Air Filters and Your Air Compressor

The air we breathe contains contamination in the form of water vapor and air borne particles. During the compression process an air compressor concentrates these contaminants and depending on the age of the air compressor can even add contamination in the form of oil carryover. Basically, a modern air compressor amplifies the damaging effect of water vapor and airborne particles by virtue of the compression process. If you breathing in some dusty, humid air, your air compressor is feeling it far more than you are. Water vapor can be particularly destructive to the air compressor but it doesn’t end there. Remember the whole reason you have an air compressor is to run your air tools and other accessories. A compressor by itself isn’t very useful. It’s the air tools it powers! An air tool can get some serious damage over time by pumping it full of dirty compressed air and you may find your favorite impact wrench just doesn’t have the same power it used to a few years ago. The problem may not be the impact but the dirty and wet air you are pumping through it.

Modern air compressors have several methods to combat this problem. Some have built in aftercoolers and water separators to remove excess moisture. In some applications this may be all you require. It you are working in much harsher conditions or the tools you are powering require cleaner air, you may need to consider compressed air filters to clean the air further.

Ingersoll Rand has been the leader in air compressors for literally decades and they produce a full line of filters, refrigeration dryers, desicant dryers, and cooling systems for modern air compressors. Their air filters come with a differential pressure indicator to give the operator a quick and easy reminder of how much life is left in the filter element. Also, the Oleophobic filter media actively repels oil and water to reduce pressure drop and keep operating expenses down to a minimum. Typical filter media soaks up oil and water increasing pressure drop. This reduces the efficiency of the air filter and will produce higher operating costs.

One important lesson to remember is that just because you have the lastest air filters on your shop air compressor, the compressed air is not safe to breathe. The compressed air should not be used for breathing air applications unless it is treated with all applicable codes and regulations. An air impact wrench is not as sensitive as your lungs and you don’t want even small amounts of lubricating oil deposited in your lungs.