Wal-Mart, Amazon, and Compressor Distributors

When I was a kid my mom and I would shop for new school clothes, church clothes or anything else down at the local stores. No malls, no box stores, and certainly no Internet options. Since then, our shopping options have changed dramatically.

Compressor distributorships historically have been relatively small local or regional companies, staffed with professionals who grew up in the area and knew their clients well. This strategy worked well for decades, and still does in many areas. However, our industry – like the retail world – has undergone dramatic changes.

Small regional companies have increased the size of their footprint by acquiring smaller local distributorships. Some of these distributors now cover several states with multiple branches to serve their customers. A few compressor manufacturers have adopted a direct sell strategy – cutting out the local distributor completely.

We have all heard the discussion before: Is Wal-Mart good for Main Street? Is Amazon good for the brick and mortar retailers? Personally I don’t shop, but my wife does. And she shops at all these places, including the local retailers.

I know if the core goal of any company is to serve their clients with the superior customer service and competitive pricing, the company will grow and prosper. No one business model is superior to another without the dedication of the owner. The owner needs to hire great employees and instill a culture of dedication to its customers. That is what we do here at Atlantic Compressors – and we have continued to grow without sacrificing our core beliefs. If your distributor is not performing up to your high standards, give us call at (540) 728-1134.

How to Choose a Service Provider for Your Compressed Air System

At one time or another we all have to enlist the services of a professional.
How do you decide which provider you hire?

Here are few reasons we all may choose one professional over another:

  • Price
  • Convenience
  • Reputation / Recommendation
  • Advertising ( We may not want admit it, but it does work.)

Choosing a Service Provider for Your Plant’s Compressed Air System

Not saying any of the above reasons are right or wrong, but when it comes to choosing a service provider for your plant’s compressed air system are there other areas that you should consider? After all, the compressed air system is an extremely vital part of any plant. Should you entrust it to the least expensive provider?

The production of compressed air is a dynamic system. Many factors will affect its performance and reliability. Some of these factors may have nothing to do with the air compressor itself – or even be in the compressor room. So the next time you receive a call from a prospecting compressed air provider – or you are looking to evaluate your current supplier – here are a few areas you may wish to consider:

1. Training

TrainingAsk the company to provide training documentation for their sales and service personnel. There are many resources available today for training. The best training would be a combination of both manufacturer and independent sources.

The company should seek a consultative, systems approach to the compressor system.

Most systems do not need a complete overhaul with new equipment; they need the currently installed equipment to work together. A true professional will address these issues systematically and provide real world, affordable solutions.

2. Service Availability

Service AvailabilityMany facilities operate around the clock. How available is your service provider? Are they available after hours and on weekends?

If so, do they typically stock the components that regularly take down compressed air components? No compressor house will be able to stock every single part ever needed on the service van, but are they making an effort to stock the common parts? Take a look inside your provider’s van next time they are on-site.

3. Ancillary Equipment

ServiceAs we know a compressed air system is comprised of more than just the air compressor. There are dryers, filters, drains, master controllers and flow controllers. Most every distributor has all of these items and more available for sale.

Do they service what they sell?

But do they work on everything they sell? With something as important as a compressed air system, I fail to understand why anyone would buy from someone who does not service the equipment they sell.

4. System Auditing

AirMaster+ CertificationThis is an area of exponential growth in the last 10+ years. But this type of growth, the end result sometimes gets “watered” down. What was once an area for only the most highly trained individuals, now is available to even the greenest of sales people. Are all audit results the same?

Here a few questions to ask prior to purchasing an audit:

  1. What training have they received to analyze a compressor system?
  2. What type of simulation software are they using? (It’s funny how a manufacturer’s software always recommends their equipment.)
  3. Ask for recommendations and previous audit reports.
  4. Do they guarantee their performance recommendations?

5. The Ability to Harmonize

HarmonizationI have zero musical ability; so I am always impressed with those who do. Take a barbershop quartet – the harmonization among them is extremely impressive. Does your compressor system sing in harmony? Or does it sound more like me? Most compressor systems are not all the same color (ie: from the same manufacturer). So how can we be sure everyone plays well together?

A distributor’s true colors will show when asked to get multiple compressors from different manufacturers, coupled with various air treatment equipment to operate at peak efficiency and reliability.


For more detailed guidelines for choosing a compressed air system provider, consult the Compressed Air Challenge website at www.compressedairchallenge.org.

Choosing a Contractor for Your Compressed Air Systeem
Click here to download the infographic in PDF format.


Atlantic Compressors is a full-service distributor, offering engineering services, and equipment sales and rentals. Our service department is fully staffed and trained to provide routine and emergency service on most makes and models of air compressor equipment.

Please contact us for a no obligation walk-through of your compressed air system by phone at (540) 728-1147 or by email at bill@atlanticcompressors.com.

Point Of Use: Air Receiver Sizing and Placement

Greetings once again everyone!

The last two installments have been about air receiver sizing within the compressor room.

  1. Compressor Room Layout: Air Receiver Sizing and Placement
  2. Compressor Room Layout: Air Receiver Sizing and Placement, Continued

Today we will address point of use receivers.


Point of Use Receivers

Again, the opinions are many. As always the best advice I can offer is to find a well-educated, consultative professional. Do away with the “salesman” that always has the best price.

In this profession (probably in most) we tend to hear the same concerns and potential solutions over and over. One of those repetitive concerns is: “Occasionally my pressure drops in the main header – so I want to install an air receiver at the far end to combat this issue.”

Although this solution very may well remedy the problem – most often it does not. The solution fails because people don’t take the time to identify the root cause of the problem. This takes time, effort and knowledge of both the system and the physics of compressed air.


Areas to Investigate

  • Design of the header (loop or branch)
  • Pressure drop and velocity in the header system
  • Proper supply volume
  • Point of use applications

 
For this discussion we will zero in on point of use applications that cause the header pressure to be insufficient. These are almost always rather large, intermittent demands. One such application is plasma cutting with a water table. In this application compressed air is used to raise and lower the water level though basically a bladder. Preparing for a cut the water level is raised by filling the bladder with compressed air. Upon completion of the cut, the compressed air is released thus lowering the water level.

2016-05-25-air-release-valve-open.01

Air Release Valve Closed

The filling of the bladder constitutes a large intermittent demand for compressed air. The proper solution comes in two parts. The first is to size a point-of-use receiver to handle 100% of the required volume. The second part is to prolong the re-pressurizing of the receiver as long as possible. Prolonging the re-pressurization results in an overall reduced demand on the compressor system allowing header pressure to remain stable.

I have purposely left out all of the research and formulas to properly size this receiver solution. Not for selfish reasons – just thought a brief blog was not the place to delve into the algebraic equations required.


Other Applications That May Benefit from a Point-of-Use Receiver

  1. sand blasting,
  2. pneumatic product transfer,
  3. sparging,
  4. packaging,
  5. and many more.

Atlantic Compressors is a full-service distributor, offering engineering services, and equipment sales and rentals. Our service department is fully staffed and trained to provide routine and emergency service on most makes and models of air compressor equipment.

Please contact us for a no obligation walk-through of your compressed air system by phone at (540) 728-1147 or by email at bill@atlanticcompressors.com.

Compressor Room Layout: Air Receiver Sizing and Placement, Continued

We left our discussion determining that an air receiver for a load/unload rotary screw compressor system is best sized around 5-gal/cfm. Still staying in the compressor room for now, let’s discuss how many air receivers are necessary and where to locate them.

Once again there is no clear right or wrong way of doing things. Some will recommend a single “wet” receiver and others will insist all receivers be placed on the “dry” side of air treatment. Both scenarios have advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s review each and maybe interject a hybrid solution.


“Wet” Air Receiver

Advantages:

  • Provides excellent moisture separation
  • Allows cooling of compressed air
Disadvantages:

  • Potentially can over flow air treatment
  • Internal corrosion
  • Allows for proper operation of capacity control

“Dry” Air Receiver

Advantages:

  • Air treatment protection
  • Minimal internal corrosion
  • Supply of dry compressed air for large intermittent demands

Disadvantages:

  • Potential slugging air treatment with large quantities of liquids
  • Potential high inlet temperatures to air treatment
  • Pressure drop between tank and compressor capacity system

I am certain there are more than the ones I’ve mentioned.


If you have to choose…

In my opinion, if you only have room and money for one (1) tank,  make it a “wet” tank with a good, reliable zero loss drain.

Another option is the hybrid solution, which uses more than one (1) air receiver.


The Hybrid Solution

This solution is gaining in popularity as knowledge of the efficiency advantages are becoming more commonplace. Installing both a “wet” and “dry” air receiver provides the best solution with only minimal disadvantages. You still size the system for a total of 5-gallons/cfm of the largest cycling rotary screw compressor. But now you split the air receiver sizing so 1/3 of the capacity is on the “wet” side and 2/3 is on the dry side.

The pictures below show a recent installation for one of our customers:

This particular customer already had multiple tanks – so we re-worked the system so they had a single “wet” receiver and three (3) “dry receivers.

Wet tankDry tanks

Every application is different, you need a qualified, experienced professional to review all the parameters of the system and recommend the best solution.


Atlantic Compressors is a full-service distributor, offering engineering services, and equipment sales and rentals. Our service department is fully staffed and trained to provide routine and emergency service on most makes and models of air compressor equipment.

Please contact us for a no obligation walk-through of your compressed air system by phone at (540) 728-1147 or by email at bill@atlanticcompressors.com.
 

Compressor Room Layout: Air Receiver Sizing and Placement

Hello again. I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I can’t believe November got past me by with just a single blog post!

Today we’ll discuss the debate surrounding the sizing and placement of the air receiver in the compressed air room layout.


The Debate

To begin our discussion, I’d like to suggest that there aren’t many absolutes in the compressed air industry. Now don’t get me wrong, there are correct and efficient ways to do things; however, there is often more than one way to accomplish the same thing. For example, there are many differing opinions about air receiver size and where one should be positioned within a compressor system. In fact, no topic in this industry has caused more debate!

To better understand the reason for the diversity in opinions, I’d like to provide a little history. When rotary screw compressors emerged onto the stationary application, the capacity control system used at the time was inlet modulation. While this type of control system doesn’t need a large air receiver to produce good results, the control system itself can be quite an energy hog! As the inherit energy inefficiency of compressors became widespread knowledge, more efficient control systems were developed like dual control (load/unload) controls, and eventually variable speed drive (VSD).


Dual (Load/UnLoad) Controls

For this post, we’ll focus primarily on dual control (load/unload) controls. Modulating compressor manufacturers would typically recommend a tank sized for one gallon for every cfm the compressor produced (i.e.120 cfm = 120 gallon tank); dual control (load/unload) control manufacturers might recommend two to three gallons for every cfm produced. The additional tank size of course raised the purchase price and often a poorly-trained sales force would just “take the order” for an improperly sized tank. So while the system might work, no real energy savings were realized. (Note: The energy savings were also minimal with even two to three gallons/cfm.)

Air System AuditorToday, we have the benefit of years of energy awareness and concentrated studies on the efficiency of compressed air systems. Thanks to organizations like Compressed Air Challenge™, CAGI™, the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as the many independent auditors across the country, we know the real benefits of proper tank sizing.

I could go on for a few more pages, but I’ll stop here. Next time, I’ll talk about where to put these tank(s), and whether we should have more than one.


Tank Size & the Law of Diminishing Returns

The graph below (courtesy of plantservices.com) represents the kW savings from tank sizes based on gallons/cfm, for a dual control (load/unload) compressor. Although one can debate that bigger is always better (and it often is), the law of diminishing returns is also a factor.

Kilowatt Savings from Tank Sizes Based on Gallons/CFM


So what’s the bottom line?

The best deal for your money is around five gallons/cfm.


Atlantic Compressors is a full-service distributor, offering engineering services, and equipment sales and rentals. Our service department is fully staffed and trained to provide routine and emergency service on most makes and models of air compressor equipment.

Please contact us for a no obligation walk-through of your compressed air system by phone at (540) 728-1147 or by email at bill@atlanticcompressors.com.
 

Compressor Room Layout, Continued: The Effect of Temperature

It’s now officially fall — the landscape is changing color, kids are gearing up for various festivities, and temperatures are getting cooler. As the great poet Bob Dillon once said “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” So how do cooler temperatures affect the location of your compressor?

Climate & Your Compressor Room Location

The climate here in Virginia is pretty moderate – it never gets really cold or hot. In this area (or areas similar to it) one might think that installing a compressor system outdoors would have some advantages. After all, the cost of square footage inside a facility comes at a premium compared to the cost of a concrete slab and a lean-to roof on the outside of a building. And depending on the type of business, if located inside, the compressor system could be very noisy and produce unwanted heat loads.

You would never consider placing an air compressor outside in northern climates where temperatures can easily drop below freezing and stay that way all winter. Nor would you install one outside in many southwestern states where summer temperatures consistently exceed 100 degrees. The reason for this is that oil lubricated rotary screw compressors (the most common type of industrial air compressor) simply won’t survive these extreme conditions.


What About Virginia?

Where temperatures get below freezing, air compressor rooms should be located indoors.Here in Virginia however, where winter temperatures consistently fall below freezing in the evening, the correct choice would still be to locate a compressor system indoors. In addition, most rotary screw compressor manufacturers now equip their compressor controllers with a low temperature inhibit feature. This feature prevents the compressor from starting if the oil temperature is below 38 degrees (on average). Another reason to locate the compressor indoors is to prevent condensate from freezing.

Now that we’ve settled the debate about where to locate a compressor system (rotary screw compressors installed in this area belong indoors). We also need to address the issues of noise, service access, and heat discharge from rotary screw compressors.


In my next post, we’ll continue this discussion along with other topics related to the layout and design of a compressor room.

Atlantic Compressors is a full-service distributor, offering engineering services, and equipment sales and rentals. Our service department is fully staffed and trained to provide routine and emergency service on most makes and models of air compressor equipment.

Please contact us for a no obligation walk-through of your compressed air system by phone at (540) 728-1147 or by email at bill@atlanticcompressors.com.
 

Designing a Compressor Room for Rotary Screw Air Compressors

As I write this post, my family and I are I the midst of a major home renovation project. If you’ve ever been involved in a similar project, you can appreciate how over time it can become a learning and growing experience. Now that the renovation is close to completion, I realize there are some things I would have done differently.

The purpose of today’s post is to establish a few guidelines for designing a compressor room for rotary screw air compressors. In this post, I review the importance of:

 
By no means should this be your only or last reference, but consider it a great starting point for items that are often overlooked when designing a compressor room.


Location

As they say in real estate: it’s all about location, location, location. A compressor room is not much different.

First off, electrical wire and conduit are more expensive to install than compressed air piping. If given the option, always locate the compressor room close to the electrical source.


Free, Warm Air!

Next, air-cooled compressors discharge warm, clean and free air from their air/oil coolers. This heat source can be used for space heating, pre-heating water for boiler or hot water heaters, and other various applications. With this in mind, consider locating the compressor room where an application can benefit from this free heat source. Doing so and you could reap a large payback and help justify your project. Also, same goes for water-cooled compressors – the warm discharge water can be used for multiple purposes.


Routing Condensate

Compressor Room Layout - Condensate Drains
Click here to learn about condensate drain options

Probably the most overlooked item in a compressor is a floor drain. In my experience this is the most forgotten item when a compressor is designed. Air compressors produce large amounts of condensate that needs to be properly treated and disposed. Due to the potential oil carry-over from a lubricated rotary screw compressor, the condensate is listed as a hazardous material by the EPA. Therefore, the condensate must be handled and disposed of properly. The most economical way is to route the condensate through an oil/water separator first. This product will separate and collect the oil and the condensate discharge is 15-20ppm, which is suitable for most localities sanitary sewer system.

In my next blog post we’ll discuss more topics related to the layout and design of a compressor room.


Atlantic Compressors is a full-service distributor, offering engineering services, equipment sales and rentals. Our service department is fully staffed and trained to provide routine and emergency service on most makes and models of air compressor equipment.

Please contact us for a no obligation walk-through of your compressed air system. Call (540) 728-1147 or email bill@atlanticcompressors.com.
 

Managing Chaos: The Master Controller

I sometimes think back to a time when life was simpler. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when I was 20-something and fresh out of school with a new job. Then, the responsibilities were few — no wife, no kids, and my parents were still young enough to care for themselves. Now, almost 30+ years later, life looks very different. I have a wife, two teenagers, aging parents, and a small business to run. Yes, life was much simpler “back in the day.” So how does one manage what at times seems like chaos? Wouldn’t it be great to have a “life manager” to oversee day-to-day priorities? You and I could then spend more of our waking hours on the most important things (like wives and families).

How might this chaos I described resemble your compressed air system? Maybe 30 years ago when life was simpler you had only one air compressor to manage. Your business was humming along and growing and over time, and so was your compressed air system. Today, you might operate many systems over multiple shifts. With that much machinery running (at all hours). How does one ensure efficiency and reliability? The requirements necessary for keeping a system running at an optimal rate can vary throughout the day – and even day to day. Moral of the story? Like children, air compressors that are left unattended and/or unmanaged will not behave well.

Air Compressor System Master ControllersHowever, thanks to improvements in technology, there is a vast selection of reasonably-priced and powerful master controllers available on the market. The right controller can manage all compressed air systems and compressor types. It can keep a system operating at peak efficiency, while providing the necessary redundancy to ensure production is running on time and smoothly. In addition, master controllers can also communicate with plant-wide DCS systems for remote monitoring—even sending emails or texts to alert staff of active alarms. The addition of a master controller to a compressed air system has been documented to save operators thousands of dollars annually!


Don’t let your children or your air compressors run wild. Call Atlantic Compressors at (540) 728‑1147 for a no-cost air compressor analysis, or contact us via our online form.
 

Condensate Drain Options for Compressed Air Systems

In “Football, Compressed Air Systems, and the Importance of Teamwork”, we discussed the importance of choosing a quality condensate drain for your compressed air system.

Just as putting the right linemen in the game can make the difference between winning and losing, choosing the right condensate drain for your system can make the difference between a smoothly running system and a costly problem.

There are many options to choose from in condensate drains:

  1. Cracked ball valves
  2. Timer operated electric solenoid drains
  3. Electric rotary ball valve drains
  4. Float drains
  5. Zero loss drains
  6. Electronic zero loss electronic drains

Cracked Ball Valves

I am not even going to address cracked ball valves. If you are even considering that option, this article is not for you.


Timer Operated Electric Solenoid & Electric Rotary Ball Valve Drains

Timer Operated Condensate DrainsSolenoid operated drains and electric rotary ball valves fall into the same general category. Both operate based upon preset intervals. They are inexpensive and readily available. However, they are inefficient and do not always eliminate all the condensate.

Most of the time the interval settings are never adjusted after installation – but the humidity changes dramatically season to season. The timer operated drain traps will either allow expensive compressed air to escape or they close before all the condensate is evacuated.

Over the years I have witnessed gallons and gallons of water in air receivers of properly working timer operated drain traps. The last point is, in this increasingly digital world of monitoring there is no option to remotely monitor these drains.


Float Drains

Float Drains

Generally these are found inside the coalescing and particulate filters. They are again the least expensive first cost. The good thing is they are somewhat demand driven – whereas they only open when condensate is present and typically eliminate most if not all of the condensate before closing. The problem I have with this option is less pronounced than the before-mentioned styles. The primary issues are the lack of remote monitoring, not truly a zero loss option and the expense of annual replacement.


Zero Loss Drains

Zero loss drains refer to the ability to expel the condensate without wasting any compressed air. They come in two (2) variations, float operated and electronic. In both cases consideration to the size of the system and where they are placed in a system need to be addressed.

Zero Loss Float Drains

Zero Loss DrainsFloat operated drains are rather self-explanatory. As the level of condensate builds inside the drain a float slowly rises until a point at which a valve opens. The condensate is pushed out of the system using air pressure. A small amount of condensate remains when the float closes ensuring true zero loss of compressed air. The issues with these drains is the lack of remote monitoring and the limited ability to provide freeze protection.

Electronic Zero Loss Float Drains

Zero Loss Electronic DrainsElectronic zero loss drains cover all the bases from efficiency, true zero loss capability, remote monitoring and the ability to provide freeze protection.

These drains use a capacitive level sensor to open and close a solenoid. As with the float drains above, a small amount of condensate remains ensuring true zero loss operation.

Capacitive Level Sensor
Capacitive Level Sensor
Dry Contact Electronic Zero Loss Drains
Dry Contact Sensor

But unlike its float drain counterpart, the electronic option adds the ability to trigger a dry contact in case the drain fails. In addition a red LED is illuminated when the drain fails to discharge the condensate in a predetermined amount of time.


Conclusion

If you want to have a compressed air system that performs reliably and efficiently under all conditions – the heat of summer and the cold of winter – careful consideration must be made when choosing all the components that comprise a compressed air system – including the lowly condensate drains.

To paraphrase Williams James:

“A team is only as good as its weakest player”
“A system is only as good as its weakest component.”


If your compressed air system is disappointing you or causing you too many headaches, give us a call at (540) 728-1147 or email us at <a href=”mailto:bill@atlanticcompressors.com”>bill@atlanticcompressors.com</a>.  We will perform a no cost walk-through inspection and bring to your attention areas of concern.


See you next week!
 

Football, Compressed Air Systems, and the Importance of Teamwork

Teamwork

Ahh… Football season is back in full swing. Tis the season for tailgating, Monday morning quarterbacking and donning the colors of our favorite team. Whether your team is VA Tech or UVA; the Redskins or the Cowboys; we can all agree it takes a team to succeed. No single player, no matter how good he is, can carry the entire team on his back. Each player has a role to do for the success of the team. Yes, the quarterbacks and running backs get all the hype. But how many passes could they complete or how many yards could be rushed without the linemen doing their job?

“Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.”
— John C. Maxwell

Condensate Drains: The Linemen of the Compressed Air System

So it is in a compressed air system. Each component has a job to do, and if one component fails to do its job the whole team looks bad. The stars are the compressors and dryers, the quarterbacks and running backs; they get all the attention.

  • Careful consideration goes into choosing the air compressor based on efficiency, capacity, pressure and reputation.
  • The dryers are chosen based on dewpoint, efficiency and sizing.

But the lowly old condensate drains down in the trenches are at best an afterthought in most systems. Typically not much thought past how much they cost is ever considered. These are the linemen of a compressed air system. Yet, if the drain traps fail, the whole system loses.

Why choose the most efficient combination of air compressor and dryer only to waste that money on an inefficient and unreliable condensate drain?

As the old saying goes:

“The least expensive tool will end up costing you the most money.”

In our next post, we’ll explore each option, lay out the pros and cons of each, and let you decide which is the best choice for your compressed air system.


If your compressed air system is disappointing you or causing you too many headaches, give us a call at (540) 728-1147. We will perform a no cost walk-through inspection and bring to your attention areas of concern.


See you next week!