Why Oil-Free Compressors are the Best Option in Most Applications

There is an old adage which is also a law of physics; what goes in will, eventually, come out. This applies to compressor lubricants in oil-flooded rotary screw compressors, too. At a rate of 2 ppm carryover, an oil-flooded 100 hp compressor operating for one year (8000 hrs) will introduce over 4 gallons of lubricant into a compressed air system. Eventually, this lubricant will cause leakage. This causes a few different problems for owners of rotary screw compressors. Down below, we will outline the benefits of oil-free compressors and how they fit most industries.

No Contamination

Compressed air users are becoming increasingly intolerant of contamination in their systems. Whether it is in a patient’s lungs, food, and beverage products, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, or any process that requires clean, dry air. Compressed air can also be dried and filtered to dry nitrogen specifications and used in applications where the inert quality of nitrogen is not required.

This is typically known as “CDA” (clean dry air) in the electronics industry but every industry can benefit by using it. CDA may mean different things in different industries in regards to dew point (how dry the air is). However, all CDA systems have one thing in common: the air must be oil-free and that requires the use of oil-free air compressors. For industries that require compressed air to make their products, the higher the quality of the compressed air, the better the product. In addition, by using oil-free compressors, you experience a lower cost for production.

The Effects of Oil-Flooded Compressors

Most companies that have oil-free compressors started out using oil-flooded compressors. System contamination was not detected and accumulated gradually. In some cases, this occurred within a year. For others, this may have occurred in as many as five years. Either way, the inevitable was bound to happen. Product contamination occurred, production shut down, and piping, filters, dryers, receivers, and entire compressors needed replacing.

In one case JHFOSTER helped solve, the owner moved out of a facility entirely due to contamination, installed oil-free compressors, and had to endure a six-month interruption in production. This ended up being a huge price to pay for using an oil-flooded compressor.

Most major food manufacturers have tried using oil-flooded compressors at some point in their history with disastrous results. We don’t want your company to experience product recalls due to compressor lubricant contamination! This results in high expenses and a lost reputation.

By using an oil-free compressor from the start, you can ensure that no contamination and resulting shutdown occurs.

Lower Cost Of Ownership

Oil-free compressors reduce operating costs in seven primary ways. Below we will discuss these reduced operating costs, but first and foremost, let’s talk about the lowered energy costs you will experience.

Lower Energy Cost

Another benefit of oil-free compressors is a decrease in your energy bill. You are able to avoid the extra energy cost that accrues when your compressor experiences a pressure drop in the compressor oil separator and downstream filtration.

No Cost for Oil-laden Condensate Disposal

Oil-free compressors do not experience a cost acquired from disposal of oil-laden condensate. This means you save both time and money by using an oil-free compressor.

No Separator Element and Reduced Downstream Filter Replacement

By using an oil-free compressor, you can avoid replacing the compressor oil separator element and reduce downstream filter replacement costs.

No Dryer Contamination

Oil-free compressors eliminate the contamination of desiccant in regenerative type air dryers.

Eliminating Cost of Make Up Oil

Oil-free compressors do not require the use of make up oil like oil-flooded compressors do.

Reduced Oil Change Costs

Oil-flooded compressors can require two or more oil changes per year. The reason behind this is the fact that ambient air is mixed with the oil causing contamination and reduced oil life. High ambient conditions can reduce oil life even further. Oil-free compressors typically require oil changes annually, and the volume of oil is significantly less.

Low Unloaded Horsepower

Another benefit of oil-free compressors is the unload time of 2 seconds upon command. They consume approximately 18% of full load horsepower when unloaded. This results in significant energy savings compared to oil-flooded compressors.


The above costs associated with oil-flooded compressors may not be apparent at the time of purchase, but are contributors to your total
cost of ownership. In the long run, your oil-flooded compressor will likely cost you more than an oil-free compressor.

The best oil-free benefit of all is the elimination of ruined end product, lost production and damaged reputation. This peace of mind to business owners, employees and customers cannot be measured in dollars.

Oil-Free = Risk Free = Stress Free

If you need help analyzing what compressor system is right for you, please contact us by email or phone with your questions, and a specialist will be with you shortly!