A desiccant breather is an important component of many types of machinery. Its purpose is to keep the equipment as free from moisture as possible, in order to prevent corrosion and other damage. A desiccant breather is a type of air breather that organizations often use in lubrication systems. The purpose of a desiccant breather is to remove water vapor and other contaminants from the air that is circulating through the system. This helps to ensure that the lubricant remains clean and dry, which in turn helps to extend the life of your equipment.
What is a Desiccant Breather?
Desiccant breathers typically consist of a canister filled with a drying agent, such as silica gel or calcium sulfate. As air passes through the canister, the drying agent absorbs water vapor and other contaminants, keeping them out of the lubrication system. In addition to extending the life of lubricants, desiccant breathers can also help to improve equipment efficiency and prevent unplanned downtime.
How does a Desiccant Breather Work?
Desiccants are hygroscopic substances, which attract and hold water molecules to absorb moisture. If you’ve ever bought vitamins or other products with silica gel packets in them, then you already know a bit about desiccants. Manufacturers include these desiccant packets to prevent spoilage or to keep their products dry. However, these substances are also highly beneficial to lubrication management in filters. You can use a desiccant breather to keep lubricants dry and free from contaminants in the lubrication system.
In lubricant applications, desiccant breathers remove moisture from the air, thereby protecting the lubricant from degradation. Also, desiccant breathers can reduce equipment wear and tear by filtering out dust and other contaminants.
Desiccant breathers come in a variety of configurations, each with its unique features. Desiccant breathers usually have a three-stage system that works as follows:
- Removing particles larger than two microns with a solid particle filter.
- The silica gel desiccant absorbs and retains water from the air.
- The remaining particles larger than two microns will be removed with a second solid particle filter.
Why are they Important to Lubrication Management?
A properly lubricated machine ensures proper operation. On metal surfaces, lubricants reduce friction and wear, as well as protect against corrosion. However, water and other debris can quickly contaminate lubricants, making them less effective and causing premature failure. It is estimated that 70% of all equipment failures are caused by lubrication-related problems.
Where You Should Use Desiccant Breathers
Desiccant breathers are commonly used in reservoirs, tanks, bearing sumps, process pumps, and gearboxes. These are systems that you may use infrequently, allowing headspace condensation to build up and water to accumulate. Desiccant breathers are recommended for any system that takes in air that can introduce moisture and dirt to your lubricant. Additionally, an unexpected but excellent use of desiccant breathers is in your lube rooms! As a result of changes in humidity or temperature, day tanks or containers used for dispensing lubricants may breathe and contaminate your lubricant with water. In some cases, desiccant breathers are not needed for machines that are always running, over 150°F in temperature, or have not experienced water contamination in the past. But, every level of contamination prevention, from storage to machine operation, is essential.
How Long do they Last?
Desiccant breathers do not last forever, which is an important detail to remember. Silica gel absorbs water from the air and retains it. Thus, over time, it will be completely absorbed and no longer function at 100%. For example, a paper towel absorbs water. But, once it absorbs the maximum amount it can, you have a soaking wet paper towel just pushing water around.
The silica gel in most desiccant breathers changes color as it absorbs water. So, you never have to worry about not knowing when your breathers reach their maximum absorption levels. However, you still need to regularly inspect and replace the breathers in your system to maintain optimal contamination prevention. Three to six months is the average lifespan of desiccant breathers if they are sized properly. Several factors affect breather performance, including air intake volume and frequency, desiccant amount, and humidity in the environment.
The Benefits of Desiccant Breathers
Lubrication management requires you to take any step you can to prevent contamination. To keep your machines clean, you should filter any air they are breathing. Most machines are designed to “breathe”, but this has the potential to bring in external contaminants. A desiccant breather ensures the lubricant does not get contaminated by water vapor or other contaminants. This makes them an essential part of any lubrication management system. They also bring many benefits, including:
- Long-lasting lubricants.
- Cost-savings in maintenance.
- Improves lubricant additive life.
- Reduces rust and corrosion.
- Decreases component wear.
- Lowers equipment downtime.
- Enhances overall asset reliability and health.
There is so much more to lubrication management than simply completing lubrication routes. Every step of the process requires preventive measures and best practices, along with lubricant analysis and condition monitoring to ensure continuous improvement. Desiccant breathers are very beneficial to most types of equipment. A simple solution to lubrication management that helps prevent a major problem.