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Atlas Copco Feb 8
Technology, Service, Parts & Maintenance

Condensate Removal 101


If you’ve ever worked with a compressor, you know there’s no way to avoid condensate, and its buildup can cause serious issues like equipment malfunction, downtime and operating inefficiencies. That’s why condensate removal is critical in providing dry air and keeping your equipment running optimally.

Prior to removing condensate from compressed air, it’s important to understand condensate – how it’s formed and where it’s found.

Condensate basics

What is condensate? Condensate is the liquid formed from the air’s water vapor and lubricant aerosol carried over from lubricated compressors. 

How is condensate formed? Condensate results from an increase in pressure and/or drop in temperature.

Where does condensate form?

  • Aftercooler
  • Moisture separator
  • Piping
  • Refrigerated air dryer
  • Filters
  • Air receiver

Condensate removal step 1 

The first step in condensate removal is to separate it from the air stream. Separation can be accomplished by a change in velocity, similar to the process in a cyclonic or impingement mechanical separator, or an air receiver. Further removal of aerosols can be achieved through the use of coalescing filters. Air dryers are also used to reduce the level of water vapor present in the compressed air after it has moved through the aftercooler. 

Condensate removal step 2

The second step involves using a method to automatically drain the condensate without wasting valuable compressed air.

  • Manual. Operators can manually open valves to discharge condensate. Because this is not an automatic option, often times, manual valves are left open for prolonged periods, which allows compressed air to escape.
  • Level-operated mechanical traps. These traps open when a certain level of condensate is reached, and they come in two types – float-type traps and inverted bucket traps. Float-type traps don’t waste air when operating properly, but they often require more maintenance. Inverted bucket traps require less maintenance but may waste compressed air if the condensate rate is inadequate to maintain the liquid level in the trap.
  • Electrically-operated solenoid valves. Solenoid-operated drain valves have a timing device that can be set to open for a specific time at preset adjustable levels.
  • Zero air-loss traps with reservoirs. No compressed air is wasted during the operation of a zero air-loss trap. The level sensor operates an electric solenoid or ball valve and maintains the condensate level in the reservoir below the high-level point.

Wondering what’s the best option for you? Consult a compressed air expert at Atlas Copco today.

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