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The Basics of Dry Compressed Air Made Easy

dry compressed air

Why Dry Compressed Air?

Moisture is the enemy of productivity in your compressed air systems, to the point where productivity is dependent on dry compressed air being adequately and consistently supplied to your tools and the air system as a whole. The air around us is filled with little moisture particles that go unnoticed in our day-to-day lives due to the distance between the molecules in the air. Still, once that air has been compressed, all the free-flowing particles and molecules are crammed into a small space and the molecules will start to combine and form what is called condensate.

These water particles that are being condensed together are becoming trapped in the air stream that they are now a part of. The condensate will start to pool up in the piping and tanks if it is not adequately treated to be able to remove the moisture. Build up of condensate can be detrimental to the air system as a whole as it can create pressure drops and could even stop the whole process from working.

This build-up can happen due to a number of different variables from the moisture in the ambient air, to the dewpoint of the compressed air, the environment it is running in, and the outside temperature, and that is to name only the big ones. The different degrees to which these variables come into play can determine the level and degree to which your air will need to be dried.

Internal condensate build-up can be the silent killer of air systems, as from the outside perspective, everything can seem to be running smoothly but in reality, there could be large quantities of condensate downstream from the compressor wrecking productivity alongside the proficiency and lifespan of the compressor. This inability to see the condensate emphasizes the importance of maintaining a routine maintenance schedule to avoid large-scale condensate build-up and provide peace of mind for your company rather than running into a catastrophe in the future.

Protecting Against Condensate Build-Up

When you are working to protect against condensate build-up, it is a year-round endeavor. The more humid the ambient air is, the more water vapor will get pulled into the air compressor. With this extra water vapor, more time and energy will be necessary to reach the same level of dryness as what would be normally achieved. This can cause wear and tear on the system and can be harmful to the overall life span of the machine. Not only is it possible for compressors and air systems to have trouble during the summer with more humid air, but the dry cold air of winter can cause problems too, due to the lower quantity of moisture in the air.

As it typically is, water is the enemy of equipment due to the problems it can cause internally or productivity-wise. It wears away at equipment over time and can become detrimental to productivity and operations because of this. The water can block airflow downstream resulting in less air being able to reach the end of the line and that means some pneumatic tools will not be receiving enough dry compressed air to operate properly. Keeping constant airflow is the key to keeping constant productivity, without it, the levels of pneumatic tool output will vary. Internal components and the health of the air system can be hurt by water and condensation build-up: which makes dry compressed air vital.

Water build-up can exist unnoticed by users as it happens so gradually, but that does not mean it always goes unnoticed. Water hammer, which is when water in the pipes can slam into equipment or internal barriers and the sound resonating off sounds like a hammer banging, can occur from condensate build-up. Events like this can knock other internal particulates loose and reintroduce them into the airstream, which can also be problematic downstream of filters. This can degrade the quality of the product air that is coming out at the end of the line and this may cause problems when dry compressed air is a necessity. 

Excess moisture can cause problems in several areas along an air system, as it can be detrimental to the success of air tools, piping, dryers, air tanks, and all the other equipment that the air passes through. So when it comes to having dry compressed air, quality is something to consider with your dryer. The ramifications of the dryer can be felt all along the system, especially when the dryer does not work well. When considering a dryer it is important to look at specific aspects such as what cfm you need and how airflow can be affected by the dryer size and output.

What to Consider When You Need Dry Compressed Air

Whether you are looking to create an air system or modify your current one it is important to know the specifications of what you need so that you can ensure your system works properly and produces dry compressed air when you need it. When you are lining up your system it is important to know the following measurements and information about your system:

  • Flow Rate or Compressor Size
  • Ambient Temperature / Humidity Content
  • Inlet Temperature
  • Pressure
  • Pressure Dew Point (PDP)
 

Knowing this specific information is the key to your system’s success. With this, you can align the specific pieces you need to ensure that the airflow will be smooth and continuous when needed. Information like flow rate can be used to determine the speed at which the air will move through the system and to avoid drops in speed downstream.

As we touched on prior, the water content/humidity in the ambient air is important and so is the temperature of the air. It can be difficult to cool air when it has been so compressed and all of the molecules are moving around creating heat as their space has been diminished by such a large percentage. So when the compressed air coming in is hot it can take even more time to cool down and can even slow down the system as the air moves slower.

Temperature plays an important role when it comes to the health of your air system, especial the temperature of your air inlet as well. This temperature measures the temperature of the air as it is entering and can affect the rate of compression. If the air is warmer it is harder to condense and this can cause problems with the pressure and amount of moisture in the air. When considering the pressure of your air system it is important to note the pressure so you can maintain a consistent flow of dry compressed air downstream and when more pressure is applied to the air, fewer moisture particles exist in the air due to the lack of space.

Finally, Pressure Dew Point is another important factor to be considered as it is the standard used to measure the water content in compressed air and the dew point is the temperature at which water begins condensing. It can also be described as the point at which the air can no longer hold onto any more water and it begins forming condensate. Different types of dryers can change the dewpoint of the air and are something to consider as well. When you have dry compressed air, the temperature at which the water condensates, the dew point, is lowered so that the air has to drop in temperature for the moisture to turn to liquid.

More Information on Dry Compressed Air

  1.  VSD Dryers
  2. Desiccant Dryers 
  3. Dryer Types
 

Not Sure Where To Start?

If you are looking to get started on obtaining your own dryer, click here

If you need to learn more about air systems, click here 

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