Here are a few guidelines on how to keep your reciprocating air compressor working optimally. No matter what brand of oil-lubricated reciprocating compressor you own, doing the following three things on a regular basis will extend its working life helping to ensure a trustworthy tool for years to come:
- Change lubricant quarterly
- Purge water from tank weekly (at least)
- Change air filter quarterly
Your reciprocating air compressor is basically an engine, and as such it requires constant lubrication to prevent excessive friction from damaging the moving parts and ultimately seizing the piston/s. Non detergent lubricants are typically preferred for reciprocating air compressors, but make sure you respect the viscosity the manufacturer suggests for your particular compressor.
Regularly check the oil level to make sure you have the right amount of oil in the crankcase. While the dangers of too little oil are obvious, it’s also important not to overfill a compressor with oil. If the oil level is too high the oil can get whipped and it will foam up, losing some of its lubricating properties. In addition, it will gain volume, further increasing your problems. So keep checking with your dipstick/gauge as you refill with oil and make sure your unit is perfectly level to the ground when you do this.
These are just as easy to read as the dipstick variety. The red dot represents the “OK” mark (I don’t know why they paint it red, should’ve been green). Ideally you want to keep the oil level within the center of the dot, but as long as the level is within the dot, you are OK.
On these it’s also easier to judge the state of the oil by looking at it with a flashlight, you can often see whether it’s getting milky (water) or darker (regular wear) without having to remove a sample from the crankcase.
Tip #1-Oil is regularly lost through the exhaust and the breather hole on the crankcase. Oil also ages and because of this, you should replace the oil after a certain amount of duty hours. A good rule of thumb that will help you comply with most manufacturer’s requirements is to change your reciprocating compressor oil on a quarterly basis. The actual time depends on many factors and its best if you obtain the manual for your particular compressor for a clear indication on when to replace the oil.
To remove the old oil there’s going to be a bolt at the bottom side or the bottom of the crankcase in all reciprocating air compressors. Simply remove this bolt to allow the old oil to drain into a bucket for proper disposal. To speed up the process, make sure you remove the oil when it’s warm and remove the filling cap so you don’t draw a vacuum.=
Removing Condensate from the Receiver Tank
As the compressor’s intake happens to be ambient air, humidity in the air is sucked in on every cycle. The water vapor from ambient humidity will condense and accumulate in the tank/s. Because of this dynamic, it’s imperative to drain the tank/s at least once a week.
Draining the tank is easy. Locate the drain valve at the bottom of the tank and open it until moisture and air come out of the valve. As soon as the flow of water slows to a trickle, close the valve.
If you don’t drain the tank the condensate will rust the tank’s envelope and ultimately corrosion and rust-through will occur. The more the condensate sits in the tank, the worse it’ll get in time.
To keep condensate from building up in the receiver tank with minimal effort, include the automatic electric timer drain with your purchase of a new compressor. An electric timer drain will open at preset intervals to keep condensate from building up in the tank and finding its way down stream to the shop equipment. Zero-loss drain valves do the same thing, but they lose less compressed air pressure and also reduce the number of short cycles needed to keep the compressed air system at the pre-set level. This saves on your electricity bill.
Tip #2- Because eliminating condensate from the tank is so important to the life of your compressed air system, put a tickler on your calendar to drain the tank at least once a week –more frequently in humid environments. Better yet, automate this task by investing in an automatic tank drain.
Intake Air Filter
The intake air filter is there to stop the compressor from taking in particles of dust in the ambient air which might cause damage to the metal surfaces inside the air compressor. If the location of the compressor has a lot of dust and dirt in the air, this filter may need to be kept clean or changed more often than the manufacturer’s recommendations. Use the manufacturer’s replacement intake air filter for proper fit and filtration.
Tip #3 – Refer to your manufacturer’s recommended intake air filter replacement schedule. Replacement of your intake filter is important to keeping your air compressor in compliance with the manufacturer’s basic and extended warranty. Even if your air compressor is out of warranty,
Small adjustments can reduce your operating pressure and energy costs while improving flow rates and output. Learn the final steps you can take to optimize your compressed air system and save energy costs. But, make sure that you also check out the first 5 things you can learn to "Save your Compressed Air System Operating Costs"
- Review Piping Infrastructure. Many systems aren't optimized.
A piping system design should optimize transfer of compressed air at the desired flow and pressure to the point of use. Increasing the size of a pipe from two to three inches can reduce pressure drop up to 50 percent. Shortening the distance air has to travel can further reduce pressure drops by about 20-40 percent.
The more flow through a pipe the greater the pressure drop will be. Pressure drop in a pipe increases with the square increase in flow, which means if the flow is doubled, the pressure drop will increase four times. Air distribution piping should be large enough in diameter to minimize pressure drop.
If your compressed air piping system was installed years ago when your compressor was much smaller, this might be an indication that the distribution pipes are too small. A quick guide is to look at the air compressor outlet size. If your distribution piping is smaller than your air compressor outlet size, then it may be time to get your FS-Curtis distributor in to evaluate your piping system. If up-grades are needed, FS-Curtis offers a modular, aluminum piping system that is easy to install and is a cost effective alternative to copper or steel piping.
- Change Filters Systematically. Not every once in a while.
Inspect and replace filters systematically to ensure the quality of your air and prevent pressure drops. Go beyond the air compressor and compressor room. There are several air-line and point-of-use filters within the facility. Those are just as important to maintain as the air compressor and air compressor room filters.
Your FS-Curtis distributor will provide you with a complete Filter Package located on your compressed air system supply side. Your process and type of equipment used will determine the level of air quality needed. If you are not sure what you need, ask your FS-Curtis distributor who can guide your selection using an industry standard selection chart.
- Recover Heat. Compressing air generates heat - reuse it!
It's simple physics that compressing air gives off heat, and as much as 90 percent of that heat can be recovered for use in your operation. For example, you can produce hot water for washrooms or direct warm air into a work space, warehouse, loading dock, or entryway. The savings can really add up.
How can FS-Curtis features and benefits help with this step? A simple heat recovery step can be making sure the hot air from your compressor room is directed into a nearby work space. If you have a larger rotary screw compressor with e-COOL® Technology, you could capture the exhaust air from your air compressor and ducting into your facility during the heating season. More aggressive heat recovery systems can be used to pre-heat water or process materials if you operate larger compressor systems.
- Emphasize Proper Maintenance. Ignoring maintenance costs more.
As with most industrial machinery, a compressor runs more efficiently when properly maintained. Proper compressor maintenance cuts energy costs around one percent and helps prevent breakdowns that result in downtime and lost production. Protect your reputation and profits with proper maintenance.
Your FS-Curtis i-Command® Touch Control will help monitor your compressor for items needing maintenance as well as sending signals showing maintenance alerts. Having your FS-Curtis distributor establish a scheduled service interval based on the number of hours your compressor runs per year will save you money in the long run. Take advantage of your extended warranty by using correct parts and lubricants at the correct time. If you skip service and have maintenance done, then you can expect that future warranty claims may be rejected. Just like you car, if you don’t take care of it, it won’t take care of you!
- Identify and Eliminate Inappropriate Uses of Compressed Air.
Inappropriate uses of compressed air include any application that can be done more effectively or more efficiently by a method other than compressed air. For example, high pressure air often is used for cooling or applications where much lower air pressure is required.
If you have a Compressed Air Leak Survey scheduled, the Auditor normally is looking for inappropriate uses of compressed air at the same time. Common missuses are: blowing off a work station with an air gun instead of using a hand brush; using an air stream as a personal cooler instead of a fan; plus many, many more ways.