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3 Warning Signs of Bad Compressor Valves

Bad compressor valves can negatively impact an entire system, causing costly delays, eating into employee resources, and leaving productivity at a standstill.

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They are an important part of the work cycle of any compressor, and neglecting them can endanger the system as a whole.

Undertaking routine preventative maintenance throughout and installing good quality compressor valves from the start can help to avoid many of these problems.


What Does a Compressor Valve Do?

The role of a compressor valve cannot be underestimated.

To better understand why they are important and to assist in troubleshooting faltering ones, it’s important to understand what a compressor valve does.

Since the compressor’s task is to push along an element within a machine in a single direction, it must have a driving force. This is usually a piston within a chamber.

The piston is powered by a rapidly turning crankshaft. As the piston moves inside, the amount of pressure within the chamber raises and drops.

These shifts in pressure as the crankshaft turn are what force the compressor valves open and shut again, ready for the next work cycle.


The Importance of Properly Functioning Suction Valves and Discharge Valves

As the valves allow, the liquid, air, or gas which is inside the chamber feed through the rest of the machine.

Depending on the role of the compressor, valve, and system, compressor valves can close and open many times within a single minute.

Machines house two different kinds of compressor valves, and in a properly functioning system, they are never open at the same time.

Suction Valve

One is a suction valve. It is the suction valve which allows the matter to be compressed into the compression chamber.

The suction valve is usually situated in the initial part of the work cycle.

As the piston pushes downward through the chamber, additional space is created in the area above it.

That pressure differential forces the suction valve open.

When it does, the substance the machine is compressing rushes into the chamber.

The suction valve stays in the open position as long as the piston is at the bottom most point the system permits.

Then it closes to allow the discharge valve to take over its work of emptying the chamber.

Discharge Valve

The other type of valve essential to the compressor is the discharge valve.

The discharge valve is located on the other end of the chamber from the suction valve, and it allows the compressor to complete its work cycle.

Its job is to open the chamber to allow the substance to flow out to the next step of the process once the suction valve has allowed it inside.

As the piston begins to rise within the chamber, the pressure begins to change once again: The pressure is rising, and compression has begun.

Once the pressure reaches a designated point, the discharge valve opens, and the now-compressed substance is forced out of the chamber.

Engineers and manufacturers carefully calculate pressure ratios in order to decide on the optimum pressure for discharge.

Once it is reached, the piston completes it rise to the to of the chamber, and the discharge valve closes, allowing the suction valve to open and the cycle to begin again.

Without efficient and well-maintained compressor valve parts, then, compression itself cannot and does not take place.

That’s why knowing the warning signs of a bad compressor valve are vital to keeping a machine healthy and at top capacity.


Different Compressor Valve Parts


1. Unusual Noises

Just like in your car, a sound which is unfamiliar or unusual is a strong indicator that all is not well with the compressor valves.

If something is amiss, a normally silent or smoothly running compressor will hum, bang, or otherwise rattle.

Sometimes a strange sound within a compressor will manifest long after the compressor valve has cracked or otherwise failed, so upon hearing an ominous sound from the compressor, it is usually best to shut down the system and check.

Odd noises rarely “work themselves out.”

Again, as in a car, strange sounds from a compressor is like a check engine light illuminating on a dashboard, so before inefficiencies pile up or pressure begins to drop, it’s a good idea to ensure that both the suction valve as well as the discharge valve are in good repair.


2. The Compressor Starts and Stops Outside Its Usual Work Cycle

Since the compressor deals in compressed matter, it can be dangerous for it to overload.

Some machines have been programmed or otherwise designed to isolate the issue within the compressor before other sections of it become damaged, or, in the case of manufacturing, the unequal pressure has a detrimental effect on either the completion of the product or the quality of it at the end of the process.

Some systems automatically shut down the compressor when odd changes in pressure are detected.

These shutdowns may be brief or barely noticeable.

However, they certain increase wear on the machine as a whole and ask the suction valve as well as the discharge valve to take on extra work cycles. Even if the valves are healthy, this can contribute to fatigue.

An overloaded or, worse, a burst compressor can make for an administrative and personnel nightmare, backing up production throughout the entire system.

Paying attention when the compressor starts and stops unexpectedly, then, even if briefly, can save time and money.


3. Changes in Temperature and Amp Draw

If a valve is not functioning properly, as we have seen, the rest of the system is impacted.

One way to isolate this is to check the temperature not only of the compressor itself, but other areas in and around the machine, such as the ambient temperature around the system.

Another place to check is the outlet or discharge: If it is too low or too high, one of the valves might not be working properly.

In addition, if the system is not drawing as much amperage as usual, valves may not be forcing or expelling the compressed substance as designed.

Check pressures and contaminates as well.

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