Your Compressor Failed. Here’s 4 Reasons Why.
Certain precautions need to be taken before, during, and after a compressor failed to ensure the safety of those in the immediate area of the machine.
The inherent nature of a compressor lends itself to the accumulation of potential energy in compressed fluid or gas form.
Operating staff need to be knowledgeable regarding the proper safety procedures when your compressor fails, and competent enough to make safe the area and the compressor until a trained technician can be made privy to the situation and deal with it accordingly.
The Dangers of Compressor Failure – Regardless of Industry
Compressor failure in industry can be a dangerous occurrence. Plastic bottle manufacturing uses compressor technology to inflate thousands of bottles a day, operating with high psi tolerances provided by high energy compressors.
The more potential energy present in a system, the more dangerous that system can be during failure. Failures in settings of this type can lead to shards of plastic and metal being hurled through the air at fatal speeds.
Industries involved in large quantity food storage with refrigeration units pose a danger of a different sort if a compressor failed.
If the compressor on a refrigeration unit fails, the results can lead to food spoilage. The subsequent illness associated with foodborne pathogens that are allowed to multiply when the food was warmed can be severe.
Freezer units often get cold enough to solidify the moisture in the air into ice that can build up in the cold space of the system. If your compressor fails, these spaces will no longer be kept cold by the removal of heat from expanding gas in the refrigerator. The ice can melt and cause significant water damage if left unchecked.
Compressors in systems dealing with natural gas can cause extremely dangerous. They cause volatile conditions when they fail due to the nature of the material being compressed.
The flammability of natural gas, and its propensity for explosion when concentrated and subjected to heat and oxygenated conditions can make compressor failure a catastrophic event. Failures in electrical systems integral to certain compressors can provide the ignition source for a natural gas explosion. Leaky valves or cracked pipes can also provide the ambient fuel accumulation.
What to do if Your Compressor Failed
When a compressor failure has been identified it is most important to first remove energy from the system by cutting power to the machine.
The attending personnel should then use their senses to start determining why the compressor failed.
Is there a smell of burning rubber or plastic or a strong scent of ozone in the air? This could mean an electrical problem.
Is there any visible smoke or fluid leaking from the compressor? Can an audible hiss of escaping gas be heard? All of these questions point to potential indicators of failure in the compressor.
They can be the first steps to identifying and fixing the problem.
If noxious chemicals were released into the work environment because of the failed compressor, it is important to clear the area as per the predefined evacuation procedures for the particular workplace in question.
Any injured persons should be tended to by medical professionals. Those immediately available should provide first aid while paramedics are called.
Emergency responders should be called if the situation is deemed dire enough. News of the event should be relayed up the managerial chain of command for the company in which the failure occurred.
After cutting power to the machine and making the area safe for personnel, and once an initial assessment of the compressor has been made, troubleshooting and repair can begin.
Personnel can first determine if the compressor failed due to electrical issues.
Electrical failures can be caused by power surges, improper settings, or software glitches.
Signs of hardware damage like burnt wires, blackened connections, or loose or severed wires should first be identified. Circuit breakers and fuses upstream of the failure signs should then be checked. The machine settings and software evaluated as well.
If the compressor failed because of mechanical issues, you’ll see signs such as broken metal flanges, valves, or pipes.
These types of failures can often be attributed to improper maintenance, upkeep, or operation of the compressor.
Other Causes of Failure
If your compressor failed, it could also be due to other reasons. Overheating is a common cause of compressor failure, as are loss of lubrication, flooding, and contamination.
A system can overheat if the proper cooling apparatus is not present or is present but not functioning properly. Fans, water cooling systems, and ventilation need to be within operational guidelines. This will help avoid failure of the parts that depend on their cooling function. Cleanliness of the ventilation systems surrounding a compressor and its motor can be a cause of overheating as well. Dust and grime can build up over vent grates, drastically reducing air circulation. This causes an accumulation of hot air from and around the motor.
If your compressor failed, it could also be due to poor lubrication. Improper or inadequate lubrication of motors integral to compressor function can cause overheating of the system due to friction. Piston motors that provide the mechanical energy to pumps can seize if the proper oil is not used. These types of repairs can be costly and the failure of a high rpm motor dangerous. Cracked cylinders and twisted crankshafts are all possible repercussions of inadequate lubrication.
Flooding can occur when droplets of oil or other liquid are introduced to the vapor suction of a system. This is often seen in refrigerant compressor systems. Contaminated vapor can result in insufficient load on the evaporator causing a cessation of vaporization and resulting flowback of refrigerant. Another repercussion of flooding can be a contamination of the circulating oil with other types of liquid. If refrigerant gets into the lubricating oil the mixture loses some of its proactive properties and allows for more friction between moving parts of the system. This causes increased wear on the machine and thus a higher propensity for failure.
What to do if your compressor fails largely depends on the company guidelines for equipment failure and the application and type of compressor that is in question. Safety is always paramount when dealing with malfunctioning equipment. Troubleshooting the problem should begin with a determination what point of the compressor failed. Once a failure point has been established, the technician should utilize their knowledge of compressor function to identify the cause of the failure.
Due to the many avenues in which compressor technology is used in industry and consumer applications, the reliance on compressor systems has led many machines to be used continuously day and night.
Proper maintenance and operation of compressors are steps that can prevent a failure before it happens. They should not be neglected, especially regarding machines that are used frequently at their maximum output. Preventative maintenance is even more important for systems that operate around flammable substances or with material under extremely high pressure.
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