Air compressor outside in the cold?

As we enter another winter, it's time to remind you that 'Air Compressors hate cold weather' and if you don't want yours to let you down, then take a few simple steps now to avoid the misery and expense of an emergency call out.

Problems start when the temperature falls below 5°C

As temperatures drop problems can start because low temperatures cause several issues with the fluids within the compressor itself and also to the condensate created when air is compressed and then cooled. Condensate is a mix of (99%) water and (1%) oil.

Condensate will freeze

Condensate tends to collect at low points within the compressed air system. These include, the compressor, separators, receivers, filters and dryers as well as in low points in the compressed air pipework. If temperatures fall low enough this condensate will freeze, blocking pipes or voids within the compressor, dryers, filters and pipework. If there is frozen condensate in the pipework this can get blown to the downstream causing damage to the equipment the compressed air system services.

Oil gets thicker

Oil tends to get thicker when it is cold, if the oil is aged or of poor quality the oil may become too viscous. The thicker oil may prevent the compressor from turning freely. This may lead to the electrical system tripping since the electrical load is increased. What's more, if the compressor is not serviced correctly, it is possible that the oil will contain a high level of water which can freeze, causing issues for the compressor at start up or causing damage to the compressor internals.

Air Compressor Dryers and Filters

Dryers and filters built into your compressed air system remove water from the compressed air and prevent any water present from freezing in the downstream pipework and equipment. So keeping your dryers and filters working effectively is important but refrigerated dryers only work effectively at ambient temperatures above 5°C. To protect the rest of your compressed air system, if you have an unheated compressor room you could install heating to help protect your dryer and the rest of your compressed air system. Trace heating and lagging on outside pipe runs will also stop any condensate from freezing within the pipes.


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