness, and new information.
Let’s talk weather for a moment. If you’ve paid attention over the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that each season is become more and more extreme. Springs and falls are shorter; summers are much hotter; and winters are much colder. Here’s the forecast for Winter 2020-21, though only time will tell if the predictions actually come to pass.
Since the winter season has officially arrived, it’s prudent to be aware of how the cold weather impacts your compressed air and gas system, and what actions you should take to prepare your system for the challenges it’s about to face. We cover this below.
Two Keys Reasons to Winterize Your Compressed Air and Gas System
Important! If you haven’t already prepared your compressed air system for the cold weather ahead, now is the time to get started. Don’t put off necessary maintenance and weatherization strategies or you may be looking at rusted machinery, malfunctioning equipment and decreased energy efficiency when spring finally rolls around. The two key reasons for this are icy oil and frozen water.
Frozen water is self-explanatory. As temperature drops, the water (and other condensate) in your compressed air system can freeze, leading to a variety of problems; some of these include an air or water blockages in air compressor accessories and receiver tanks.
Oil quality is the second reason, though it may not be at the top of your mind. Did you know that air compressor oil becomes thicker as temperatures drop? This reduces its lubrication capabilities, which increasing the power needed to operate the pump. This results in higher motor amp draw and increased strain on the whole drive train. Over time, this will reduce the lifetime of your air compressor’s motor. The oil could drop to a coldness level that renders it wholly unable to lubricate or seal the machinery, or even cause a compressor to stop working altogether. For maximum reliability, oil must be kept within a temperature range that never veers toward hot or cold extremes.
Cold Weather Impacts Dryers, Too
Did you know that dryers are another compressor system component that are adversely impacted by cold weather? In colder temperatures, refrigerated dryers might function very efficiently. The moisture being removed from the system might freeze, or the drain valve might freeze in an open or shut position. Both occurrences can cause damage to the dryer and prevent the condensate from draining correctly. In a desiccant dryer, air coming into the inlet might freeze, thereby causing the tower switching valves to malfunction.
Winterizing Tips for Your Compressed Air and Gas System
Wondering how you should winterize your system? Follow these tips to increase your compressor room’s energy efficiency throughout the winter months.
Address Maintenance Issues
- Inspect system drains for obstructions and inefficiencies. Don’t forget to check the drains in the air treatment equipment, including the system’s air dryers, receivers and filters.
- Identify and fix air leaks. Even the smallest compressed air system leak can be a big drain on resources; identify and fix leaks now to increase your system’s long-term efficiency.
- Check for clogged filters. If compressed air is not filtered properly, or if the filter is clogged, pressure drops occur more frequently and product contamination risk increases.
- PRO TIP: If you aren’t already monitoring your compressed air system on a regular basis, you might be missing the signs that could indicate a potential problem. Remote monitoring of equipment is one of the most effective strategies to improve compressed air system efficiency and avoid costly downtime.
Weatherize Your Air, Gas, and Vacuum Installations.
- Check weather stripping and replace areas that are worn out and no longer working properly. Also be sure to check the insulation to make sure heat is staying inside.
- Check drains and air intake openings to make sure there is adequate protection from increased rain or snow.
- Mark your calendar to perform biannual weatherization in late fall and late spring so you don’t forget to prepare your compressed air system for the high highs and low lows of summer and winter.
- PRO TIP: If weatherizing your compressed air system feels too daunting, invest in an ongoing maintenance plan from your compressed air 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.
Maintain an Ambient Indoor Environment.
- Ventilation of compressor rooms is incredibly important during the summer months, but did you know that you should check on these vented areas, including fans and exhausts, and ensure they’re closed during the colder months? This will help maintain warmer temperatures in the room itself.
- Compressor rooms should be kept above freezing to ensure that the equipment can continue functioning efficiently. Room temperatures for industrial compressors should be around 45 degrees or higher.
- PRO TIP: Need some assistance on designing a properly-ventilated compressor room? Check out our article on the topic to gain insight into this process!
Invest in a heat recovery system
- Did you know, 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 from local utility providers to help offset the cost of investment in new, more efficient equipment with heat recovery capabilities. Often utility providers will analyze a proposal and may offer incentives to purchase new capital equipment that will result in energy savings.
- PRO TIP: Check out our article on how our energy recovery system assisted Gabriel India Limited with energy conservation! This will help the company reduce their carbon footprint by an estimated 500 tons over 10 years.
How to Restart a Frozen Air Compressor System
So you’ve fully winter-proofed your air and gas system – great! But there are times that even the best of preparations may fall short, especially if an especially -severe cold weather front moves through. The result? Your air compressor system freezes. Here are a few helpful tips to get it back up and running:
- Make sure to shut off all external outside air sources that may be bringing in fresh, cold air to the compressor room.
- If your compressor is enclosed, open or remove the compressor doors and panels.
- Ensure the ambient temperature gets to above 45°F. You might need to either turn up the heat in the room or add an additional hear source.
- Add a heat source to the bottom of the sump tank until the oil is warmed to 70°F.
- Once the compressor is warmed to a temperature above the set limit (40°F to 45°F), you may need to reset the alarm on the control panel. After this, the air compressor should be good to start.
- Once the compressor is running, inspect closely for leaks.
- Inspect all condensate drain valves.
Want more information? Visit us at www.atlascopco.com/air-usa!