The Minimum Operating Temperature for an Oil-less Compressor?

There’s a winter cold snap and you need to fill your tires with air to offset a loss in air pressure caused by the weather. You pull into the service station near your house only to see a sign on the air compressor that the device is frozen and out of service. It’s a problem that can impact any type of air compressor — and it’s important to know what the best minimum operating temperatures are for these important devices, especially if productivity in an industrial setting is dependent upon the operation of an oil-less compressor.

Cold weather isn’t just an inconvenience for people — it also can have a detrimental effect on many of the products, systems and components that we may use on an everyday basis. In an industrial setting, the air compressor and compressed air system can experience trouble if the right measures aren’t taken. One of the questions we’re often asked is just what is the minimum operating temperature for an oil-less air compressor. In this post, we’ll discuss what this recommended low temperature is and why. Here’s a closer look:

Minimum Operating Temperature for Oil-Less Air Compressor

So just how cold can you let an air compressor get before you’re at risk of some significant short- and long-term damage to it or its system? Generally speaking, any temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit is a major red flag when it comes to operating an industrial air compressor. This is largely because if it gets any colder, condensate freeze and component freezing can occur, which can impact the workings of the entire system. And when water or components freeze, they tend to enlarge. It’s similar to how a frozen pipe in your home can burst and cause water damage throughout your property if the problem isn’t resolved in a timely manner. When condensate or components freeze, they tend to get larger which can lead to cracking or damage throughout the air compressor system. If these cracks are permitted to expand over time, then it could lead to even more widespread problems.

The good news is that it’s more advantageous to be operating an oil-less compressor in cooler environments compared to one that is oil lubricated. That’s because in cold temperatures, oil will often thicken, thereby impacting the overall performance of the air compressor. It’s why oil-based compressors should always be stored in a room that stays warm or can be modified to stay warm at certain periods of the year. Regardless of whether your air compressor is oil-lubricated, oil-free or oil-less, generally sticking to the 40-degree rule is your best bet. Anything less than that and your compressor is at risk of some of the issues that we’ve talked about earlier in this section.

Cold Weather Air Compressor Best Practices

As we stated in the opening, cold weather has the potential to really impact how effective certain products, components or systems operate. And while the 40-degree rule is a good one for industrial air compressors and compressed air systems, there are a variety of other tips and strategies that you can implement to ensure that the system operates well during the cold-weather months. Here’s a look at some of those tips:

Pipe Insulators

As we’ve established in this piece, air compressors aren’t without certain challenges, and pipe freeze is one of them across the overall compressed air system. Because piping is often installed near the roof of industrial facilities or near exterior walls where it may be colder, it’s important to pay attention to the pipes. If you don’t think there’s enough heat circulating throughout the facility, one thing you can do is purchase pipe insulating sleeves to outfit the piping with. These are easily positioned over the exposed pipe and help keep it warmer in cool temperatures.

Have the Compressor, System Serviced Regularly

It’s always a good idea to have annual preventative maintenance performed on your air compressor and the greater compressed air system. This will help ensure it is in good working condition and also help properly assess the condition of the system. If there’s evidence of part or component wear that is believed to have been caused by cold weather, a fix can occur and future modifications can be made to prevent any of the same issues from happening again.

Pay Attention to Various Components

We’d suggest paying special attention to condensate drains and inlet air filters. If condensate drains fail or experience an issue, then condensate can travel to other areas throughout the compressed air system, doing more damage than just potentially freezing. It’s also important to regularly check the compressor’s inlet air filter, as ice may form within it if temperatures dip below the recommended 40-degree benchmark for operation.


For more information on oil-less air compressors and the minimum operating temperature, they should be working at, contact JHFOSTER today.