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Locating the air compressor

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Compressor location, unlike in real-estate where the maxim everyone uses is Location, Location, Location, where you position your compressor is not normally as critical. Still, it is important over the long term for a number of reasons.

Forethought about compressor installation location can prevent some problems, can assist in the more efficient use of that compressor, and will probably save you some significant operating and maintenance dollars over time.

Here are some tips on how to make your compressors installation work for, and not against, you.

Compressor Noise

Or…please, just put the darn thing behind walls!

The folks at Jun-Air (among others) make a compressor that I used to sell, when I was in the compressor selling business. One of the neatest things about the Jun-Air compressor, aside from its portability, was when it was operating there was the absence of noise. It was so quiet in operation!

I recall a customer seeing a demo. We had the compressor on their desk, running. They did not know it was on, and it was not until the air compressor unloaded that they realized that we had been having a normal decibel-level conversation with an air compressor running right beside us.

Noise Mufflers And Compressor Location
Noise Mufflers And Compressor Location

However, many air compressors generate headache producing, eardrum thumping – and possibly ear damaging – noise. It is not good for you and certainly not good for the staff that have to put up with it. Read up a bit on how incessant noise negatively affects work output and quality. You’ll be glad you did, and perhaps motivated to engender a quieter working environment.

Even in a small shop, consider building a sound-insulated wall around the compressor. Everyone will thank you for it and it will lead to higher productivity levels and quite likely better quality work if your staff does not have to wince or shout over the noise of the compressor while they are working.

Compressor Accessibility

You have built the wall, you and your employees are happy as the sound beast has now been contained, and you can talk in the shop again without having to shout. There now comes a time to do some maintenance work on the air compressor.

It seems you have got to change out a compressor part. Unfortunately, the part that has to come out is bigger than the doorway into the compressor room. Ooops! A problem for you…yes?

No, not if you have designed your compressor room or compressor partition to have access doors and access areas that are at least as large as the largest part (perhaps the whole compressor?) that will need to move in and out of the compressor room should the need arise.

Also, you will periodically need to be in and around the compressor for regular and routine maintenance. Access all around the unit is important. Do yourself a favor and give yourself lots of elbow-room completely around the compressor and accessory equipment. You will thank your far-sightedness down the road and get less scars on your elbows and head-bone by not smacking them into pipes and other objects around the air compressor.

Speaking of compressor room doors, it is an unfortunate necessity, yet my advice is that compressor room doors should be locking.

There needs to be a protocol (plan) for key handling and compressor security. You may sometimes have no idea who is in and around the shop, and as a critical energy source for your plant, do not risk downtime due to someone monkeying with the air compressor. Good locks and doors keep out the experimenters, those folks who just want to see what happens when they push that button….!

Compressor Air Supply

The air compressor has to compress…you got it; AIR!

It needs lots of free air around the compressor both for an air source, and to help in keeping the compressor cooler.

The best place for your compressor intake to draw air from is outside your shop.

A 25 HP air compressor will gulp in around 800 SCFM – though the actual intake volume of free air varies depending on where in the world that particular compressor is installed.

While it is not likely that an air compressor could suck all the air from a room, why pull air intot he compressor that has already been treated by air conditioning, or by heating, from the plant? You might as well use the air from outside your plant that you have not spent any money on conditioning.

Cool & Shady Air For Compressor Air Intake

Set up your compressor outside-air intake on the coolest, shadiest side of the building, so you will be bringing cooler air into the compressor.

The process of compressing air generates lots of heat, and there is no point in increasing the heat by ingesting hot, humid outside air into the compressor intake if it can be avoided at all. Compressor generated water and water related problems.

Waste Heat Recycling

The heat generated by your compressor might be reclaimed as a heat source for your shop?

Interested in reusing compressor generated heat? Then consider the compressor as a heat source when determining the scope of your compressor room. You may need room for additional equipment to capture that heat.

Some additional compressor location factors to be considered are:

Compressor Air Intake Security

As well as being on the coolest, shadiest side of the building if possible, ensure that your air intake is well up the wall. If it is located near ground level, there is a possibility of sucking ground level dust and debris into the intake. Not to mention objects that bystanders might try to insert! Up high, out of sight, out of mind.

Your compressor air intake will (should) have an adequate dust and debris filter which will help keep out dust, debris, and whatever folks might try to throw into it.

Do not forget to have the cleaning of the air compressor intake filter on your compressor maintenance schedule.

Compressor Room Visibility – Lighting

Give some thought to adding lighting in the compressor room. It never fails that you will have to do something to the unit that is in behind it, or close to being completely underneath the compressor, and it sure is easier to perform maintenance on a compressor when there is good lighting.

Good lighting is important from a safety standpoint, too. Every surface seems to collect things, and around the compressor may not be an exception. Good lighting means that you will not be tripping over items, damaging them or yourself in the process.

Have you checked out the cost of worker’s compensation lately?

Compressor Equipment Security

Who is going into the compressor room? Who is perhaps not planning anything catastrophic, but just might push the wrong button or turn the wrong valve?

Depending on the type of compressor, moving parts may make being in close proximity dangerous. Yes, the belts on compressors should be guarded to prevent very dangerous pinch-points. You can make your compressor even safer by keeping unauthorized and unskilled persons out of the compressor area completely.

Do the curiosity seeker and yourself a favor, and lock the door to the compressor room.

Where Is The Key

Have a documented system for controlling the compressor room key. If there is a problem that needs to be rectified, why waste time looking for the key? Those that need to know or need access should have the information as to where it is, or the actual key at hand.

Compressor Vibration

Depending on the style and size of the compressor, there will be varying levels of vibration associated with its operation. Installing the compressor on the recommended cement base could mean that vibration from the running compressor could be felt, and affect, other areas of the plant.

There are many options available to help isolate the compressor vibration from transmitting to other areas of the plant.

Some of those I’ve been involved with are wire rope isolators. Another is the use of simple elastomeric (neoprene or rubber cushions) mounts. The elastomers are likely the lowest cost, and provide a rubber cushion between the feet of the compressor and the floor.

Be aware of the vibration concern when seeking a new compressor . Be sure to ask the vendor about steps you will have to take if the compressor you select can cause your plant a vibration problem.

Floor Under Air Compressor

A cement or concrete floor under your compressor is best.

Not only will this type of floor resist vibration, it will also resist decomposition from the water that is a continual by-product of compressing air.

It will also resist the compressor oil that is often spilled on the floor around the compressor.

Painting the floor before installing the compressor will make the floor around and under it easier to clean. Be aware of slip-and-fall hazards on a painted, wet or oily floor.

Compressor Tank Drain

If you install an auto-drain in the tank drain or just opt for using the manual drain valve to drain the tank at least once a day, the water that could come flooding from your tank drain valve has to go somewhere.

Be conscious of the fact that the mixture blowing out of the drain of the receiver may be mostly water, but will have dirt in it, and may contain oil as well.

It is quite likely that this water / dirt / oil slurry from your compressor will be considered as “hazardous waste” in your jurisdiction, and it must be treated as such. Gone are the days when you simply ran the line from the receiver right into the nearest municipal drain. You do want to be sure about where your tank water/oil goes if there is sufficient volume.

Compressor Room Size

We have already talked about making the compressor room large enough to have elbow-room around the compressor, but when you are planning the compressor room, also give thought to the ancillary equipment you might ultimately need.

You may opt for installing an extra compressor tank or two right in the compressor room.

If an additional receiver does not provide sufficient cooling of the air to remove the water to a level satisfactory for your plant, you may need some compressed air cooling technology such as an aftercooler, a desiccant dryer or a refrigerant dryer.

These items can get you into some serious additional real estate around the compressor and should be in the compressor room too, so keep your options open in terms of how big your compressor room needs to be.

When it comes to compressor location, if your plant real estate allows, a bigger compressor room is always better than a confined one.

Thoughts or comments about compressor location? You can add them here.

By Bill Wade

About Air Compressors has been helping folks with their Air Compressor Problems since 2002 online. We're a community of DIY and Compressed Air professionals who are keen to support everyone across the globe with their air compressor issues and troubleshooting. Whether you're trying to identify an old air compressor, or troubleshoot an error code on a sophisticated new industrial air compressor - the community at About-Air-Compressors.com is here to help you

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