How To Drain Air Compressor

How To Drain An Air Compressor

Air compressors are becoming increasingly sought after by many people. This versatile tool can be used for several household and industrial tasks. It can be used for working with a nail gun, for spray painting, for pressure washing, for drilling, and many other tasks that involve a pneumatic tool.

An air compressor compresses air and stores it to drive pneumatic tools. Because of standardization, it can fit a wide variety of tools. Since it is very durable, it makes for a sensible one-time investment for many people. That is why it is becoming increasingly sought after.

It is of paramount importance to maintain your air compressor to unleash its full potential and keep serving you for many years. You must have a proper maintenance schedule for your air compressor. One of the most important maintenance measures is to drain the compressor tank of water.


How Does Water Get In?

Every time you use your air compressor, it sucks in air to compress. The air around you always contains a bit of moisture in the form of water vapor.  

The water vapor condenses into water droplets. These water droplets build up over time and become free-flowing water.

Along with moisture, pollutants and dust from the atmosphere around will also be sucked in. Often oil from the seals also gets in.

Over a while, this build-up increases and in bigger compressors, water sometimes can be measured in gallons!

Four things can happen due to water and other particles in your compressor-

  1. Water can cause rust. Over time rust will weaken the structural integrity of your compressor tank causing it to malfunction or even burst!
  2. Water can get inside your tools! Water can be blown along with air. This will seriously damage your tools.
  3. Water build-up will take up space and reduce the amount of air that can be sucked up into the compressor tank. This will drastically reduce the efficiency and the pressure gauge will show the wrong reading.
  4. Along with water, sucked in particles can cause obstruction to airflow. It will also get into the airways of your pneumatic tools and damage them permanently!

How Often Should You Drain Air Compressor Tank

Now it is an established fact that water and the potent cocktail of pollutants and dust mixed with water can wreak havoc with your compressor and pneumatic tools.

You may now wonder how regularly you must drain your air compressor to stay safe.

If you use your air compressor every day, then you must drain them every couple of days at least. Otherwise, the moisture and dust build-up will severely impact the performance of your compressor and pneumatic tools.

If you are an occasional user, drain it at least once for every three uses. When not in use for long periods, it is recommended to totally drain the compressor. That is because the water and the dust cocktail can corrode the innards of the tank and cause havoc on your pneumatic tools!

How To Drain Your Air Compressor?

Now, draining an air compressor is not rocket science. A few simple steps will have your air compressor working like new and last forever! There are two ways to drain, manual and automatic. Let us examine the two methods one by one-

Manually Draining Your Air Compressor

Find Out Where The Drain Valve Is Located

In most air compressors, the drain valve is located at the bottom. In a few rare instances, it can be on the side. Though the side valve is conveniently placed to open and close, it is not very efficient to drain out the water fully.

The side valve is so placed to drain water with air pressure. Without air pressure, you cannot drain with this design. Also, the side placement can sometimes allow rust to clog up the opening. It makes sense to go for an air compressor with a drain valve at the bottom.

Open The Drain Valve To Let Out The Water

The valve if located in the bottom, it will immediately start letting out the water when opened. Keep a pan underneath to catch the dripping water if you do not want to mess your floor. Tilt the tank to let all the gunk drain out.

For the air compressors with a side drain valve, you need air pressure to drive the water out.

Start the compressor to build up some air pressure and turn it off after a short while. Open the valve and see the water being pushed out by the compressed air. Keep a container handy to catch the gunk.

Close The Valve

Once your air compressor is drained, the drain valve must be closed. It is prudent to use thread tape on the drain valve before closing it.

This will ensure that there would be no leaks. To check for leaks, run the compressor and use soapy water along with the drain valve fitting. 

If the soapy water bubbles, you must tighten the valve with a wrench. Check again for an airtight fitting with soap water.

If you observe leakage, remove the valve, use more thread tape and fit it again tightly and check. If there is leakage even after this step, change the valve.

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Using An Electronic Automatic Drain Valve

Many of us find it a chore to drain our air compressors regularly. So, an electronic automatic drain valve has become a popular choice.

This feature is especially useful when you have a heavy-duty compressor.

All you need to do is remove your existing manual drain valve and replace it with an electronic one.

You need to also set the frequency at which you need to drain your compressor.

People who use their air compressor daily, set the timer to drain once every day.

The electronic drain valve must be connected with a 12v power source. You need to also set the timer according to the frequency of use. Do not forget to keep a pan to catch all the liquid being drained out and empty it before it overflows.

The electronic drain valve must be connected with a 12v power source. You need to also set the timer according to the frequency of use. Do not forget to keep a pan to catch all the liquid being drained out and empty it before it overflows.

Some Measures To Follow While Draining Your Air Compressor

  • Ensure that the compressor is unplugged from the power source.
  • Wear safety goggles and gloves.
  • Tilt the compressor to get all the water out.
  • Tighten the valve properly after draining. If required, use threading tape to make the valve airtight.
  • Check for leaks in the valve using soapy water.

Be sure that you do not drop the compressor. Any impact could weaken the structural integrity causing it to burst!

Storing Your Air Compressor When Not In Use

Now that you have learned to drain your air compressor, it is important to store it properly when not in use. Before storing you must ensure that the compressor is totally drained. Moisture inside the tank as we all know can corrode.

Make sure that the air compressor is stored in a dry, cool area. This will prevent any damage due to the elements.

Some Concluding Thoughts

The air compressor is a versatile tool which many people consider as a godsend! It drives a variety of pneumatic tools in the home and the industry. But you must remember that air compressors are powerful indeed. They compress and store air at enormous pressure.

If mishandled, these versatile tools could become very dangerous indeed! An exploding tank can cause grievous injury to anyone nearby. The air compressor manufacturers take safety considerations very seriously. All the latest air compressors are sturdily made and have several safety features in place.

That being said, a little periodic maintenance from your part will go a long way to enhance the life of your air compressor and pneumatic tools.  You will enjoy working with your air compressor with full peace of mind with the help of the above guide.

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