Regardless of the application, equipment maintenance is an important part of keeping machines running. Without proper maintenance, they can break down sooner than they should. It can also lead to issues that cause all processes to stop as parts are repaired or replaced.
When it comes to reciprocating compressors, the condition of the valves is critical. If the valves fail, it can slow down processes that involve the compressor. In some cases, it can even bring the entire operation to a halt while you wait for compressor valve repair.
Fortunately, compressor valves usually do not fail out of nowhere. There are warning signs that can indicate a failing valve. If you keep an eye out for these signs, the issue can be caught and addressed before it causes significant problems.
Causes of Valve Failure
Before moving on to the signs of failure, we should consider the causes. Understanding the causes of compressor valve failure can offer ways to prevent issues. You can also look at the various factors affecting compressor valves to develop more effective preventative maintenance protocols.
There are various mechanical factors that can lead to valve failure. Overloading and overheating can be issues. Issues with the compressor valve spring failing are also common. Off-design operation can be another mechanical factor that leads to valve failure.
Beyond mechanical issues, environmental factors are common causes of compressor valve failure. Many of these machines are designed to work under harsh conditions, but it can lead to early failure. For example, exposure to dirt and dust can be bad for the valve. Exposure to corrosive substances can also be an issue for compressor valves.
You could also consider poor or improper maintenance practices as factors that may lead to compressor valve failure. If a machine is not receiving the maintenance it needs, the parts will fail. Additionally, improper maintenance can damage the parts of a machine.
Signs of a Failing Compressor Valve
Now that you know about the common causes of compressor valve failure, we can take a look at a few signs that can help diagnose the issue.
Running Too Quiet
As is true with most machines, the operating noise can be a sign of trouble. For most engineers or operators, low compressor noise is a good thing. This is true for most situations. However, if the noise is too low, it could indicate an issue with valve failure.
Low compressor noise could be an indication of a wide range of issues. Maybe a valve passage is obstructed. Maybe there are some other issues making it so the compressor can not operate to its full capacity. Don’t let a quiet compressor lull you into a sense of false security. If the noise gets too low, you need to inspect the machine.
High Suction Pressure
Pressure is one of the critical elements of a compressor valve that is operating the way it should. Whenever there are unexplained irregularities, you know you have a problem. One of the most common issues that indicate a faulty compressor valve is when the suction pressure is higher than normal.
The first thing to check is if you have high suction pressure combined with low discharge pressure. When these two inter-related factors are not aligned, it is a sign you have a problem. It could be some type of instrument error or a faulty unloading valve. Either way, you need to inspect the system.
Reduced Discharge Pressure
Similar to excessive suction pressure being an issue, reduced discharge pressure can also indicate compressor valve failure. As we mentioned before, combined with high suction pressure, reduced discharge pressure is a sign of an obvious problem.
Low discharge pressure could be an indication of several different issues. Maybe there is just dirt or debris clogging the valve. There could also be some type of leakage in the system. It could also be a faulty unloading valve or some type of instrument error.
High Discharge Temperature
Beyond noise and pressure, temperature can be another indicator of a failing compressor valve. If you notice a higher than normal discharge temperature, you probably have a problem. In many cases, it is the result of a failing seal.
As air discharges from the cylinder at each upstroke, some can escape back into the cylinder if the valve seal is going bad. This shorter cycle of air going through the system increases the discharge temperature. Issues like this are often linked to a worn-out LP valve or faulty unloading valve.
A failing valve might work for a while but will eventually quit. When it does, it could be a serious problem for your operation. That is why you need to be aware of the signs of compressor valve failure. When you identify the issues early, you can avoid the compressor breaking down and extend the life of the machine.