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Mattei explains why compressor maintenance is essential

25 July 2013

A compressed air system should be regularly serviced and maintained for two important reasons.

Firstly, a poorly maintained compressor could end up posing a danger, and in very extreme cases might even catch fire or explode. This is why every compressed air system, virtually without exception, should have a Written Scheme of Examination in place, which the system should be regularly inspected in accordance with.

A Written Scheme of Examination is a legal requirement under the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000. The document contains a wide range of information, including the parts of the system that need to be examined, the nature of the examination required, the preparatory work needed and the maximum interval allowed between examinations.

Worryingly, many businesses running compressed air systems either ignore this important responsibility, or are simply not aware of it, even though it’s been in place for 13 years and there is a potential fine of up to £20,000 for not having a Written Scheme of Examination in place.

If they haven’t done so already, we would advise any plant and factory managers responsible for compressed air systems to familiarise themselves with the regulation, and to have an official scheme drawn up as a matter of urgency.

Secondly, a poorly maintained compressed air system will not run as efficiently as it should – ultimately increasing running costs and carbon emissions.

It is important to have the compressor/s and associated air treatment equipment serviced correctly, and at intervals specified by the equipment manufacturer. The service provider should be asked whether or not they are using genuine parts and oil; if not performance and reliability could be impaired.

As part of a preventative maintenance regime additional checks should also be carried out on compressor oil levels as well as any intake filters and coolers to ensure they remain free of blockages and any overheating is avoided.

It is also important to assess the system pipework. In many companies in excess of 30 per cent of air generated is wasted through leaks in the system. Systems often have anywhere between 150 and 300 leaks and, for a company using 50m3 of compressed air per minute, Mattei estimates the annual savings from fixing them (which is a simple, cost-effective exercise) would potentially be in the region of £63,000.

Steel pipework can rust and corrode, altering the efficiency of a system. If pipework needs to be replaced then for many applications aluminium could be considered a more preferable material; it minimises friction and reduces energy losses, and is also generally easier and quicker to install.

When choosing a maintenance contractor there are some voluntary schemes that end users can look out for. Companies working in the compressed air industry can demonstrate their professionalism and competence as well as their commitment to health and safety and best practice by joining BCAS (British Compressed Air Society). Membership is by peer review and members have to adhere to its codes of conduct, and can choose to proactively participate in the BCAS AirSAFE register, which promotes the credibility and professionalism of BCAS members as identified via customer feedback.

Mattei offers a variety of service and maintenance packages for most makes of compressor. The company can offer assistance with producing a Written Scheme of Examination and has personnel qualified to carry out the necessary inspections.

Mattei is committed to improving health and safety practices in the compressed air industry, and is a member of BCAS, has SAFEcontractor accreditation and an AirSAFE award.