When Should You Replace A Compressor In A Pneumatic System?

Post By: Tom Rowse On: 14-12-2023 Read Time: 5 minutes - Guides - Pneumatics

Compressors are vital in many industrial settings for day-to-day operations, but they eventually need replacement. This could be due to general wear and tear over the years, as they reach the natural end of their service life. Knowing when you should replace a compressor in a pneumatic system is directly related to what you’re using it for, whether it’s in constant use and how well it’s maintained. 

The average lifespan of a compressor is usually between five and 20 years, depending on its type and usage. If you’re running it 24/7 and not maintaining it regularly, it’ll be at the shorter end of the spectrum, while better-maintained and less frequently used compressors will obviously last longer. 

Recognising When Your Compressor Needs Replacement

There are several key factors that will indicate when you should replace a compressor in a pneumatic system. These include: 

  • A greater demand for air

  • Excessive noise

  • Uneven running

  • Poor air quality

  • Inadequate performance

Greater Demand For Air

If the amount of air demanded by your compressor has increased significantly, this poses a problem. You’ll experience increased air supply costs that can’t be reduced by maintenance, which suggests that your compressor is on its last legs. Trying to force air through this compressor will lead to active damage.

Excessive Noise

If your compressor starts to generate more noise, it means it’s time to get a new one. An air compressor has many internal mechanisms that move together to compress the air. These parts will wear out as they age – and wear more rapidly if they’re inadequately maintained. This will cause the compressor to run much more noisily than normal. If replacing the oil and maintaining your compressor regularly doesn’t eliminate this problem, your compressor needs replacing.

Uneven Running

If you notice your compressor shaking or running unevenly, it indicates a lack of proper maintenance. Ignoring the symptoms will only exacerbate the problems. If the compressor can’t be adjusted you’ll need a new one. Replacing your compressor will be the most cost-effective solution.

When Should You Replace A Compressor In A Pneumatic System?

Poor Air Quality

Another indicator of a failing compressor is a drop in the quality of the compressed air. Reduced air quality is a clear indication that a compressor is at the end of its service life, since compressor malfunctioning results in poor air quality.

Inadequate Performance

If your compressor is no longer capable of doing the job it used to do, then its capacity is insufficient for your present needs. This may be because you’ve upgraded your pneumatic equipment or systems and you need a more powerful compressor to run them efficiently. It may also be another indication that the compressor has aged since you first installed it and is no longer up to the job. In either case, your compressor will definitely need replacing, to get your workloads back up to speed.

What Happens If You Don’t Replace Your Compressor?

It’s a common tendency to hang on to your old equipment as long as possible, to delay the expense of replacing it. But this can have bad – and possibly disastrous – consequences. As its performance deteriorates, the old compressor will be constantly breaking down, losing you time and money in continuous repairs. It could end up costing you as much as purchasing a brand-new compressor – perhaps more. 

This sort of delay could cause you serious financial damage. Not only will the repair costs mount up, but so will the backlog of incomplete tasks due to downtime for those repairs. An ageing compressor will also start to consume more energy, adding to the drain on your financial resources. To add to your woes, your tired old compressor won’t be completing its tasks properly. It will need constant checking and repairs.

Finally, a safety warning. Continuing to use an ageing and potentially faulty air compressor carries a risk of explosion. Compressed air is stored under very high pressures and these may force a weakened storage tank to give way. Failure of parts under pressure in an old compressor can cause serious damage to life and equipment.

What Can You Do To Make Your Compressor Last Longer?

Several best practices you can adopt will help to prolong your compressor’s service life. The most important of these is undoubtedly regular, and preferably predictive, maintenance. Compressor maintenance should be performed at regular intervals by an authorised service provider, at least once a year. You should also carry out weekly checks of important components like the air filter and the storage tank. Check the compressor oil frequently and replace it as necessary.

Observe the compressor now and then while it’s running, to ensure there’s no excessive vibration or noise. If there is, you’ll need your authorised service provider to check and adjust it. 

Locate your compressor in a suitable environment, where it won’t overheat or get fouled by dirt or dust in an enclosed space. You should also make sure to turn off your compressor when it’s not required. It’ll wear more quickly if it’s constantly running, even when not under load.

Lifespan And Maintenance

Compressors are like cars – if you run them continuously without regular maintenance they’ll eventually need major repairs. All machines with long operating hours suffer more frequent component degradation and failure. You can refurbish and rebuild them but still experience decreased efficiency.  Efficiency in a pneumatic system may be improved by upgrading filters, air dryers, compressed air piping and storage receivers, but upgrading the compressor is more cost-effective.

Continuing to use a compressor at the end of its service life is a false economy that’ll cost you time, money and materials – and could cost you your life. Remember it’s a machine with a limited lifespan, which must be replaced when that ends. If your compressor is older than 15 years, you should probably consider a replacement. You’ll find newer models far more efficient due to technological advances in compressor design.