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How Extremely Cold Temperature Can Affect Your Air Compressor

Below freezing temperature can have a lot of negative effects on your air compressor. Probably the most obvious one is that compressed air produces condensate which will naturally freeze when the temperature drops below freezing. When this happens, your compressed air equipment can get both short-term and long-term damages like the heat exchangers freezing and cracking. You would also get freezing control lines and frozen drain valves, among others.

In general, your air compressor room’s temperature should not get below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. However, sometimes such a situation is inevitable and you need to be aware of the effects such a condition would have on your air compressor. Here are the things you need to know:

  • Air compressor oil gets thicker when the temperature is cold, reducing its capability to lubricate your equipment. Thicker oil also means the power needed to turn the pump increases, which in turn increases motor amp draw and strain on the drive train. As you can expect it reduces the lifespan of your air compressor.
  • A lot of rotary screw compressors have very low ambient alarms; they won’t start if it gets too cold. If your air compressor will not start, it is probable that the ambient temperature around it is already below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Control lines do not run on the dry side of your air compressor. Because of moisture, cold temperatures often lead to the freezing of these lines within the compressed air system, quickly changing the way your machine operates.
  • When the temperature is really cold, refrigerated dryers run too efficiently. What happens is that the moisture it’s trying to separate will instead be cooled to the point of freezing within the machine. This will cause both blockage and cracking of the heat exchanger.
  • In the case of dessiccant dryers, wet inlet air can begin to freeze inside the piping and result to a blockage. The discharge air purge mufflers might also freeze or stop the air flow, which decreases dryer’s drying capacity.

To help get your compressed air system up and running even in extremely cold weather, shut off all sources of air from the outside. If it is an enclosed unit, open the doors of the compressor. Turn up the heat source to the room to have the temperature above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the machine is running, check for leaks. Include the condensate drain valves in your inspection, too.


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