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Thread: Moving air compressor outside right or wrong

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Hayesville N.C.
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    211

    Moving air compressor outside right or wrong

    I'm thinking of moving my air compressor outside to help with some space issues. It's a 220v so that's one issue but wonder what other concerns I should have.
    The area is a overhead I built on the side of my shop that is open on three sides. It will be protected from direct rain but open to temp and moisture.
    We are in N.C. so the temperature range 15 degrees in the winter to 95 in the summer.
    Moisture is my biggest concern as the shop is close to a good size stream.

    I'm building my first benchcrafters roubo workbench so looking for more space

    Thanks

  2. #2
    I've had mine outside under an overhang since i moved to McKinney 5 years ago. No problems with moisture or otherwise.
    Steve Jenkins, McKinney, TX. 469 742-9694
    Always use the word "impossible" with extreme caution

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Harrell View Post
    I'm thinking of moving my air compressor outside to help with some space issues. It's a 220v so that's one issue but wonder what other concerns I should have.
    The area is a overhead I built on the side of my shop that is open on three sides. It will be protected from direct rain but open to temp and moisture.
    We are in N.C. so the temperature range 15 degrees in the winter to 95 in the summer.
    Moisture is my biggest concern as the shop is close to a good size stream.

    I'm building my first benchcrafters roubo workbench so looking for more space

    Thanks
    Moisture in the air will likely be your biggest issue as your incoming air temp in the colder months will be so cold. You may need to install a large filter or even perhaps a dryer. The moisture of course is not good for tools and absolutely no good for spraying finishes. Depending on how much moisture you may not be able to get away with simple manual drain filters.

    Mark

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Wilmington Island, Ga
    Posts
    641
    Moisture will be your number one problem.

    If you hard pipe your shop, there are a few things you can do to hold the moisture at bay.

    Run all your piping "up hill" so moisture runs down to one spot with a drain.

    All your "T's" from the main line should point up.

    You could get a big dollar dryer to install in line, or use the standard filter type dryers (which are less effective)

    If your painting with the air I see problems.

    Otherwise you should be good to go, shopnotes magazine did a cool article on how to plumb a shop for air, and keep the water out. It's older, but I could find it if your really interested.

    My last 9-5 job had a big Screw type air comp outside, it sprayed water all summer till they put an expensive dryer on it.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    New Hill, NC
    Posts
    1,773
    Hi neighbor! Keith, many commercial automotive shops and dealerships have their air compressors outside and under cover, so it's doable here in NC. As others have mentioned, moisture is your number one concern. If it were me, I would install a very good automatic tank drain on your unit (Wilkerson makes a nice unit that McMaster Carr sells for about $50 bucks, and a lot of folks have used the lesser expensive option from Harbor Freight). You might also need to consider a high quality in-line dryer if you do a lot of finish spraying.

    Up until a few months ago, for several years I operated my compressor here in NC inside an old tobacco barn, with no problems, (and this was with the standard line dryer - not the more expensive refridgerated version) so you should be ok. My compressor is not mounted inside my generator room, which is occasionally open to the outside.

    For temp and humidity comparison's sake, I'm about 30 miles SW of Raleigh.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    Central North Carolina
    Posts
    558
    I'm in central North Carolina and my shop is 60' away and 3' above a 250 acre lake. I added a 6' X 6' extension to the end of the shop to hold my 18 cfm compressor and this area is closed in, but is unheated and uninsulated. It also has vents in the walls to the outside, so the compressor is exposed to everything except rain and snow. In the 5 years that it's been out there I haven't had any problems other than normal amounts of condensate to drain from the tank, and my compressor is left powered on 24/7. I open the drain about once every other month, just to be sure that no significant amount of condensate builds up and the amount that I get out has always been less than 1 quart, even in the summer months. I have a refrigerated dryer, but only use it when painting or sandblasting. The air supply to the shop goes through a filter/separator, but I have never had to empty it. I don't think you will have any problems with your plan, but consider making sure that the motor/compressor part of the unit is fully caged for safety.

    Charley

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Hayesville N.C.
    Posts
    211
    Thanks for the suggestions. I guess I need add a dryer and out she goes. I don't do much if any spraying now but would like the option one day. Most of my finishing is by hand now.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Western Nebraska
    Posts
    2,914
    Fyi, in a colder climate, like western Nebraska, cold temps can cause problems with outside compressors. I'm thinking of 0 F and colder. I've seen them just plain not start, or burn up motors because of the extra strain. Not positive, but I think the cold changes tolerances enough that it increses cylinder friction. Belts also quit being as flexible, as well as oil thickens up. Sounds like you are fine in your climate, but not everybody will be.

  9. #9
    Probably would help to run synthetic compressor oil. The company I bought my compressor recommends it. They sell Amsoil

  10. #10
    First thing to do is change to synthetic oil, as it "flows" at lower temps, and will protect your pump better. During the winter, moisture won't be a problem, as outside air is usually a lot dryer. During the warmer months, unless your shop is air conditioned, the inside and out side air will have the same moisture content.

  11. #11
    My friend had a large vertical compressor mounted outside the shop. Sometime during the cold night, the compressor kicked on. The oil was thick enough, and the drive belt loose enough, that the motor would turn the pump to the resistance of compression, spin on the belt for a while, turn the pump a bit again, over and over all night till he found it in the morning. Belt never did throw, but had many divots in it, and the motor ran all night. If the belt had been tight, and the oil thick enough, it probably would have blown a reset on the motor, or breaker in the panel. Had the potential to burn up the motor.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Ferguson MO USA
    Posts
    139
    I am planning installing my compressor outside as well. I live in the St Louis MO area so we see temp down to 0 occasionally.
    I an planning on putting it inside a small shed for security reasons.

    What do you think of this idea? The plan is to have an infrared light above the compressor that will come on when the temp is below 35 degrees. The bulb will be right above so it heats the compressor. I am currently using synthetic oil and plan on continuing to do so. Since the building is on the south side and gets lots of sun, I will also be installing a temperature controlled fan that kicks in at 90 degrees.
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  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Beachler View Post
    I am planning installing my compressor outside as well. I live in the St Louis MO area so we see temp down to 0 occasionally.
    I an planning on putting it inside a small shed for security reasons.

    What do you think of this idea? The plan is to have an infrared light above the compressor that will come on when the temp is below 35 degrees. The bulb will be right above so it heats the compressor. I am currently using synthetic oil and plan on continuing to do so. Since the building is on the south side and gets lots of sun, I will also be installing a temperature controlled fan that kicks in at 90 degrees.
    Sounds interesting as you're at least trying to battle Mother Nature at your planned temp extremes. Maybe use an infrared thermometer on the compressorwhen the weather is at its coldest to see how warm the pump stays with the light/bulb shining down on it once you've got the whole set-up installed. As for the summer months, seems like as long as there is enough air flow via some baffles that you could leave open in your storage room/section for the summer months, the fan may not be needed. But, better safe than sorry. Up here in Chicago the winter temps would be my biggest enemy. Synthetic oil would be a must for an unheated space stored compressor. I have my compressor set-up in my basement shop, and ran an underground pipe out to my garage with a filter and regulator at the end of the run out in the garage. As an added bonus, there's no expensive compressor that might be stolen sitting in my garage. It is Chicago after all, garages seem to get broken into more in the dark winter months when everyone is holed up in their house.

  14. In the winter your compressor will be hard to start and put undue load on the motor. During the summer, you will have higher moisture content compared with indoors.

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