Heat recovery systems for air compressors: making the right choice

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Energy costs are always an issue in industrial situations. This is also the case with an air compressor, rotary or piston. Manufacturers and users are always looking for ways to cut down on energy consumption. One of the most effective ways to reduce energy costs are energy recovery systems, more specifically heat recovery systems. You will read all about them in this article. 

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Recycling excess heat through heat recovery systems

During operation, air compressors need energy, but also generate heat. The generated energy is equal to the energy supplied to the compressor’s motor. Did you know that approximately 95% per cent of that heat is wasted through dissipation by the motor, cooling system and oil cooler? 

If you take into account that approximately 10% of an industrial company’s energy is used through air compression, you’ll agree that trying to recover the generated heat is definitely the way to go. Heat recovery systems make sure that excess heat is recycled. For instance, the heat can be transferred to water, which needs to be at a certain temperature for applications.

How does a heat recovery system work?

The basic principle of a heat recovery system is transferring heat to another medium, and then transporting it to where it can be used. Think about closed compressors with air cooling: in this case the cooling air can be diverted into a closed-off area (through ducts) to be used as heating. Water as well as air can be used as heat ‘transporters’.

Specific types of heat recovery

Hydronic heat recovery

A hydronic heat recovery system can either: 

  • preheat water in a special heating system;

  • reheat the water within that system;

  • heat the process water.

This happens through a heat exchanger that is connected to the compressor. The water can reach temperatures of 70°C. Around 80 per cent of the compressor's heat can be transferred to the water. An excellent way of recovering energy.

Airborne heat recovery

Airborne heat recovery is another, rather inexpensive way of recovering excess energy. You’ll be able to quickly recover your investment costs. Essentially, this type of heat recovery is used to heat or cool the premises instead of used for production. 

In winter, the warm air from the compressor is fed through a duct to whatever chamber you’d like it to go. A valve makes sure that the air is returned to the compressor. 

In summer, the cooling air from outside is led through a valve, and then back outside.

Do you have dual compressors? In that case, every compressor has its own valve, connected to the motor. This way it's guaranteed that the compressor doesn’t receive any hot air while it’s not operating. 


Do you have any questions about heat recovery systems?

We are glad to help you with all your air compressor needs. Do you have any questions on heat recovery systems or ways to be as cost-effective as possible? Let us know, and we will get back to you as soon as possible!

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Trust your air compressor maintenance to an expert

Everything mentioned in this article, is a simplified version of things to keep in mind when servicing your air compressor installation. Never perform any work on your screw compressor, piston compressor, air treatment or other equipment that you are not qualified to perform, but instead consult an expert.


Specialised air compressor experts know your system inside and out and are licensed to handle any situation, no matter what issue arises. Moreover, they’ll be able to provide pointers on how to better use your compressor.


Maintaining your air compressor is far more sustainable than buying a new one every few years, so make sure you take the time to really keep it up. If you’re looking to save money, refrain from buying a second hand compressor, and focus on quality parts and preventative maintenance.


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