Maintaining Air Compressor Performance and Efficiency in Winter

air compressor

Frozen lines. Cracked pipes. Slow starting compressors. Or worse, compressors that won’t start at all. Winter can be difficult on compressed air systems—even here in the South. Most air compressor equipment should be kept above 40º F to maintain efficient operation and avoid costly breakdowns. As we enter the coldest months of the year, it’s important to winterize your system and know what maintenance needs to be performed throughout the winter season to protect your investment.

Why Is Winter a Problem for Air Compressors?

  1. Moisture:

The process of compressing air naturally creates moisture. If not removed, even a small amount of condensate can freeze in the drains, tank, pipes or other parts of the system. This frozen condensate expands to create blockages, warping and cracking that prevent the compressor from functioning properly.

  • Lubrication:

During the cold winter months, lubricants often thicken and provide less value to the motor. Sludge-like oil can cause wear and tear on equipment, increase energy usage, trip circuit breakers and limit performance.

Compressors located outside or in poorly insulated rooms are particularly vulnerable to winter condensate and lubricant issues, but there are ways to minimize your chances of suddenly needing emergency service. 

Winterizing Your Compressed Air System

Having a professional compressed air company perform winter maintenance before issues arise is the first step to protecting your equipment. They’ll assess the following:

Condensate Drains: All system drains should be checked for clogs that could cause moisture to accumulate and freeze. It’s important to remember the drains and bowls outside and consider applying heat trace tape to any drain lines that are exposed to the elements.

Weather Stripping and Insulation: All weather stripping and insulation should be inspected and replaced if damaged or missing.

Heating: A cabinet heater may be able to be added to help preheat lubricant. Or you might need to provide ambient heating safely away from the compressor. If your compressor is outside, heat lamps may help to keep controls from freezing.

Filters: Clean, properly working filters are essential for removing dust, oil and moisture from your system. Additionally, ice and water can accumulate on clogged filters.

Air Dryers: Dryers can be especially beneficial in cold temperatures. Adding a new dryer could help avoid moisture buildup on system components.

Air Receivers: Compressed air receivers should be inspected to avoid condensation from settling and freezing at the bottom of the tank.

Lubricant: Lubricant should be checked for flow. Thick or icy lubricant will not properly lubricate the compressor and may reduce the life of the system.

Heat Recovery: Believe it or not, it may be possible to heat your compressor room and equipment with the heat given off by your system itself.

Ongoing Winter Maintenance for Compressed Air Systems

Keeping your system running smoothly during freezing temperatures goes well beyond initial winterizing efforts and will require a time investment on your part:

  • Before starting the air compressor, always inspect the system for moisture and ice
  • Drain condensate daily if you do not have an automatic drainage system (even if you do, check often for obstructions)
  • Check oil levels regularly as many compressors use more oil in the winter
  • Inspect for leaks often

If you haven’t yet winterized your system or have questions about how to best protect your compressed air equipment from being impacted by cold weather, contact us or call 800.222.4553. Our factory-trained technicians are pros at keeping you up and running.

0% Financing Available for Gardner Denver Compressed Air Equipment

As an authorized Gardner Denver distributor, Lewis Systems & Service, Co. is excited to be able to offer their new Economic Stimulus Financing Program to our clients through October 31, 2020. We know businesses in our area have been facing challenges during this time and some facilities may be putting off capital investments, even if they’re needed. Taking advantage of the Gardner Denver Economic Stimulus Financing Program can help you make sure your compressed air system continues to run efficiently and reliably.

Economic Stimulus Financing Program Details

All Gardner Denver compressed air products are eligible for:

  • 0% Financing for 12 months
  • 1.9% Financing for 24 months
  • 2.9% Financing for 36–60 months

Orders must be placed by October 31, 2020. The first payment will be due 90 days after contract commencement.

Gardner Denver Air Compressors

Gardner Denver is a global manufacturer of air compressor and vacuum products, offering the total compressed air package. They have a full range of oil-lubricated, oil-less and oil-free compressors, with reciprocating, rotary and centrifugal options to meet the needs of different industries. They also manufacture reliable air treatment products, piping, lubricant and parts. Their technology is second to none and we proudly stand behind their products because we have years of experience installing and servicing their equipment.

Planning for Success

If you’re considering new compressed air equipment and are interested in taking advantage of the 0% financing that is currently available, please contact us at your earliest convenience. We recommend you approach planning without preconceived opinions such as “it has to be a screw compressor” or “we need a 75 kW machine.” Our Gardner Denver experts can help you calculate your current compressed air demand and pressure level, evaluate future needs and carefully consider all of your options.

LEGAL: Current promotion is a limited time offer for qualified applicants and subject to change without notice. Only applies to Gardner Denver compressed air products. Orders must be placed by 10/31/2020. Other terms and conditions apply and are only available through participating Authorized Gardner Denver Distributors.

Reducing Your Compressed Air Environmental Impact

Today’s businesses are being held to a higher standard of environmental responsibility, and that includes their compressed air practices. Pressure from the public, competitors and government bodies may be leading you to question how to improve energy efficiency, reduce waste and make your operation eco-friendly. There are several areas in compressed air and vacuum systems where changes can make a significant impact on the environment. In fact, these “green” compressed air initiatives may be able to reduce operating costs for you as well. 

Addressing Electrical Usage and Power Consumption

  • Audit, Audit, Audit

We can’t stress this enough. Professional air audits and energy audits can help your business identify leaks and improperly designed control systems, which can be a huge waste of energy. According to the Compressed Air & Gas Institute, poorly designed and maintained air systems waste approximately $3.2 billion in energy costs every year. After addressing the issues found in an audit, it’s not uncommon for a facility to be able to shut down an entire compressor.

  • Replace Old, Outdated Equipment

Old electric motors, worn out compressor rotors and leaking lines can all negatively affect your environmental impact. Fortunately, since compressed air manufacturers are also being pushed to make equipment environmentally friendly, new equipment may allow you to meet the same demand while reducing energy consumption, emissions and operating costs. Replacing older positive displacement blower packages, for instance, with new high-efficiency packages instead of just replacing the bare blower can have a major impact on energy consumption. Many new products, such as Gardner Denver’s IQ-HE and IQ-RB packages are ahead of the curve when it comes to energy efficiency. The IQ package has the ability to save up to 30% on energy consumption.  

Oil-Free Compressors

Not every application allows for an oil-free compressor, but for those that do, this can be a fantastic opportunity to make your system more environmentally friendly. Oil-free compressors produce the purest form of air available and create significantly less waste than oil-powered compressors. Not having oil in the compressor means you can’t send it back out into the environment. By getting rid of these harmful emissions, you can provide a healthier work environment for your employees. Plus, you don’t have to filter oil out, pay for disposal or buy it as a maintenance item.

Cleaning Up Compressed Air Condensate

An oil-powered compressed air system produces thousands of gallons of oil laden condensate a year. This contaminated condensate has not always been disposed of properly because it can be costly to collect, store and haul away. Oil water separators capture and treat condensate, reducing your environmental impact and resulting in tremendous cost savings. The majority of the condensate can then be discharged safely and the small remainder of trapped oil is much easier to dispose of properly. For example, the Sepura STERLING from nano Purification Solutions uses non-carbon based, 100% recycled media to actively absorb oil while repelling water. The result is clean condensate that can be disposed of safely, inexpensively and in compliance with environmental regulations.

Creating a Plan for Your Facility

When eco-friendly compressed air initiatives result in cost savings, lower energy consumption and healthier work environments, everybody wins. Lewis Systems can be your partner in taking a more intelligent and environmentally friendly approach to compressed air and vacuum. Contact us to discuss your options.

Compressed Air Tips for Reduced Demand Periods

Factory trained and certified technicians servicing an air compressor.

An efficient, reliable compressed air system is designed to meet your specific demand. Reductions in operation, such as those that have occurred for many businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, can have a negative impact on the performance and life of your equipment. Our friends at Gardner Denver recently published best practice recommendations to address reduced operation and demand on rotary screw compressors. Below are some of the highlights.

Watch for Early Warning Signs

Air compressor packages that run at a reduced capacity or reduced hours due to a curtailed production schedule should be monitored closely for any adverse effects. Detecting early warning signs of operating conditions that can be harmful to compressor reliability is essential to avoid damage to the equipment, reduce the total cost of ownership and prevent unplanned downtime. Early warning signs include:

  • Extra wear on controls
  • Increased oil consumption from frequent blowdowns or foaming oil
  • A trend of increasing water ppm in the lubricant from either lower temperature operation, running for extended periods off load or excessive starting and stopping
  • Damage to air treatment components or end product from oil carryover

Reducing the Risk of Damage

There are several ways to minimize the risk of damage from increased load/no-load cycling. Performing an oil analysis and making the right adjustments can help you keep your system running efficiently and ready for when demand returns to its normal state. Consider the following tips to maintain reliability and prevent unforeseen repairs:

  • Widen the control pressure band to reduce cycles and blowdowns
  • Eliminate system piping bottlenecks to decrease control pressure instability
  • Add wet storage to increase cycle times and improve energy efficiency
  • Install a higher temperature mixing valve to increase the compressor discharge temperature
  • Sample the oil more frequently to diagnose trends that result in higher risk of damage, such as increasing water ppm or oil degradation

Lewis Systems’ certified technicians are available to help you implement these strategies at your earliest convenience. We also realize many plants currently in operation are trying to avoid having outside vendors in their facilities. If this is the case for you, we’re happy to provide troubleshooting support over the phone or through video chat.

Compressed Air Audits: Making Decisions Based on Data

air audit equipment

The main purpose of an air compressor system audit is to provide a comprehensive evaluation of current case operating practices and system performance from the perspective of the system’s supply side. The study and analysis are based on measurement and profiling of the production and process demand. Data is compiled and used to model current case operating costs as well as potential solution performance and the resulting cost of improvements to determine their financial feasibility.

Data Collection

The air audit evaluation is conducted with the intent to gather as much real-time data as possible. Flow (scfm), pressure (psi) and power (kW) are measured and data is logged using thermal mass flow transmitters, pressure transmitters and amp or kW transmitters. Transmitter output is recorded on data loggers at a specific polling rate and later downloaded to a computer for analysis and modeling.

Reporting

Once the data is collected, an analysis can provide the basis for power validation and solution modeling. The first report below is a tabular summary of information gathered for a system. This table provides high level attributes and the basis for improvements. Comparing both the Dynamic Efficiency (current case to benchmark) and the energy cost (current case vs. proposed) will help determine the potential and feasibility of system enhancements.

cost saving analysis for compressed air systems

Once the high-level attributes and potential improvements have been reviewed, air audit professionals can dig a little more in depth and look at the actual options available to the customer. Each option should be compared with current case costs in a System Performance Comparative as shown below. This table documents existing equipment and recommendations for future energy savings.

air audit cost analysis

Cost Analysis

The last piece of information that really brings an air audit together is the cost analysis. What is the payback period on making any recommended changes and how much money will actually be saved over a period of time? Below is a graph of a 10 Year Total Cost Analysis for a customer who had three options based on the findings of a recent audit. This graph allows you to see not only the operating cost spread over 10 years, but also shows the payback timeframe for each option if it was to be implemented. Seeing the financial implications in this way allows you to determine if the cost savings are great enough to warrant changes, and if so, to and select the option that makes the most sense for your business.

improvements for air compressor efficiency

A compressed air system audit can provide all the data and modeling that a customer needs to identify opportunities for improvements in air compressor efficiency and cost savings. The certified air compressor technicians at Lewis Systems are experienced in performing compressed air audits and providing cost saving solutions. If you have any questions about air audits or would like to speak to us about having one completed, please contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss it with you.