In industrial, commercial, and residential facilities, air filters play a critical role in the equipment employed, such as compressor systems. These filtration devices help ensure the system performs as intended and maintain the quality and safety of the breathing air by reducing the number of contaminants, allergens, and particles circulating throughout the system.
High-quality, well-maintained air filters are particularly important in industrial environments with high particulate concentrations as they protect employees from breathing in the potentially harmful air pollutants. Despite their simplicity, choosing the right filter for your compressor system can make all the difference in terms of performance and overall air quality.
How Do Breathing Air Filters Work?
In industrial worksites with a high risk of hazardous solid, liquid, and/or gas inhalation, supplied-air respirators are employed for the protection of employees. These low-pressure devices are designed and constructed to provide a reliable and consistent source of breathing-quality air. As per Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements, they must have regularly calibrated carbon monoxide (CO) monitors and properly maintained filters to ensure the air flowing to workers is free from harmful contaminants.
These filters differ from other filters in that they remove pollutants and particulates in multiple stages. Typical filtration operations may proceed as follows:
- A coalescing filter removes liquid oil droplets from the air stream down to 0.01 ppm
- A catalytic converter converts any CO present into CO2
- An activated carbon (e.g., charcoal) filter removes aerosolized oils and/or hydrocarbons from the air stream to improve taste and smell
- A final filter removes any remaining solid particulates from the gas stream
Considerations When Choosing a Breathing Air Filter
Breathing air filters are available in numerous variations, each of which is suitable for reducing specific air contaminants with set efficiency levels. When selecting an air filter for your system, there are several considerations to keep in mind, including:
- Breathing air requirements. While national regulatory bodies, such as OSHA and CSA, outline general air quality requirements for the protection of workers, individual industries may also impose their own requirements and restrictions regarding breathing air quality. The specifications vary depending on the typical materials handled and operations performed. As such, it is important to be aware of the standards held by your particular industry.
- Presence of CO and other toxic gases. Carbon monoxide is an extremely toxic byproduct of combustion. Compressors exposed to air with this gas present are guaranteed to send it downstream to workers if it is not properly filtered out. For this reason, compressors employed in environments with high levels of CO and other toxic gases are fitted with specialized units—i.e., catalytic converters—that turn the compounds into less hazardous materials. For example, CO converts into CO2. Fortunately, the majority of industrial applications do not have significantly high levels of toxic gases. As such, filtration units without catalytic converters are a viable option for most use cases.
- Portability. Portable equipment is essential for off-site and remote operations. This statement is applicable even to supplied-air systems. When choosing a “portable” breathing air filter, ensure that you can carry it to the job site.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) originally outlined the standards for breathing air. Later on, OSHA adopted and enforced them. For compressed breathing air, the applicable standards are Grade D and Grade E. Table 1 below outlines some of the standards’ requirements and specifications.
Table 1 — Grade D and Grade E Breathing Air Standards (in the United States)
|Grade D||Grade E|
|CO Content||≤10 ppm||≤10 ppm|
|CO2 Content||≤1000 ppm||≤1000 ppm|
|Hydrocarbon Content||(condensed oil) ≤5 mg/m3 of air||(total volatile) ≤25 ppm|
|Water Content||For high-pressure air: minimum dew point of -50° F at 14.7psi
For low-pressure air: minimum dew point of 10° F at 14.7psi
|For high-pressure air: minimum dew point of -50° F and maximum water vapor content of 67 ppm|
At Compressed Air Systems, we offer air filters and air filtration accessories to help your air compressor systems meet or exceed Grade D and E breathing air standards, as needed. Our selection of filtration product offerings includes the following:
- Coalescing, fine coalescing, and particulate air filters
- Oil filters
- Desiccant, membrane, and refrigerated air dryers
- CO monitors with alarms
These high-quality filtration and monitoring devices help measure and mitigate contaminants—including carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and water—to within safe levels. Choosing the right combinations of air filters and air quality monitoring systems ensures:
- Higher air quality levels for your facility’s occupants
- Lower contaminants levels within your facility’s compressor system
Air filters pull air contaminants, such as industrial particulates and allergens, out of the air before they recirculate within the system and facility. This process improves air quality, makes it easier, safer, and more comfortable for people within the building to breathe, and enhances the performance of the system. Due to its critical function, choosing the right air filter for a system—e.g., a compressor system—and environment is important.
At Compressed Air Systems, our expert team can help you select the right filters for your air compressor and facility. Equipped with over 55 years of experience selling, servicing, and renting pneumatic tools and equipment, we have the know-how to provide you with a quality solution that is cost-effective and easy to manage.
For more information on our breathing air products and services, contact us today. You can also browse our online catalog or request a quote to start replacing your facility’s air filters immediately.