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7 tough air compressor operating conditions and how to tackle them

An air compressor attached to a drill
An Atlas Copco air compressor is used on a dusty drilling job site. Atlas Copco

You can't always control the external conditions your portable air compressor will be faced with – but you can make sure it is tough enough for any challenge. Here are seven common tough conditions your air compressor might have to deal with – and with the solutions for them.

A perfect storm

Whether it be from rainwater or saltwater, moisture can wreak havoc on a portable air compressor's performance and expected life cycle. Rain and salt degrade the mechanical components (both internal and external) of a compressor, leading to stains, rust, weakened materials, and lowering the machine's asset value. Fortunately, all of this shouldn't be a reality. The most effective cure for water damage and rust is prevention.

Atlas Copco uses a polyethylene (PE) HardHat canopy on portable air units that is designed to offer lasting prevention against corrosion, as is the three-layer anti-corrosion system featured on larger metal units. Atlas Copco also puts each of its compressors through a rain endurance test to prove that they remain corrosion, rust, and salt resistant, even in monsoon weather conditions.

High humidity

Your compressor will experience an additional water load in high humidity conditions. In fact, there is a lot more water in the air at the highest compressor operating conditions in the height of summer (45 degrees Celsius) compared to the lower temperatures normally seen during other months (15 degrees Celsius). Filter performance can also be affected by additional humidity.

To help with high humidity levels, Atlas Copco's portable air compressors are designed with anti-corrosion materials and are tested. Replacing filters routinely will help offer long-term protection against humidity as well. So will adjusting ventilation and airflow to account for seasonal changes.

Freezing temperatures

Freezing temperatures have a significant long and short-term impact on portable air compressors. The further below zero the greater the impact. Air compressors generate condensation which freezes and can clog and rupture critical components within larger air systems. Control lines, drain valves, compressed air filters, and heat exchangers are also at risk of freezing and cracking. So when choosing a portable air compressor, opt for a compressor that is designed to operate in extreme temperatures.

Using a high-tech climactic chamber facility, Atlas Copco tests each compressor against -25 degrees Celsius conditions. For total winterproofing, be sure to routinely check pipes and components far from the motor that can be especially vulnerable to freezing. Plus, change filters if they become iced over.

Extreme heat

A portable air compressor creates a lot of heat on its own. When combined with the higher ambient temperatures of the summer months, additional strain is placed on the system. It must work harder – and consume more energy – to operate efficiently while the temperature of the cooling water or air increases. If a portable air compressor gets too hot, it may overheat and shut down entirely.

Atlas Copco tests every unit in a futuristic climactic chamber testing facility. It goes to freezing cold temperatures, but each portable air compressor is also tested against a sweltering 45 degrees Celsius. Atlas Copco air compressors are suitable for scorching applications. On top of that, thermal protection features are included for extra safety.


Once dust enters a compressed air stream, it can have detrimental (not to mention costly) consequences for downstream equipment and end products. Unfiltered dust can reduce the lifetime and the efficiency of the compressor element, oil separator element, and oil. To avoid these problems, the use of components in a smart-designed compressor is fundamental.

Atlas Copco designs its portable air compressors for a long-lasting life, which is why all new units and their filters are tested against dust. Thanks to a high-speed fan, full footprint data, tests to track flow and pressure optimization, contact surface temperature, and starting capability, Atlas Copco compressors can maintain a supply of clean air at all times.

Rocky transportation

By nature, portable air compressors must be easily transported from job site to job site. They are frequently moved through uneven, rocky, and muddy terrain where the chassis, wheels, and components are put under stress and weakened over time. A stable and durable design helps ensure smooth transportation through tough terrain. At Atlas Copco, all portable air units are put through road testing where they are dragged across uneven grounds to test the chassis, canopy, and tensile strength of their lifting beams.

High altitudes

As altitude increases air density decreases which results in a roughly proportional decrease in the horsepower a portable air compressor engine is able to produce. High up in the mountains atmospheric pressure, oxygen levels, and extreme temperatures combine to negatively impact air compressors from ideal working pressure, capacity, power consumption, and cooling requirements.

Atlas Copco brings its portable air compressors up into the mountains and assesses its performance 4,500 metres above sea level where the extreme and varied effects of these real-life conditions can be put to the test.

Company info

Sickla Industriväg 19
SE, SE-105 23 Stockholm


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