There are several common issues that arise in the typical compressed air system at any given time. This guide is to assist those involved in monitoring or maintaining a compressed air system to identify common issues and apply a solution to ensure the system is maintained at maximum efficiency and operating costs are minimised at all times.

Issue:

Point-of-use pressure too low

Cause/Solution:

If experiencing a lack of pressure at the point-of-use common causes that result in significant pressure drop include:

Leaks in piping and joins

Ensure all lines and joins are checked and either patched up, replaced or tightened to ensure the leak is stopped. Air leaks can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year in wasted energy costs depending on severity.

Clogged filter elements

Clogged or obstructed filter elements will decline in efficiency and cause pressure drop through the system resulting in reduced pressure at the point-of-use. Clean all filter elements and remove excess contaminants, ensure system is regularly serviced to ensure filters are replaced at the manufacturers recommended intervals.

Fouled dryer heat exchanger

Similar to air filters ensure all heat exchangers are clear of debris build up that may restrict air flow and cause pressure drop. Clean regularly and replace at recommended intervals.

Issue:

Low pressure at point of compressor discharge

Cause/Solution:

Compressor pressure settings

The majority of compressors have a pressure control function, ensure that you follow manufacturers’ guidelines in setting the pressure controls to suit your particular application.

Damaged or broken valves

If changing the pressure setting does not work there may be an issue with broken or damaged valves. Please speak to your compressed air service provider if this occurs.

Issue:

Water/Moisture in air lines

Cause/Solution:

If you are finding excess moisture evident in your system particularly at the point of end use there are a number of possible causes including:

Failed condensate traps

Ensure all condensate separators, and manual or automatic drains are functioning correctly. If not repair or replace as moisture downstream can cause equipment or product damage.

Faulty or Undersized Air Dryer or Aftercooler

If you have moisture in your air lines and you do not have an aftercooler or air dryer than you should consider investing in one or both as these help reduce the temperature of the compressed air and remove moisture which can cause damage downstream.

If you have an aftercooler and/or air dryer and you are still experiencing moisture in your air lines then ensure you have a correctly sized dryer, if a dryer is not sized correctly taking into account ambient conditions than it can be rendered useless. If your dryer has been sized correctly have it checked for faults or failure.

Issue:

Oil in air lines

Cause/Solution

If oil is appearing downstream of the compressor than there is an issue with air/oil separation. Thoroughly check the separation system including separator element and ensure the oil level in the compressor is not too high. The operation manual supplied by the manufacturer will have required oil levels and location of the separator.

Issue:

Dirt or rust in air lines

Cause/Solution

Generally caused by ageing air pipes, either replace the air line piping system or ensure there are filters before point-of-use to avoid tool/instrument damage or product spoilage.

Issue:

Compressor running ‘hot’

Cause/Solution

If the compressor operating temperature is too high it is likely a result of poor ventilation or obstructed inlet air filters. Check that the compressor has sufficient space and supply of clean cool air at the inlet and that all intake filters are cleaned regularly.

Issue:

Low oil-level

Cause/Solution

Excessive oil consumption can be a result of wear and tear and poor maintenance as well as natural loss. Fill oil level as required as per the manufacturers operation manual and be sure to inspect compressor for any oil leaks. If oil loss is significant and ongoing consult your compressed air service supplier inspect the machine to determine the cause.

If you are having any of the issues outlined in this article and would like assistance in rectifying them to increase efficiency and reduce your operating costs don’t hesitate to contact Southern Cross on 1300 098 901 or simply complete the ‘Enquire Now’ form on this page and they would be happy to assist.