The Critical Role of Dryers in Compressed Air Systems

Anyone who has worked with compressed air systems knows that moisture can be a real problem.

Air compressors generate a significant amount of heat during operation, which leads to moisture condensation and water vapor within the system. Dryers prevent this moisture from interfering with applications and affecting your end product.

Several types of dryers are used in compressed air systems, each suited to specific applications and dew point requirements. In this blog, we’ll focus on two of the most common options: refrigerated and desiccant dryers.

Moisture in Compressed Air Systems Can’t Be Ignored

Before we jump into the specifics, let’s talk about why moisture is such an issue.

Air naturally holds water vapor. When compressed, water vapor molecules are placed under high pressure at a smaller volume. This compression process increases the air temperature, which causes increased water vapor retention.  Compressed air then leaves the compressor at 100% relative humidity. Since the compressed air is much hotter than the surrounding air, the compressed air begins to cool quickly. This process progresses to a point known as condensation, where the compressed air can no longer hold as much water vapor as it condenses into a liquid form.

Without proper air treatment, this condensation will cause rust and corrosion, disrupt processes, and damage compressed air equipment. You may not even realize it’s causing an issue until it’s too late for prevention.

Ignoring moisture in your system can cause operational efficiency to plummet and costs to soar.

Refrigerated vs. Desiccant Dryers

Refrigerated and desiccant dryers handle moisture in different yet effective ways. By understanding their functions, you can make informed decisions about the best solution for your operations.

Refrigerated dryers are ideal for general industrial applications requiring reliable moisture removal without ultra-low dew points.

Refrigerated dryers work by cooling the air (either by cooler air or water) to a dew point usually at 38°F, which allows moisture to condense and then be physically separated and drained away. By consistently maintaining a low dew point, refrigerated dryers effectively prevent moisture-related issues within the compressed air network. They are ideal for general industrial applications where the required dew point doesn’t need to be below freezing.

Example: In a manufacturing facility that uses compressed air tools for assembling products, excess moisture may not ruin the product outright but could lead to tool rust and failure. A refrigerated dryer is a cost-effective solution to prevent issues without needing the ultra-dry air some processes require.

Desiccant dryers are ideal for applications where even a tiny amount of moisture can cause a huge problem.

Desiccant air dryers use absorbent, hygroscopic materials, like activated alumina or silica gel, to adsorb water vapor directly from the air. As the moist air flows through the dryer, the desiccant material binds the water vapor, effectively reducing the air’s dew point. Because they can achieve much lower dew points( up to -100°F) these dryers are ideal in situations where the air must be extremely dry, such as in colder environments where moisture could freeze in the lines or for applications requiring extremely dry air for product quality.

Example: Pharmaceutical manufacturing requires dry air for product stability and sterility. Even the smallest amount of moisture within the air line can cause powders and tablets to clump or spoil. A desiccant dryer offers the necessary level of dryness to meet regulatory and quality standards.

Is your business losing time and money to moisture in your compressed air system? 

Be proactive in maintaining your systems to avoid costly downtime and equipment repairs.

Air Handling Equipment has been helping customers in the compressed air industry for over 45 years. We’ve worked with various industries to design compressed air systems specifically for their applications. We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach. Our selection of air treatment and dryers is customizable to your operations.

From our refrigerated dryers, you can expect options including:

  • Cycling and Non-Cycling configurations
  • High-inlet temperature and high-pressure models available
  • Air-cooled and water-cooled packages
  • 15-12,000 CFM packages
  • Delivering 38 degrees Fahrenheit pressure dew points with CAGI verified performance

Our desiccant dryer options include:

  • 20-20,000 CFM units
  • -40 and -100 degrees Fahrenheit operation
  • Heatless, externally heated, blower purge, and heat of compression packages available
  • Customizable to meet your specific air quality needs
  • Packages available to meet the SQF & GFSI standards for direct food contact

Not sure if moisture is causing an issue? Don’t wait until you notice a problem to reach out to the experts at Air Handling Equipment. Contact us or call 1-800-736-3321 for more information about preventative maintenance, compressor equipment, air treatment, or compressed air parts.

With office locations in Sidney, Loveland, and Gahanna, Air Handling Equipment has provided compressed air system solutions to the Midwestern and Southern Ohio markets since 1977. This includes proudly serving the greater Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Lima, and Findlay, Ohio areas. For questions about our selection of used air compressors, call one of our locations or fill out our online contact form, and someone from our team will get back to you as soon as possible.