Location, location, location: How placement impacts compressed air equipment performance

You’ve done the research, completed the performance comparisons, created life cycle cost analysis spreadsheets, and maybe even lost a little bit of sleep perfecting your pitch to get the purchase requisition signed. But in all of your planning and number crunching, did you remember to consider how the compressor room location will impact equipment performance? The real estate mantra, “Location, location, location” rings true for getting the energy savings you’re expecting from your compressed air system. For reliable and efficient compressed air performance, consider ventilation, equipment clearance, and the overall compressor room environment.

How does ventilation impact compressor performance?

Compressors and related compressed air equipment need a steady supply of cool inlet air to function properly. This cooling air helps ensure the equipment remains below its maximum operating temperature. Poor ventilation leads to high ambient temperatures which in turn cause:
  • Lubricant degradation
  • Drive motor damage
  • Equipment shutdown
  • Excess moisture in the compressed air
Additionally, excessive moisture can overrun air treatment components. This can then carryover into the plant air, contaminate end processes, and lead to higher scrap rates and waste.
Proper ventilation is two-fold: it not only supplies the cooling air flow, it also exhausts the heat generated from the equipment away from the compressor room. A compressor generates 2,550 BTU/h per horsepower, this is a considerable amount of energy which, without removal, is now working to heat up the compressor room. Additionally refrigerated and desiccant dryers also generate heat. Having proper ductwork and/or exhaust fans to channel this heat away is essential to keeping your entire system running reliably and efficiently, otherwise your brand new system is headed for trouble. For more information, see our blog post on ventilation tips. An additional way to divert the hot air exhaust from the compressor is to recover the heat generated; this can not only reduce room temperatures, but can also save a significant amount of money.

How much clearance is needed around compressed air equipment?

When laying out your compressor room, it’s important to leave ample room around the equipment—away from any walls, doors, and other pieces of equipment. Most manufacturers supply the recommended minimum clearance in service manuals. You can request it during the specification stage of your buying process.
Beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations, also consider maintenance access. Can service technicians easily access the equipment? Is there enough clearance to open the service doors fully and/or remove the service panels? In addition to routine maintenance, you’ll want to make sure there’s room to safely maneuver any special equipment such as cranes and forklifts to not only put the compressor in place, but also perform major service work, such as exchanging an airend or drive motor.

Compressor room how-to’s

The last tip is to consider the location of the compressor room in relation to everything else in your plant. For example, it’s not the best choice to locate the compressor room next to the boiler room which can serve to increase the overall temperature of your compressor. If there’s no other choice, proper ventilation, sufficient cooling air inlet, and proper exhaust air practices (as mentioned previously) will be all the more critical.
You’ll also want to be mindful of the air quality you have in and around your compressor room. If you compressor ingests fumes or other contaminants, those will only be passed on to your process. Here’s a prime example:
compressor room with exhaust from parked-cars
The compressor room is installed right next to the parking lot. All of the exhaust fumes from the cars are funneled directly into the compressor room for its inlet air.
So don’t neglect your compressor room’s location. Considering the ventilation, maintenance access, and proximity to potential contaminants can keep your system running reliably and efficiently for years to come.

Additional resources: