Air Compressor Myths
Compressed air is a vital source of power in modern day automation and industrial assembly. When it comes to the construction and repair of automobiles, compressed air is used in everything from building the frames to the completion of passenger compartments. In building construction, air compressors power the tools that are used in everything from breaking ground on up through securing floors, ceilings and drywall. The fine work of air compressors are even seen in supply stores and supermarkets, where shelves are stacked with canned goods and outdoor supplies, which are packaged and assembled with pneumatic tools along production lines.
Simply put, the modern world would be archaic without the phenomenal power and technological capabilities compressed air. However, despite the tremendous advantages and vast potential of this technology, many myths surrounding air compressors persist. Some of these myths are based on misunderstandings about what can and cannot be accomplished with pneumatic tools. Others are derived from outrageous claims made about certain machines and system components. In any case, compressed air myths have confused and even dissuaded people in certain sectors who could otherwise benefit immensely from this great power source. The 14 following misperceptions are among the most widely circulated compressed air myths.
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Myth #1: Compressed air is safe to use for cleaning dust and dirt from work spaces.
Truth: Air compressors don’t suck up air, they send it outward from high–pressure applications. Therefore, compressed air won’t make dirt particles disappear across floors, tables and other surfaces, it will only redistribute them. Even worse, compressed air could send dirt particles in all the wrong directions. In short, compressed air could have the following results when used for dirt cleanup:
- Redistributing dirt to other areas
- Blowing dust into vents, electrical outlets and nearby machinery
- Bolting debris toward people in the room
- Particles could hit the eyes with considerable force
Given the power of pneumatic tools, the air could send hard, tiny objects shooting through the air with the power of bullets. In worse case scenarios, the use of compressed air for debris–cleaning purposes might stir up numerous airborne objects that could ultimately crack windows, chip walls and even injure people. Simply put, pneumatic power is not an appropriate substitute for the age–old function of vacuums, mops and brooms.
Myth #2: In order to make the best of part–load performance, the most optimal solution is a variable–speed drive.
Truth: Generally, this is not the case. Due to the way that they’re made, variable–speed compressors run best within a certain range. Therefore, if the demands of a particular load call for faster or slower speeds, it’s best to choose different control options. If you plan to use an air compressor for a lot of different applications, it’s always best to ask a knowledgeable dealer about which type of machine would best suit your operations.
Myth #3: Oil carryover is accelerated in variable speed drives.
Truth: Running at lower rates probably won’t have any negative effect on the carryover of oil. The lowered flow of air will reduce the speed in the separator, which will make things more efficient. Boosted carryover is aided by two main factors: heat and low pressure, neither of which results from variable speed drives.
Myth #4: Flow controllers are unnecessary on air compressors with variable–speed drives.
Truth: While applications run the gamut, most systems work best with the added stability and pressure consistency of a flow controller. These can even benefit the most optimal systems already using a VSD air compressor.
Myth #5: Synthetic air compressor fluids are all identical.
Truth: Synthetic fluids have one basic thing in common: they’re not made of hydrocarbon base stock. Beyond that, a synthetic fluid could consist of any given number of formulations. Some of the most common synthetic fluids are made of PAG and PAO base stocks, which differ significantly in terms of their effects on the performance of an air compressor. In order to know whether a synthetic fluid will be right for your system, it’s important to know the base stock and the kind of effects it would have on your air compressor.
Myth #6: All polyglycol (PAG) compressor fluids are made with the same formulations.
Truth: PAG fluids fall into two categories: those formulated in combination with expensive, high–grade polyolesters, and those mixed with cheaper, lower–grade diesters. As such, the two formulations can have very different effects on rotary screw air compressors. The difference is down to the respective chemical reactions of the two formulations, which break down as follows:
- Polyolesters (POE). Alternately known as jet engine lubes, POEs are high–cost fluids that are valued for their impeccable, heat–resistant and sludge–free performance, which generally makes them the best option for demanding applications in rotary screw compressors.
- Diesters. A low–cost fluid type that’s notorious for allowing sludge buildup in air compressors. Consequently, the money that an operator might save by using diesters could ultimately be wasted on costly maintenance issues due to the presence of sludge, which can be hard to remove in an air compressor. Other problems associated with diesters include swollen gaskets, leaks, eroded shaft seals and inflated hose liners.
Operators best beware that not all POEs are the genuine item. Some are actually diesters with just a pinch of polyolesters added to avoid accusations of false advertising. These bogus formulations are known to cause all the same problems as regular diesters.
Myth #7: Aftermarket replacement parts are just as good as original parts sold by the manufacturer.
Truth: If a part is designed for a particular machine by the manufacturer, it was done so with concern for performance and reliability. Understandably, the manufacturer is best equipped to design parts that meet the needs of specific machines and operations. Aftermarket makers, on the other hand, mostly make parts for a more generalized usage that won’t necessarily account for the nuances of your air compressor. The drawbacks of generic replacement parts include:
- Incompatibility with certain components
- Inability to deliver optimal performance
- Risk of causing damage to machine
- Possible voiding of the manufacturer’s warranty
This rule is not just limited to parts, lubricants are also designed with certain machines and performance in mind. Therefore, it’s always best to secure replacement parts directly from the original manufacturer, and not settle for generic parts or lubricants.
Myth #8: Compressed air is generally impure.
Truth: Contrary to common perception, compressed air is mostly clean. While the air produced in older systems can sometimes be dirty, this is usually an issue of poor maintenance, and not just an inherent quality of the machinery. In fact, compressed air is generally very clean. Though contaminants can sometimes be introduced during the compression stage, dirty compressed air is often due to the following factors:
- Dirty ambient air
- Dirty system tubes
- Dirty air storage tanks
- Poor maintenance
In most systems, compressed air can be kept free of contaminants with routine maintenance of the machinery and the surrounding areas.
Myth #9: Compressed air is more expensive than electrical power.
Truth: Not if it’s used efficiently. Compressed air is made for a range of applications that generally require high power. In most of these applications, pneumatic tools are capable of delivering the power needed, with far greater speed and efficiency than anything that runs on electricity or batteries. “Efficiency” is the operative word here, because in applications where compressed air gets wasted, the financial advantages are drastically reduced. Therefore, the following steps should be taken to ensure that efficiently produced compressed air is also put to efficient use:
- Keep air compressors properly maintained. Ailing system parts can lead to weaker compression and an overuse of system resources to finish an application.
- Don’t leave machines on idle. If a shift has finished or a day has wrapped up, turn off the air compressors to save on energy costs.
- Adjust pressure settings according to project. Different applications call for different amounts of pressure. Too much pressure could be wasteful on soft applications. Not enough pressure could end up dragging out more intense applications. Conserve energy by adjusting the pressure levels according to the demands of the project in question.
For optimal efficiency, compressed air systems also need to be installed properly with accessories and components sized accordingly.
Myth #10: It’s best to store air compressors in the same room as HVAC units.
Truth: While it might seem practical to store all air–based machinery in the same room, an air compressor works best within natural room temperatures. In the immediate presence of HVAC units, temperatures can skew to unnaturally hot or cold extremes, depending on the needs of the building in question. For an air compressor, harsh temperatures can lead to issues such as condensation and mold growth. Basically, if an air compressor has to constantly endure wild temperature swings, water can accumulate inside the machine. This promotes the development of smelly germs and moisture, which could ultimately lead to added internal difficulties and result in an overall weaker system.
Myth #11: Gravity–based oil/water separators are always best for compressed air systems.
Truth: Despite their ubiquity, gravity–based separators are not the only option when it comes to separating oil from water in an air compressor. In fact, certain problems frequently occur with gravity–based separators, including:
- Mold growth
- Maintenance issues
- Messiness to discard
- Operational difficulties
Basically, gravity–based oil/water separators can be difficult to work with and hard to maintain properly; and they can also cause germs and lead to costly repair bills. For all these reasons and more, the switch is on to molecular filtration systems that separate wastewater from lubricants. Functioning without pumps or filter pads, molecular filters use media beds to trap impurities from passing water. Afterwards, the water is rendered clean enough to pass down a standard facility drain.
Myth #12: With increased pressure comes a higher operating cost.
Truth: On one hand, it does take more energy to compress a cubic foot of air to a higher pressure. However, the whole system would have to be run with greater intensity before energy bills would rise. Flow is key.
Myth #13: Patching up a few air leaks is better than nothing at all.
Truth: If power is being lost due to supporting a number of tiny air leaks, efficiency can only be regained with thorough repairs. Without a pressure–control device in place, an incomplete round of repairs can actually end up wasting more energy, because as the volumes of pressure increase, and with greater flow more air is ultimately leaked through the holes that remain.
Myth #14: Greater system–wide pressure raises productivity.
Truth: In large scale productions, pressure needs are most efficiently handled at the localized level. The amount of pressure called upon for one application might be excessive for neighboring stops along the conveyer belt. With compressed air systems, energy is best put to use when pressure levels are raised and lowered for specific applications, as opposed to being set a maximum centralized levels.
Myth #15: Compressed air is an undesirable power source.
Truth: Another common air compressor myth is that the air produced by the process is not a viable power source. However, a process known as compressed air energy storage (CAES) can work alongside the power grid to store excess electricity for future use.
CAES works by converting the electricity generated by wind turbines and other sources into stored compressed air. The turbines’ generators release the air on demand, enabling it to be used as electricity. CAES offers a cost-effective solution for large-scale energy grid usage, keeping pace with other methods such as thermal energy, gravitational and lithium battery storage and pumped hydropower.
Myth #16: Air compressors do not require regular service.
Truth: Another of the many myths about compressed air is that the equipment producing it does not need maintenance. Like most mechanical devices, compressors have many moving parts and other components that require attention to stay in peak operating condition and prevent breakdowns. An extended period between service intervals can hinder performance and eventually cause an equipment failure.
Developing and implementing an air compressor preventive maintenance program is crucial for protecting the equipment and maximizing its working life. This program will also help you avoid costly downtime, lower your repair costs and increase the compressor’s efficiency.
Myth #17: Compressed air is only useful in food and beverage manufacturing applications.
Truth: Many people believe air compressors are limited-use equipment that primarily serves the food and beverage industry. While this industry represents a significant portion of compressed air usage, air compressors are also beneficial in many other applications.
For example, air compressors provide power for pneumatic tools at construction sites and in automotive repair shops. The metal fabrication process often relies on compressed air for toil powering, operating controls and actuators, spraying, injection molding and more.
Myth #18: Pressure is the most important factor to consider when selecting the best air compressor for your business.
Truth: While the pressure an air compressor produces is a vital consideration, it’s not the only factor to explore. You’ll also need to know the flow rate, measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), which indicates the amount of air the equipment can produce at a specific pressure level. Other factors to verify include the power source, horsepower capacity, tank size, tool compatibility, portability (for mobile applications) and access to additional features.
Quincy Compressor: A Leading Innovator in Compressed Air Technology
Over the last century, compressed air has become a popular alternative to electrical power for numerous industrial operations. In everything from building construction and car assembly to food packaging and furniture construction, air compressors power the pneumatic tools that give rise to skyscrapers, put vehicles on the road and facilitate your dining and luxury needs. Basically, all the things that make the modern world functional are largely reliant on compressed air. Best of all, compressed air allows manufacturers to conserve energy and go easy on the environment while constructing buildings and products with a level of speed and precision that old–fashioned tools couldn’t possibly allow.
For companies across the industrial sector, Quincy Compressor is a leading supplier of air compressors and air treatment equipment for nearly every type of application. Since our inception nearly a century ago, we’ve been at the forefront of innovation in compressed air technology. Along the way, our systems have grown more efficient and easier to use. As such, Quincy air compressors have facilitated some of the greatest developments in manufacturing and construction over the last several decades. Check out our testimonials.
All around the world, automakers and construction firms continually demand greater efficiency when it comes to the mass production of cars and the erection of new skyscrapers. To that end, Quincy offers a vast range of air compressors large and small to suit projects of every magnitude. Companies that operate throughout North America and across international territories have immensely benefited from Quincy air compressors and related equipment.
Whether you operate a pressing plant or auto repair shop, Quincy air compressors could be a boon to your productivity. Even if your power usage tool is limited to crafts or personal projects, you too could experience greater working satisfaction with pneumatic power at your disposal. To learn more about our air compressors, fluids and parts, click on over to our sales and services page today.
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Last Updated on August 4, 2022 at 9:05 am EST