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How Cold Weather Affects Air Compressors (And How to Protect Your System this Winter)

Brad Reed

Technical Sales Manager, 32 years of Compressed Air Experience

October 28, 2020 // 3 minute read

Many industrial compressed air systems are located outside, or in minimally insulated facilities. This helps maintain the normal ambient temperatures for the equipment which range from 40 to 95° Fahrenheit.

In the winter, however, temperatures may drop well below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and remain low for long periods of time. If you want to ensure your facility continues to function as it should during the winter, it’s vital to protect your air system from extreme seasonal temperatures.

If your equipment room is exposed to freezing temperatures:

  • Internal heaters or heat tracing is required for condensate drains
  • Compressor “control” lines will need to be heat traced to avoid control components from freezing. If components freeze the compressor can run uncontrolled causing damage the the equipment and/or other systems in the facility. Copper or steel control lines are highly recommended before heat tracing to avoid damage.
  • When the air compressor is not running the outside louvers should automatically or manually be closed to avoid aftercooler damage.
  • Room space heating may need to be considered if the equipment is off for an extended time.
  • A typical 100 horsepower air compressor rejects approximately 295,000 BTU/Hour. Ducting can be designed to automatically or manually maintain room temperatures.
  • Reclaiming the heat rejected from the compressor to heat the equipment room and your production areas while it is running can save on expenses. An example of this is illustrated below with one of ELGi‘s Oil Lubricated Screw Air Compressors. 

If your equipment room is inside, but your air is used outside:

  • Consider utilizing membrane or desiccant type air dryers for the outside “point of use” only.
  • Running a desiccant air dryer for the entire air system is costly. Typical regenerative desiccant air dryers without purge saving devices could consume up to 17% of the systems delivered capacity.
  • A 100 horsepower air system will lose 85 CFM to regenerating the desiccant dryer.
  • Do you run a desiccant air dryer for the entire system during the winter months? You may want to think about running a refrigerated air dryer during the other 8-9 months of the year to reduce your overall operating costs.
  • If you are using dust collectors outside, consider using a membrane type air dryer with a small storage tank downstream.

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