Maintaining efficiency

17 November 2017

Compressors and associated air treatment equipment must be properly serviced, maintained and inspected, as Andy Jones, managing director at Mattei, explains

Just like other pieces of industrial equipment, compressors need to be properly maintained to ensure they perform correctly and efficiently. A compressed air system that isn’t regularly maintained could end up posing a danger; in very extreme cases a poorly maintained compressor might even catch fire or explode.

Compressors should be serviced at intervals specified by the equipment manufacturer, but guidelines and timescales for legally required inspections are provided through a document called a Written Scheme of Examination. This specifies the parts of the system that need to be assessed, the nature of the examination required, the preparatory work needed and the maximum interval allowed between checks.

Maintenance plan

It’s important to have a maintenance plan in place for the whole compressed air system, not just the compressor, which should include checking the pipework for rust, corrosion and leaks.

In many systems, in excess of 30% of air generated is wasted through leaks. Leaks are simple to identify and rectify – and it’s cost-effective; the average cost of a Mattei leak detection survey is less than 10% of the overall leakage costs. Leak detection surveys should ideally be done on an annual basis, and always before a new compressor is installed. Not only will this ensure minimum energy wastage, but it will make sure your equipment remains reliable and safe.

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 to avoid overheating. We’d advise asking the service provider if they are using genuine parts and oil; if not, performance and reliability could be reduced.

When it comes to avoiding leakage issues, I believe opting for a vane air compressor over screw from the get-go is a good place to start. This is because ‘blowholes’, where air under high pressure can be driven to areas of low pressure, is inherent in screw compressors. To compensate for these leakage paths, they need to run at high speeds. The design of rotary vane compressors eliminates this issue, which means they can operate at low speeds from a direct drive coupling. This in turn improves energy efficiency and reduces power consumption.

Vane compressors can also cut costs when it comes to maintenance. The absence of roller bearings in a vane compressor means lower maintenance costs and a reduced risk of component failure. In fact, some vane compressors have been known to run for more than 200,000 hours without the need to replace the white-metal bushes used in this type of compressor. This contrasts with roller bearings, which typically require to be changing every 30,000-40,000 hours.

Mattei offers a variety of service and maintenance packages for most makes of compressors and can offer assistance if a Written Scheme of Examination is required. We provide a free of charge, 10-year (unlimited hours) air end warranty on our own range of rotary vane compressors, which only needs to comply with standard servicing.

Mattei is committed to improving health and safety practices in the compressed air industry. The company is a member of BCAS and is SafeContractor and Avetta (PICS) accredited.