How to Extend Your Air Compressor Life Expectancy

Dec 10, 2023 by Brad Taylor

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 Air compressor life expectancy can vary greatly depending on how well the compressor is taken care of. As with most things, “an ounce of prevention” will go a long way toward avoiding expensive repairs, unexpected downtime, and early compressor failure. Handling day-to-day preventive maintenance, paying attention to compressor performance, and addressing developing issues promptly will go a long way towards extending the life span of your compressor. 

How Long Does an Air Compressor Last?

The lifespan of an industrial air compressor can vary depending on several factors, such as the type of compressor, its usage, maintenance, and environmental conditions. Here are some estimates for air compressor life expectancy for different types of industrial air compressors. 

  • Oil-flooded rotary screw compressors: These compressors can last for up to 100,000 hours with proper care and maintenance, or up to ~20 years. With proper preventive maintenance, including regular oil changes, filter replacement, and inspections, they can last even longer.
Oil-free rotary screw compressors
  • Oil-free rotary screw compressors: These compressors usually have a shorter lifespan than oil-flooded rotary screw compressors, typically lasting up to 70,000 hours or 10-15 years.
Reciprocating/piston compressors
  • Reciprocating/piston compressors: The lifespan of these compressors can vary depending on their usage, maintenance, and quality. A well-maintained reciprocating compressor may last for about 50,000 hours depending on compressor quality and use conditions.
Reciprocating/piston compressors
  • Rotary vane compressors: These compressors are known for their durability and longevity. With proper maintenance, they can last for well over 100,000 hours, up to 20-25 years or more.
Rotary vane compressors

If life expectancy is your primary consideration in air compressor selection, it’s hard to beat an oil-flooded rotary screw air compressor or rotary vane air compressor. These industrial air compressors are designed for long life and continuous use while also providing exceptional work efficiency. That’s why they are usually recommended for industrial applications where longevity and performance are critical. 

It’s important to note that these are general estimates and air compressor life expectancy can vary depending on many factors, including the quality of the compressor, its usage, maintenance, and environmental conditions. Regular maintenance, including frequent inspections and proactive attention, can help extend the life of your compressor and maximize your investment.

15 Maintenance Tips for Extending Your Air Compressor Lifespan 

You’ve made a sizable investment when you decided to buy an air compressor, so you’ll want to get the most life from it that is possible. Here are some simple air compressor tips and tricks that will help you achieve years of trouble-free operation.

1. Follow Instructions

It may seem obvious, but reading the manual for your air compressor is a small time investment with a big payoff. You’ll learn the maintenance schedule as well as operating guidelines for your compressor. With this information, you can extend the life of your equipment and minimize downtime.

2. Check Oil Levels Daily

For compressors that use oil, check the oil before every use. Operating with insufficient oil is a quick way to seriously damage your compressor. If oil levels are low, add more oil to top it off. (However, do not overfill — this may result in the air compressor “spitting” oil.) 

Also, monitor the oil quality. If it is dirty or seems degraded, plan an oil change at the earliest opportunity. Oil should be changed for a rotary screw compressor at least annually or every 8,000 hours (every 3 months or 2,000 hours for food-grade compressor oil). 

Read more: Air Compressor Oil Basics — What You Need to Know.

3. Clean Intake Vents

Clean Intake Vents

Keep your air intake clean, especially if your environment is dirty or dusty. Particulate from industrial processes, pollen and pollutants from the outdoors, and other indoor air contaminants (such as particulate from diesel engines) can build up on intake vents and filters. This will force your compressor to work harder and rob it of pressure. Cleaning out the intake vent and changing intake filters will reduce wear and tear on the compressor motor and extend its lifespan. 

4. Replace the Separator Element

This separator element needs to be replaced every 2,000-8,000 hours of use (depending upon the make and model of the compressor) and prevents excessive oil usage. Analysis has shown that compressor energy costs rise by 1% for each 2 PSI of separator pressure drop.

5. Keep Things Tight

Vibration from compressor operation can loosen screws, nuts and bolts. Check them periodically and tighten anything that has wiggled loose. Also, listen to your compressor; excess noise or rattling may indicate that something is loose and needs to be tightened. 

6. Keep an Eye on Hoses 

Keep an Eye on Hoses

Inspect all of your air compressor’s hoses regularly because any cracks can lead to leaks, which in turn imposes strain on the compressor’s other components. Replace any hoses that are cracked or damaged. 

7. Avoid Moisture

Moisture inside the compressor can lead to corrosion, blockages in control lines, filter loading, and other problems within the compressed air system. Moisture is a natural result of compressing air; as air is squeezed into a smaller volume, excess moisture (i.e., humidity) is wrung out of the air like a sponge. As air cools in the aftercoolers, air receiver tank, and distribution system, more water will fall out as condensation. It is important to drain water from the air compressor and other system components, including receiver tanks and air dryers, to prevent problems with your system and keep moisture out of the final air supply. 

8. Replace Filters

An industrial air compressor may require several different types of filtration, including the oil filter, an intake filter to keep airborne contaminants out of the compressor, and inline filters to remove oil carryover, particulate, and moisture from compressed air. 

  • The oil filter must be changed regularly along with the oil (at least annually or every 2,000 to 4,000 hours for a rotary screw compressor see manual for your compressor). Failure to change the oil filter will result in contamination in the oil supply which will reduce the life of your compressor.
  • Replacing inline filters and intake filters as they become loaded is also important; loaded filters make your compressor motor work harder to overcome the pressure drop across the filter. Over time, this will cause wear on the motor and reduce compressor longevity, and increase power costs. Low-pressure drop inline filters can help to improve system efficiency and reduce stress on the compressor motor. 

9. Monitor Temperature

Your manufacturer will specify acceptable operating ranges for your air compressor. Excessive heat will cause extraordinary wear and shorten oil life and your compressor’s longevity. To help with this, your compressor may have a built-in safety shutdown system if it gets too hot, so test this feature to make sure it’s functioning. To prevent air compressor overheating, you need to make sure you have ample space and ventilation around the compressor, keep the compressor and aftercoolers clean and free of grime and debris, and maintain filters. If your compressor is outdoors or in a room without air conditioning, make sure you take proper steps to prepare your air compressor for summer weather

10. Ensure Proper Lubrication 

Ensure Proper Lubrication

We can’t say it enough: unless you have an oil-free air compressor, lubrication is absolutely essential to the proper functioning and overall longevity of your compressor. Low oil, or degraded/contaminated oil, is the fastest way to kill an industrial air compressor. 

  • Select the right compressor oil. For best results, use the oil type recommended by the compressor manufacturer. Most rotary screw compressors take a 20-weight or 30-weight non-detergent oil, which is typically synthetic hydrocarbon (POA), polyol esters (POE), or blends. 
  • Don’t mix oil types; this may cause damage to your compressor. You will need to completely drain and flush the oil system if you are changing oil types. 
  • Ensure adequate lubrication. As explained above, the oil should be checked daily and topped off as needed. 
  • Change oil on the schedule recommended by your manufacturer for your compressor type and usage patterns, or more frequently if your oil appears to be contaminated or degraded. Dark, thick, sticky, or dirty oil needs to be changed immediately. 
  • Have oil tested on a regular basis (every 6 months or 2,000 hours of operation) to check for varnish and other problems that may indicate a problem with your oil or compressor? Varnish reduces the effectiveness of lubrication, causes the compressor to run hot, and blocks control valves and oil ports. 

11. Patrol for Leaks

Compressed air leaks can originate from lines, gaskets, fittings, valves, clamps, and connections. They can divert an estimated 25-30 percent of your compressed air, so check the entire system regularly. Ultrasonic leak detectors can be helpful. Most compressed air leaks occur in the “dirty 30”: the last 30 feet of hoses and couplings in between the compressor and the end use. The good news? Thanks to programs from your energy company, you may be able to get compressed air leaks fixed for free

12. Look and Listen

Keep your ears tuned for strange noises and watch for things like excessive vibration or belts that slip. Know what your compressor’s gauges should read when it’s operating normally. If you are monitoring your machine closely, you can prevent major damage.

13. Prevent Repairs with Diagnostics and Preventive Maintenance

It’s easier to avoid a problem than to fix it after the fact. Follow all recommendations for preventive maintenance, troubleshooting, and diagnostics in your user’s manual to reduce the likelihood of emergency repairs and downtime. Here is a handy air compressor maintenance checklist that will help you increase air compressor longevity and reduce potential problems. 

14. Don’t Delay Any Repair Issues 

If you do have a problem, or just notice that your compressor is behaving a little differently, don’t delay in scheduling an air compressor repair service. Air compressor problems almost never just go away on their own — if you are noticing an issue today, chances are it will only get worse with time. Without prompt compressor maintenance and repair, a small issue such as a faulty oil pump can quickly escalate into a catastrophic compressor failure. Emergency air compressor repair is expensive, as is unexpected downtime. In the worst case, delaying simple repairs may lead to an unplanned replacement of the entire compressor or an expensive air end rebuild. 

15. Carry Extra Parts

For basic maintenance and repairs, it’s helpful to have a stock of common air compressor parts at hand, so you can make the replacement immediately. For an industrial air compressor, that may include hoses, filters, high-voltage fuses, ball valves, regulators, switches, and lubricators. Make sure you are using high-quality compressor replacement parts that are compatible with your make and model of air compressor.

Know When to Contact the Professionals 

Industrial air compressors are complex machines that require proper maintenance to ensure they work correctly and efficiently. Many standard daily and weekly preventive maintenance or minor repair tasks can be done safely in-house. However, if you are experiencing a more complex issue that requires expert troubleshooting and major repair, it is usually best to call the professionals. 

An experienced compressor technician can diagnose and repair the problem quickly and correctly, extending the life of your air compressor and ensuring optimal performance. Call a professional if:

  • The problem is major, or you don’t know how to diagnose the issue.
  • You lack the necessary tools or replacement parts to fix the problem.
  • Your maintenance team does not have experience working with air compressors, or they are not confident in their ability to fix the problem.
  • The air compressor is still under warranty, and attempting to repair it yourself could void the warranty.

If you are facing extensive repairs and a hefty repair bill, you may be wondering if it’s worth it to extend your compressor life or if it’s better to bite the bullet and buy new ones. If your air compressor has failed, you’ll need to look at the total cost of repair and evaluate how much more life the repair will give your compressor. 

Read more: Should I Repair or Replace My Air Compressor?

Get in Touch Today

The experienced compressor service and repair technicians at Fluid-Aire Dynamics are here to help you with preventive maintenance, troubleshooting, diagnostics, and repair for your industrial rotary screw, rotary vane, or reciprocating air compressor. We service industrial air compressors of all makes and models. We’ll help you extend the life of your air compressor and ensure optimal compressor performance. 

We also offer the best air compressor extended warranty in the business. Our Extend-Aire Warranty Protection Program extends your compressor warranty to 20 years or 80,000 hours — even if we didn’t sell it to you originally! The Extend-Aire program is available for any make or model of oil-flooded rotary screw or rotary vane industrial air compressor. Contact us to see if you are eligible. 

If you have additional questions, contact us online or call us to talk to an expert. 

Chicago (847) 610-6814 – Minneapolis (612) 439-4328 – Milwaukee (414) 895-5523.

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