By: Werner Rauer
I’ve never understood the reluctance to take care of routine compressor maintenance. They’ll say compressed air is absolutely critical for their plant and that their processes can’t function without it. But, in the next breath admit they don’t regularly change the oil or check the air filters on their compressor. Truthfully, regular care and maintenance is one of the best ways to bring a little Zen to your compressed air system. It can reduce unscheduled downtime and keep your system running as efficiently as possible. Here are five tips on what to consider when putting together a maintenance plan for your plant.
1. Start with reading your service manuals. If you no longer have one for your compressor, get one from the manufacturer. While you’re at it, get one for any dryers, drains, and filters. Service manuals have a wealth of information in them—including a section on service. You should be able to find basic information on how often to check oil levels, drains, and change out consumables. The manual will also give guidance on the maintenance that’s necessary for maintaining the service warranty. Keep in mind that the service intervals included are guidelines—some applications may require more frequent care. This brings us to tip 2.
2. Consider your application. Some of this is simply common sense. If your compressor is in a high dust environment, for example a cement plant, you will likely have to change the inlet filters more often than indicated in the service manual. If your installation is located in the humid bayous of Louisiana, you’ll want to check your condensate drains more often (many have test buttons). And you will want to do occasional oil analysis. The information in your service manual is a great place to start, but you should let your system’s needs and conditions guide you in customizing a plan.
3. When in doubt, consult the manufacturer. There’s no shame in asking for help. The manufacturer knows their equipment the best and how it should perform in your installation conditions. They can provide special recommendations for service intervals to keep your equipment in top shape. In fact, it might be the best and most cost effective solution since many offer service contracts. Depending on the size of your plant and what personnel you have to perform the service, you just might save money by going with a service contract.
4. Beware of using aftermarket parts. I know it’s tempting—you think you’ll save some money up front by using them instead of genuine replacement parts. But, aftermarket parts can negatively impact efficiency, increase service frequency, and possibly even void your equipment warranty. When you take all that into consideration, it’s just not worth it.
5. Stop, look, and listen. The best thing you can do is regularly check on your system. Get to know it when it’s running at its most energy efficient. That way you’ll be able to better recognize when something isn’t right. Part of this is a bit of detective work as well—are you hearing complaints about extra moisture in the lines? Maybe a drain is clogged. Problems with pressure drop? Check the filter pressure gauges or open them up to see if filter elements need to be changed.
An ounce of prevention is certainly worth a pound of cure and when it comes to compressor maintenance, it can mean the difference between a stressful, unscheduled shutdown, and a peaceful state of well-maintained compressor Zen.