Air compressors are used extensively in manufacturing sectors as well as the automotive industry. A compressor is used in a number of applications, including the operation of clamping machines, metal stamping, pneumatic presses and mold injection machines. Of course, compressed air is necessary to operate air tools in the automotive repair industry. In certain sectors, compressed air is referred to as the fourth utility.
In an air compressor, an inherent byproduct is condensate. As air is compressed and cooled, moisture develops from the condensed air. In compressors, lubricating oil may combine with the moisture and collect on pipes or storage tanks. The condensate will build up over time and reduce the efficiency of the machine. Further build up can lead to oxidation of metal components. Eventually the machine can fail and require extensive repairs.
To prevent this build up, a drain must be utilized to remove the harmful condensate. In a small operation, it may be sufficient to simply drain the compressor on a regular basis. But in a facility where the compressor is operating continuously, time can be lost to drain the compressor and re-pressurize the air. To prevent time loss, manufacturers have developed electric zero air loss drains. With such a component, the condensate can be removed without draining the compressed air. The zero air loss drain has a metering system to detect when condensate levels are too high.
After the condensates are removed they must be disposed in a proper manner. A liquid condensate solution mixed with oil or other contaminants should not be directly drained to a sewer line. To remove the contaminants oil and water separators and filters should be employed. Separators are connected to drain discharge outlets and mechanically separate lubricant oils from the water mixture. With filters, such as Donaldson compressed air filters,the condensate is forced through a filter media. The oily substances collect on the filter media and allow clean condensate water to pass through. The water can then be disposed of safely and in an environmentally responsible manner. Like all filter media, the filters must be cleaned and replaced periodically.