Dryer Basics: Why Do Compressed Air Systems Need Drying Anyway?

by Eric Lunsford
April 10, 2017

Manufacturing and processing has seen a boom in compressed air usage over the last decade or so. Devices and controls have become more sophisticated and in turn less tolerant of damp compressed air.

Traditionally, moisture in compressed air was simply tolerated. Despite the fact it can cause trouble in pneumatic systems, solenoid valves and air powered motor

Moisture can also:

  • Cause rust and increased wear and tear on moving parts in production equipment by washing away lubricants
  • Paints applied with moist compressed air have trouble with adherence, finish and even color consistency
  • Pneumatic controls can rust, experience a build-up of scale, have orifices clogged resulting in product damage or shutdowns
  • Can freeze in control lines
  • Cause corrosion of air or gas operated instruments, giving false readings – as a worst case scenario can result in unnecessary shuts downs.

How Does Wet Air Affect Different Components of My Compressed Air Systems

The Plant Wide Air System – Dirt, water and oil in your compressed air lines and the inner surfaces of pipes and fittings, can cause an increase in pressure drop resulting in reduced efficiency and higher costs.

Water condenses out of the air and builds up in the system accelerating corrosion and shortening the useful life of equipment. Corrosion particles can accumulate in plug valves, fittings and instrument control lines.

Valves and Cylinders – experience a build-up of sludge which consists of dirt, water and oil in the compressed air. The sludge acts as a drag on pneumatic cylinders so that the seals and bearings need more frequent maintenance intervals. Moisture dilutes the oil required for the head and rod of an air cylinder and can corrode the walls and slows response. Moisture flowing to rubber diaphragms in valves can cause these parts, to stiffen and rupture.

Air Powered Tools – Dirty and wet air will result in sluggish operation, more frequent repair and replacement of parts due to sticking, jamming and rusting of wearing parts. Water also will wash out the required oils, resulting in excessive wear. A decrease in pressure at the tool caused by restricted or plugged lines or parts reduces each tool’s efficiency and effectiveness.

These tools are designed to run on high grade compressed air – make sure your air matches the tool manufacturer’s specifications.

Instrument Air – A small amount of moisture passing through an orifice can cause malfunction of the instrument and the process it controls. Corrosion particles in the air system also can cause damage to instruments and plug their supply airlines.

Instruments and pneumatic controllers in power plants, sewage treatment plants, chemical and petrochemical plants, textile mills and general manufacturing plants, all need clean, dry air for efficient operation.

Preservation of Products – When used to mix, stir, move or clean a product, air must be clean and dry. Otherwise you risk damaging or contaminating the product. Moisture in control line air can cause the wrong mixture of ingredients in a bakery, the incorrect blend in liquor, waterlogged paint, or ruined food products.

As you can see moisture contamination in your compressed air can lead to all sorts of problems for your compressed air system. Getting the right dryer(s) installed can go a LONG way towards minimizing your down time and maximizing the length and quality of life of your compressed air processed and equipment.

If you are experiencing too much down time, intolerably high maintenance bills or just think you might be paying too much for your compressed air then give the team at Pye-Barker a call on 404-363-6000 or drop us a line sales@pyebarker.com. We can guide you through cutting your compressed air costs in any number of ways.

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