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Why You Should Clean Your Industrial Air Compressor

Craig Verga, Director of Aftermarket Sales

Cleaning your air compressor is a basic preventative maintenance function that just about anyone can do.  It is also a critical preventative maintenance function that can define how long your air compressor lasts.  Consider the following facts:

Air compressors constantly draw in air which it compresses for process output and which it also uses to cool internal components.  It is an essence a big vacuum pulling all the dust and dirt in its environment.

• The capacity (amount of compressed air output) is directly related to the amount of air drawn in through the inlet air filter.

• In an oil injected screw compressor, the inlet air and the oil mix in the compression element.  The result is that what is in the air, is in the oil.

• If there are abrasives in the oil such as fine dusts from stone or metals, they will eventually reach the bearings inside the compression element.  This contamination will cause premature failure.

• Significant amounts of dust and dirt entering the air compressor cabinet also build up on the outside of the air cooled oil cooler.  The short term result of this condition is elevated oil temperature which will lead to nuisance shutdowns.  The long term effect is oil varnishing inside the oil circuit.  This causes consistent overheating which will require significant effort to remove.  If not removed, it will cause premature failure.

• Significant amounts of dust and dirt entering the air compressor cabinet also build up on the outside of the air cooled after cooler.  This results in elevated package discharge temperatures.  This effects compressed air dryer performance, sending harmful moisture to sensitive downstream equipment.

• If you operate a variable speed drive air compressor, dust and dirt build up cause overheating in the motor inverter.  This can cause both nuisance shutdowns and premature failure.  The inverter is one of more expensive components on the air compressor, along with the compression element mentioned earlier.

Cleaning your air compressor is a simple task, that doesn’t necessarily require an experienced technician.  Basic safety rules such as locking and tagging all sources of electrical and mechanical energy prior to beginning are of course necessary.  Supplies needed can be as basic as a compressed air hose and rubber tipped air blow gun.  If pressure washing is a preferred method, special consideration for electrical components needs to be taken.

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