How Does Temperature Affect Pneumatic System Performance?

Post By: Holly Shaw On: 29-02-2024 Read Time: 4 minutes - Guides - Pneumatics

Weather fluctuations affect pneumatic systems in different ways. Understanding how hot and cold temperatures affect the system and what operators can do to ensure it functions efficiently is essential.

How Warmer Conditions Affect The System 

Pneumatic systems convert compressed air to linear energy to perform various industrial tasks, including filling, lifting, pushing and moving components. Because The pressurisation of compressed air generates heat, with the cylinder producing heat during operation. During the summer months, hot weather puts additional pressure on the system. 

Industrial pneumatic systems are built with a safety switch to shut down the air compressor if it overheats. If the system is regularly shutting down during the summer months, operators will need to cool the system to shed the extra heat. 

Damage To Lubrication And Components

Excessive temperatures wear down the system, leading to a compressor failure as lubrication starts to thin or vaporise. Electrical components can also melt from extreme heat, and insulation can be eroded or eradicated.

Even short periods of the system running above the set operating temperatures can damage the compressor motor and shorten its use by up to 50%. If the oil temperature reaches 200°F/93.3°C, it reduces the oil life by half. Systems that overheat regularly will inevitably break down, rendering them unrepairable or costly to repair.

An Increase In Water Output

Higher temperatures increase humidity in the air. Since hot air contains more moisture, water can build in the pneumatic system’s internal mechanisms, putting more pressure on filtering and drying mechanisms. 

Excess moisture causes rust in the system’s internal mechanisms. Corrosion can cause cracks in piping and fittings, resulting in component failure and contamination of the system.

Airlines can become blocked with debris, bringing contaminants and debris into production. Excess moisture can introduce bacteria to materials or products in moisture-sensitive processes such as food processing plants, paint lines, and chemical production. This results in poor-quality products and possible health hazards. 

Draining The System Frequently 

How Does Temperature Affect Pneumatic System Performance

With more vapour in compressed air, water drains and traps will need regular draining to protect against moisture build-up. More frequent draining stresses the system, causing wear to the draining mechanisms. This means it’s essential to service pneumatic systems during the summer.

Reduced Cooling Efficiency 

The heat generated by air compressors and the high summer temperatures can make cooling systems such as air refrigerators less effective. Reduced cooling on the system can lead it to overheat or shut down. Manufacturers should account for the increase in temperature and plan for additional cooling accordingly.

How Colder Conditions Affect The System 

Compressed air systems are at risk during the winter months due to the nature of condensate and how it moves through the system. When the ambient air temperature falls below 40°F/4.4°C, pneumatic components, dryers and drains risk forming frozen condensate, and frozen droplets forming in or around the pneumatic system’s components can crack mechanisms or block airflow.

The system’s drain, valves and filters can be damaged from frozen icicles forming. Oil in the system also thickens when temperatures fall, and with less lubrication, more force is needed to run the pump mechanism. This causes higher energy consumption and wear to the system.

The Air Compressor Won’t Switch On

When temperatures in the manufacturing plant or around the compressor’s area fall below 40°F/4.4°C Fahrenheit, it triggers the temperature gauge in the compressor to switch off to prevent damage to the system. This is a common feature with rotary screw air compressors, which stops the compressor from switching on when temperatures fall below 40°F/4.4°C.

Air Dryers, Drains And Valves At Risk Of Damage 

Colder weather conditions will make refrigerated air dryers over-efficient, cooling separated moisture to the point of freezing. Over-cooling can cause crystals to form in the heat exchanger, causing blockages and cracks in air dryers.

In desiccant air dryers, air-carrying moisture can freeze as it moves through the piping, blocking control lines and preventing tower switching valves from operating. Drain valves may freeze shut or open, blocking water flow from exiting the system. Compressed air filters can form ice in the filter, preventing airflow. Clogged air filters can also lead to reduced pressure in the plant.

The System Is At Risk Of More Corrosion

Lower temperatures put the system at risk of corrosion because dryers don’t function as well in the cold. Lower efficiency in drying can lead to moisture building up in the system and remaining for extended periods, causing rust and blockages.

Why It’s Important To Account For Temperature Fluctuations

Extreme weather changes have severe effects on pneumatic systems. During the summer months, the system is at risk of overheating and cooling mechanisms are used more often to regulate temperatures. To prevent the system from overheating, it’s necessary to check air coolers regularly to ensure they’re working efficiently. This requires cleaning air compressor coils and maintaining cooling water at the right temperature and level. Keeping filters, cooling water,r and the compressor motor cabinet clean and free of debris and dust also assists in better cooling, as layers of dirt prevent airflow and seal in heat.

Cooler temperatures bring the risk of freezing condensation forming in and around the system, forming icicles in the system’s piping, valves and filters. Extreme cold can also freeze drying equipment such as air exchangers, causing refrigerated air dryers to over-function. To counter the effects of colder weather, operators can cold-proof the system by installing trace heating to insulate against freezing condensation. Another effective measure is to ensure all pipes are adequately protected to prevent the risk of freezing.