Maximizing Your Air Compressor’s Performance: A Guide to Identifying and Solving Common Issues

Air Compressor Tips

Air compressors are powerful and important machines that help to simplify a wide range of complex tasks. These heavy-duty machines have demonstrated their worth in both commercial and industrial settings, making them an absolute necessity for facilities looking to better their day-to-day operations. Air compressors are extremely adaptable and versatile, with many models designed for specific applications. They keep the workplace safe, clean, and efficient.

To maintain efficiency and effectiveness, air compressors, like many other extensively used machinery, require routine maintenance. However, continuous use exposes them to wear and tear, which means you will eventually encounter some challenges. Fortunately, it does not have to be outrageously expensive. The first step is to identify the problem and figure out how to fix it.

Types of Air Compressors

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There are different types of air compressors, each with its own set of characteristics and applications. Among the most common types are:

Positive Displacement Compressors:  A positive displacement air compressor works by drawing air into a compression chamber through an intake valve and mechanically reducing the volume of the chamber through motion until a set pressure is reached. The compressed air is then discharged through a valve at the rated pressure, providing a flow of air.

Reciprocating Compressors: This type of compressor draws in and then compresses air using a piston in continual motion. In general, one piston movement draws in air, while the opposite action compresses it. Single- and double-chamber reciprocating piston compressors are available, with air compressed on either one or both sides of the piston. Reciprocating compressors are commonly used for low to medium-pressure applications like powering tools and equipment.

Rotary Screw Compressors: The most common type of compressor in use today is the rotary positive displacement compressor. It works by drawing air in, sealing the entrance, and compressing the air with two rotors that rotate and pass through the cavity continually. The air is further compressed with each turn until it reaches the set pressure.

This type of compressor is lubricated using an air-oil combination, which gathers impurities from the air, self-lubricates compressor components, and reduces operating temperature. While the oil must be filtered from the air before it can be used in the final application, the presence of oil increases operational efficiency. They are commonly found in high-pressure, high-volume applications such as manufacturing plants and industrial buildings.

Centrifugal Compressors:  These are dynamic compressors that compress air using kinetic energy. They are made up of an impeller, which spins at high speeds to increase the velocity of the incoming air, and a diffuser, which converts the kinetic energy into pressure. They are widely used in a variety of industrial settings, such as power plants, natural gas pipelines, petrochemical plants, and manufacturing facilities due to their ability to handle large volumes of air at low pressures. They are also relatively efficient and have a relatively simple design, making them easy to maintain.

Dynamic Compressors: In dynamic compression, the air is drawn between the blades on a rapidly rotating compression impeller and accelerates to high velocity. The air or gas is then discharged through a diffuser, where the kinetic energy is transformed into static pressure. Most dynamic compressors are turbocompressors with an axial or radial flow pattern and are often designed for large-volume flow rates. Dynamic compressors are most commonly seen in high-volume, high-pressure applications such as jet engines and gas turbines.

Portable Compressors: Portable air compressors are intended to be useful in a range of circumstances. They are responsible for supplying compressed air to pneumatic hand tools, as well as other equipment and machinery. They are compact and light in size and are used to power tools and equipment on building sites and other outdoor settings.

Each type of compressor has advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice is determined by the application and requirements.

Common Air Compressor Problems & Solutions

Won’t start: This issue can be caused by a number of circumstances, such as a power outage, a broken pressure switch, or a blocked air filter. To resolve this issue, first ensure that the compressor is properly plugged in and that power is available at the outlet. If the problem persists, check to determine if the pressure switch and air filter need to be cleaned or replaced.

Won’t stop: This can happen if the pressure switch fails or if the unloader valve becomes jammed. Check the pressure switch and unloader valve to see whether they need to be cleaned or replaced to resolve this issue.

Compressor runs but doesn’t build pressure: This can be caused by a clogged air filter, a leak in the air system, or a broken check valve. To resolve this issue, inspect the air filter and all connections for leaks and ensure the check valve is operational.

Compressor runs hot: This can be caused by a lack of sufficient lubrication, a blocked air filter, or a malfunctioning cooling system. Check the oil level and change the oil if necessary, clean or replace the air filter, and make sure the cooling system is working properly.

Compressor makes strange noises: This can be caused by a number of issues, including worn-out bearings, a clogged air filter, or a loose or damaged belt. To resolve this problem, inspect the bearings, air filter, and belt and replace or repair them as necessary.

Compressor leaks air: This can be caused by a number of problems, including old gaskets, a crack in the tank, or losoe connections. To resolve this issue, ensure that all gaskets and connections are correctly tightened. If the problem persists, the gaskets may need to be replaced or the tank repaired.

Motor won’t run: This could be due to a power outage, a blown fuse, a tripped circuit breaker, or a faulty motor. Check the power supply and make sure the compressor is correctly plugged in to resolve this issue. Replace the fuse or circuit breaker if necessary. If the problem persists, the motor may need to be replaced.

Compressor won’t build enough pressure: This can be caused by a blocked air filter, a faulty pressure switch, or an air system leak. To resolve this issue, clean or replace the air filter, inspect and adjust the pressure switch, and inspect and repair any leaks in the air system.

Compressor leaks oil: This can be caused by a worn oil seal, a faulty oil filter, or a faulty oil pump. Replace the oil seal, clean or replace the oil filter, and inspect the oil pump for damage and repair or replace it as needed to resolve this issue.

Compressor vibrates excessively: This can be caused by a misaligned pulley, a worn-out belt, or a defective or worn-out compressor mount. To resolve this issue, inspect the pulley and belt alignment and tighten or replace them as needed. Examine the compressor mount and replace or repair it as needed.

These are some of the common problems that can occur with air compressors and some solutions to help fix them. It is always recommended to refer to the manual or consult a professional if you are unsure about any repairs.

Managing Air Compressor Issues

In summary, it is important to understand the common causes of air compressor issues and take steps to prevent them. Regular maintenance, inspections, and timely repairs are essential to keep the compressor running smoothly and to extend its lifespan.

Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) software can help fix air compressor problems by providing a centralized location for maintaining and tracking all information related to the maintenance of the air compressor. This can include keeping a record of past maintenance and repair activities, scheduling upcoming maintenance tasks, and tracking inventory of necessary spare parts. Additionally, CMMS software can provide alerts and notifications to alert maintenance personnel when preventive maintenance is due or when equipment is in need of repair. This can help ensure that issues with the air compressor are identified and addressed in a timely manner, reducing the likelihood of costly breakdowns and downtime.

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