Compressed air filters: What do they do, then?

Sometimes also known as ‘line filters’, compressed air filters are an essential component of domestic and industrial air compressors. Compressed air filters perform a vital role in extracting oil, water, airborne particles and other types of contaminant that if left unfiltered could cause considerable harm to a compressed air system, eroding seals and system components and ultimately leading a reduction in compression efficiency.

The filtration process takes place after air has been compressed, and compressed air filters are sometimes integrated with a compression regulator and an air tool lubricating component to form a single unit. Typically, however, a compressed air filter will comprise four components: the ‘element’, which is the part that actually filters contaminants from the compressed air, a transparent ‘housing’ for the element which provides a visual indication of the element’s condition, a pressure gauge and a manual, semi-automatic or automatic drain system.

A compressed air filter’s element is porous, and the size of these pores is measured in microns. The lower the filter’s rating is in microns, the more effective it will be at removing contaminants, but also the greater the drop in pressure as air passes through the filter.

Changing a compressed air filter’s element once its efficiency has been compromised by damage caused by filtered contaminants is an essential part of preventative maintenance to extend the life of your air compressor and keep it running at optimum efficiency. In order to minimise downtime for compressors in a commercial environment it is sensible to keep one or two replacement compressed air filter elements in reserve.

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