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Moisture Removal for Shop Air Supply
By W. Milton Bates
     Moisture in compressed air supply is a major problem for furniture finishing whether you are a large manufacturing or a small refinishing shop. Moisture or water in your compressed air supply during a spraying operation is detrimental for both productivity and the quality of your work. The large manufacturer can normally solve the problem by the use of large air filtering networks and refrigerated air dying equipment. This type of equipment to remove condensation is the ultimate solution for this problem. For the small refinishing shop, this type of refrigeration equipment has not been practical or economical until now.

      To appreciate the solution to this problem, you must first understand what the basic problems are. When a compressor generates air, heat is generated as well. This heated is produced by the rapid movement of the piston within the compressor head. Heat is transferred to the pressurized air supply that is being generated by the compressor head and transferred to the holding tank. Once air is deposited in the holding tank, it comes into contact with cooler air that is at a lower temperature, resulting in condensation or water. The amount of moisture created by a compressor is directly related to the size of the compressor, horsepower, the size of the tank, and various other factors. Keeping the air holding tank drained of excess water will help reduce moisture in the output air supply. This water should be drained from the air supply tank on a regular maintenance schedule or by some automatic drain device.
     
      One other factor that can help in reducing moisture in the compressor air output is the type of material that the compressor head is constructed of. In a move to reduce the cost of compressors, manufacturers have turned to using aluminum for compressor head construction. This certainly has decreased the cost of compressors, but due to the heat transfer characteristics of aluminum, it has increased the amount of heat generated during compressor operation which in turn produces a far greater amount of condensation. This type of aluminum compressor head may work well for the weekend amateur, but it is very detrimental for professional finishers. When purchasing a compressor, it is critical that the compressor head be constructed of steel or cast metal. These materials will transfer heat into the air stream but not as signicficanly as aluminum will.

The use of airline filters and desiccant equipment is a fundentmental part of any air cleaning system, but to depend on them as a total solution is impractical. Airline filters are normally recommended by a manufacturer to effectively clean a small portion of the total air output, but they can be overpowered by the total output of a compressor. In addition, the filters require constant cleaning and maintenance to keep them working to peak performance. Airline filters simply do not provide a total solution to the problem of clean air and moisture elimination.

      Our investigation into various air cleaning and refrigeration methods showed products and equipment that could solve this problem, but they were beyond the reach of our small one man finishing shop. The financial investment was extremely large, but we still had a problem that needed to be solved. We sought the advice of the technical manager of a compressor supply company (Process Power) and he recommended an immediate solution. He suggested that our solution could come from the dental industry. A dentist uses compressed air for the operation of his various small and delicate drills and cleaning his work site, the oral cavity. The air used by the dentist has to be very clean and cool when used for patient treatment. The dentist uses a small refrigerated air dryer unit to treat the air supplied by his compressor. This unit manufactured by the Wilkerson Corporation of Englewood Co (303-761-7601). Model 10-35 SCFM was ideal for moisture removal for a small shop operation. The unit provided by Wilkerson Corp. is specifically designed for small-scale operation where clean and cool air is a must. The cost of the unit was $875.00.

      Upon reviewing the Wilkerson product literature regarding this unit, we could see that it could be the solution to our moisture problem, but we remained hesitant due to the cost. The technical advisor of the company was very insistent that his equipment would work to our complete satisfaction. We purchased the unit and installed it as recommended by the manufacturer. See enclosed typical compressor room layout diagram. The installation was easy and did not require any outside technical assistance. The unit did come with complete and detailed instructions regarding use and installation. See photographs #1 and #2 regarding installation. Once installed and placed into operation we saw an immediate improvement in the quality of our air for spraying and tool operation. The first indication was the immediate and accurate control we obtained for regulating air pressure: we were able eliminate any air pressure variation and maintain a solid air pressure control both for spraying and tool operation. This unit totally removed and eliminated all moisture and water from our airlines for both spraying and tool operation. Even during the most humid months of the summer, no moisture was noted in the spraying equipment or on the work surfaces. We have used this equipment for over two years and have not experienced any problems with it. We are able to regulate our air pressure at a constant rate without problems. Our air tools continue to operate with minimal maintenance or operational problems. In addition, our air filters work better and are better able to handle any residue that may escape into our airlines. Water and moisture has ceased to be a problem in our air supply lines.

      The initial cost of this unit may seem high for even a small one man refinishing shop, but it has more than paid for itself in the first two years by the total elimination of moisture from the spraying operation and the better operation of our air powered tools. We would highly recommend this Wilkerson Refrigerated Compressed Air Dryer to any refinishing shop that wants to further enhance the quality of its work and improve its productivity.


Photograph #1



Photograph #2

Furniture Kare Company
Milton Bates
8274 Fair Church Rd
Browns Summit, NC, 27214  USA

www.furniturekare.com
Telephone (336 )695-4836 Cell (731) 695-1014
Email Furniture-kare36@triad.rr.com

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