Winter has come and your compressor knows it. The recent sub-zero temperatures will get a frosty reception from air compressors. Anything under 4 degrees Celsius can start to impact on their operating system, causing production problems.

But what are the problems air compressors encounter in cold weather - and how can they be prevented?

We interviewed an air compressor and refrigerant dryer on a shift break at a blast cleaners to find out how they're coping and what winter woes they face.

A/C: Well, it's not just me winter impacts, it's the whole compressed air system. Condensate freezes and this impacts on pipework, drain valves and dryers. From a personal point of view? Sometimes I can't get started. It's not me being lethargic, it's my low ambient air temperature limit switch. When my enclosure temp falls below 3-4 degrees the limit switch kicks in to prevent my condensate from clogging / freezing and damaging my components. They have to raise the temperature before they can try switching me on again. Having an enclosure heater would really help with this by keeping the air at a stable temperature above 4 degrees Celsius. It'd prevent my hoses from cracking too. The oil in me gets thicker in in this weather, and can clog other parts of me. That's literally a drag for my motor as it has to work harder to keep everything pumping. So the current has to increase, then my breakers trip... I could go on.

R/D: Christmas isn't the season of goodwill for refrigerant dryers either. We're accused of being 'too efficient' in cold weather. All I'm trying to do is separate moisture, but sometimes it gets cooled to the point of freezing and BOOM! There goes the heat exchanger. That's no good for anyone. Desiccant dryers don't have it any better with their pipes and discharge air purge mufflers freezing too.

Are there any other whole system issues you worry about when the thermometer says it's far from tropical?

A/C: The frost penetrates everything. Pipes can freeze and crack, but even before that there can be a real build of moisture in the system - you've just heard dryer talk about his problems. Moisture corrodes eveything it comes into contact with, eating your system from the inside out, reducing capacity, halting production. What's not always understood is that no air means no vital applications running. And still I know of air compressors who are shoved in a shed or left out in the rain!

What would you like to see change in the care of air compressors? How can people better look after their compressed air systems when baby, it's cold outside!?

R/D: There are definite steps you can take to cold-proof your compressed air system.

A/C: (nodding in agreement): Fit ambient heaters to keep us all at around 4 degrees Celsius. Stop cold air coming in. Check my drain valves regularly. Check my oil, make sure it's viscous. Watch exposed piping for frost. There's no point in keeping indoors warm if exterior pipework has no protection.

R/D: You can use trace heating for the pipes, or an enclosure heater for indoors, or even a heater to the bottom of the compressor's sump tank. Heat recovery systems can also be used to keep us warm (duct hot air from the compressor outlet and bring it back into the plant room where the compressor and ancillary equipment is located).

A/C: And plant maintenance. It's good to go into winter knowing you've been looked after all year long - that there are no leaks in the system that can freeze and then rupture.

R/D: In other words, show us a little bit of TLC.

Thank you both for your time, you've been very informative - and everyone at EDC Air Compressors wishes you a chill-free Christmas.

For all you compressor cold weather requirements contact EDC Air Compressors on 0141 81 3222.

We're the company your compressors would call if they could.