How Do I Maintain And Clean Air Filters In A Pneumatic System?

Post By: Ryan King On: 10-06-2024 Read Time: 5 minutes - Guides - Pneumatics

One of the most important things to know about compressed air is that it doesn’t start out pure. Pneumatic systems require ambient air to be treated to remove contaminants before it can be used to power any equipment. That’s why one of their most crucial elements is the air preparation system. This may be a combination of separate elements for filtration, lubrication and regulation, or all these packaged together as a combined FRL unit. 

To keep your compressor running safely and at maximum efficiency, make sure it’s fitted with the best possible air filtration system. Air filters protect your compressor and minimise the stress on its inner mechanisms. There are various types of compressed air filters that work by trapping, bonding or draining moisture and particulates. When you clean and maintain them properly, your air filters will promote optimal performance and minimal energy consumption in your pneumatic system.

When you’ve set up your pneumatic air filters, it’s vitally important that you know how to maintain and clean them. This will help to optimise the performance of your system and extend its lifespan. Once you’re familiar with the workings of your pneumatic filters, you’ll learn to recognise when it’s time to replace them.

How Do I Clean My Air Filter?

The most important factor in maintaining any air filtration system is regular inspection and cleaning. First and foremost, you should follow any manufacturer’s instructions. If your filter has no specific cleaning instructions, follow these general steps:

  • Turn off the compressor and let it cool down before attempting any further action

  • Unscrew the filter top cover and remove it from the base

  • Visually inspect the top cover for damage or problems

  • Remove and inspect the filter element 

  • Use low-pressure compressed air to blow any contaminants away from the filter element

  • If nothing is worn or broken, secure the element gently back to the base

  • Reattach the top cover

Ideally, you should do this every month; realistically, not less than once per season.

Air Filters In Pneumatic System

Why Do I Need A Compressed Air Filter?

You need a compressed air filter because normal ambient air is very far from clean. Some of the most common pollutants include:

  • Pollen

  • Dust

  • Rust

  • Oil

  • Moisture

  • Tobacco smoke

  • Exhaust fumes

  • Paint and solvent particles

  • Residue from sanding

  • Residue from cleaning agents and lubricants

  • Residue from furnaces

  • Aerosol sprays

  • Insect sprays

These microscopic pollutants build up over time and will eventually clog up your filters and halt your compressor. You need your air preparation system to isolate, trap or eliminate them so that you end up with pure, clean compressed air. If you don’t clean your filters regularly, it will put unnecessary strain on your compressor and reduce the overall air quality in your pneumatic system. Your compressor will have to work twice as hard, which can lead to premature ageing and increased energy costs. 

Clean, functional filters directly affect the performance and lifespan of your air compressor. They can also get into your end product and contaminate it, which is bad news for facilities like food processing plants and laboratories. In these sectors, the air quality is vital to the quality of the end product. When you regularly maintain and clean your air filters, a better quality airflow will make costly do-overs or corrections much less likely.

When Should I Replace My Air Filters?

Unless otherwise directed by the manufacturer, there’s no standard frequency for when you should change your air filters. But you should replace your air filters in the following circumstances:

  • If your filters are old and you haven’t changed them for a while. Ideally, you should set up and stick to a coherent schedule for filter cleaning, maintenance and replacement. 

  • If you notice any wear or damage when cleaning your filters, including rust, corrosion or caked-on dirt. Continuing to use a damaged air filter will result in reduced air quality. It will also cause damage to your compressor and consequently increase your energy costs. 

  • If you continue to experience reduced air quality or poor performance even after cleaning your air filters, you will likely need to replace them. 

  • If installing a new filter doesn’t improve the performance, you’ll need to consult a qualified service technician. Poor performance is often a sign of a more serious problem with your pneumatic system. Then again, it may just be that you’ve installed the wrong size or type of filter.

If your compressor is in constant use, or running for long periods at a time, you’ll have to replace your air filters more frequently. The same applies if the ambient air is of poor quality. To reduce the frequency of cleaning and replacing your filters, you should monitor the air quality in their operating environment. If necessary, adapt your workplace to improve air quality, rather than putting too great a burden on the air filters.

The Importance Of Clean Air Filters

The best way to prevent internal build-up of contaminants or clogged filters is to clean them regularly and replace them before any serious problem occurs. This is especially important if your professional reputation or product quality is dependent on the purity of your compressed air or your compressor’s performance. In sectors such as food and beverage processing or pharmaceutical production, regular replacement of filters is critical to avoid costly malfunctions or work delays.

Maintaining and cleaning your air filters regularly is the path to better-quality compressed air. If you run a pneumatic system using old or dirty filters, you add to the risks of contaminating it with rust, dirt, pollen and other particulates. When filters are clean and well maintained, they help get rid of these contaminants and enhance the purity of your compressed air. This makes your system safer and more cost-effective and benefits your employees by providing a cleaner working environment.