Air compressors can explode and cause serious damage. In fact, the explosion from an air compressor in an auto body shop in Bronx caused the entire building to collapse. Two people who were injured in the accident were located in the basement. If you own or manage an auto body shop, it is crucial for you to make sure your air compressor(s) are always in good working condition. Here's what you need to know about why air compressors explode and how to prevent it from happening in your shop.
Condensate & Corrosion
When air is compressed, it causes the water vapor in the air, also known as humidity, to also compress. This compression of water vapor causes condensation inside your air compressor. Condensate is the water that forms in the process of condensation. Oxygen in the condensate causes oxidation in metal and produces oxides, which is more commonly called rust.
This corrosion process degrades the appearance and strength of metal. If condensate forms rust inside your air compressor, it can result in a loss in structural integrity of the tank. If this happens, it can easily lead to an explosion. Therefore, it's important to properly maintain and regularly inspect your air compressor to ensure it is in good working condition and safe to operate and, more importantly, to prevent an explosion.
Remove the Condensate So Rust Cannot Form
Since condensate can form inside your tank every time it is used, it is very important to drain the condensate from the tank on a daily basis after the compressor is used. This can be done manually by flipping the condensate drain valve to open. Since this maintenance tip should be carried out on a daily basis, include it in your end-of-day checklist. Alternatively, your air compressor may have an automatic drain feature designed into it. If it doesn't but you would like to have an automatic drain, contact your air compressor supplier through a website like http://www.compressor-pump.com for more information.
Reduce Condensate with a Dryer
Install a refrigerated air dryer to reduce moisture in the compressor. Essentially, this is a device that will lower the temperature of the air before it goes to the compressor to be compressed. Lowering the air temperature of the air will cause some of the water vapor in the air to condense. That way, a lot of the water vapor will be removed from the air so it will not accumulate inside the air compressor. Of course, the condensate will instead need to be drained from the refrigerated air dryer, but it does reduce the risk of rust forming inside your highly-volatile air compressor tank.
Another way to control the amount of water vapor in the air that compressors use is to install a desiccant dryer. This device uses desiccant, which is an absorbent material that draws moisture from the air. With this type of dryer, there is no need to drain condensate; however, you will have to replace the desiccant material on a regular basis, the frequency of which will depend on how humid your shop is. Fortunately, manufacturers have made this process easy by designing these dryers with desiccant replacements in the form of cartridges.
Install a Shop-Size Dehumidifier
Another option to remove moisture from the air and, therefore, lower the humidity in the shop is to install a dehumidifier that is large enough for your shop. Of course, this wouldn't work well if your garage doors are used frequently. However, this option would help control the humidity in shops where extensive work is being done on vehicles and the garage doors normally remain closed for extensive periods, such as during extensive auto body repairs or while an antique vehicle is being restored.