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Compressed Air Filter Maintenance

January 06, 2014

Compressed Air Filter Maintenance

Compressed air filtration equipment is vital for the removal of system contamination such as: water vapour, oil vapour, atmospheric dirt, microorganisms, liquid oil, rust, pipe scale etc.  Therefore, when purchasing this type of equipment, you should compare not only the cost of the equipment, but also, the air quality it delivers, the energy efficiency & the lifetime costs.  Once installed, compressed air filters must be maintained to ensure that the required air quality in maintained and that the operational costs are kept to a minimum.  There are a few tips to ensure overall air quality & energy efficiency is maintained:


  1. When you originally installed the air filter, you had identified the need to remove contaminates from the compressed air, in accordance with ISO8573-1:2001. Why would you allow the air quality to be compromised now?  Filter elements are constantly bombarded with oily, acidic condensate and high velocity dirt particles, which needs to be removed to provide you with clean dry air.  Over time, this can weaken the filter media and reduce filtration performance.   Elements are designed to last for approx 1 year or 2000 hrs.  If you run two shifts, you may need to change more frequently.
  2. The Differential Pressure Gauge on the air filter is not a filter service indicator, nor an air quality indicator.  They simply measure differential pressure and offer an INDICATION only of premature blockage.  Do not assume that you don’t have to change the element because the gauge needle indicates it is in the “green”.  These gauges are only indicators and are not precise gauges which offer no level of calibration or accuracy.  Additionally, if the filtration media becomes damaged, the required air quality can no longer be maintained or guaranteed.  Even pin sized hole can result in the filter media rupturing.    If this should happen, the needle on the gauge would always indicate in the green area.  If you didn’t change your element, the contaminates may have arrived downstream and damaged your piping and pneumatic equipment.
  3. You may think you are saving on maintenance costs by not changing the element. The decreasing Differential Pressure through a flooded/damaged element will increase your energy costs significantly.  The chart below demonstrates the energy costs vs. element cost.  For example:  A 0.1 bar drop in pressure will actually cost about ¼ the element cost.

Differential Drop                 % of Element Cost
0.1                                                 25
0.2                                                 60
0.3                                                 85
0.4                                               115
0.5                                               145
0.6                                               170
0.7                                               200

 You may also be causing other problems with higher associated costs.  For instance:

  • Damaged adsorption dryer beds requiring unplanned desiccant changes
  • Corrosion within the compressed air storage and distribution system
  • Blocked/frozen valves, air motors and pneumatics tools
  • Damaged machinery causing increased production downtime
  • Contamination exhausting from valves and cylinders leading to unhealthy working environments, risk of personal injury, staff absences and personal injury claims
  • Inefficient production processes leading to increased manufacturing costs
  • Spoiled, damaged and re-worked products

Consider a regular maintenance program for your Compressed Air filters and purification equipment.  They form an important part of your compressed air system by providing your plant with clean dry air.  Regular maintenance of compressed air elements is key to maintaining air quality, energy efficiency and minimizing operational costs.  Most air compressor service companies include the testing/cleaning of air dryers, air filters and separators as part of their Preventative Maintenance program.  Ensure they are replacing your compressed air elements annually as part of this program.

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