Types of compressed air filters and how they work: your guide

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Types of compressed air filters and how they work: your guide

When working with compressed air, air treatment is crucial to get the result you need. But what types of air filters are there? And how do they all work? Find out everything you need to to make your choice here.

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What is a compressed air filter?

A compressed air filter or air line filter is used to filter impurities from atmospheric air, like dust, oil and moisture, to make compressed air viable for use.

Just like air dryers, they are a crucial part of the air treatment process to make sure your compressed air is clean and safe to use, and to increase your equipment’s life span.

What compressed air filter types are there?

To make sure you pick the right type of compressed air filter, you first need to know what types of compressed air filters there are and what working principles they use. In this guide, you’ll find out what you need to know to choose the best compressed air filter for you.

  1. Particulate air filters
  2. Activated carbon air filters
  3. Coalescing air filters

1. Particulate air filters

Particulate air line filters remove dust and other harmful particles from compressed air. Like the membrane air dryer, the particulate filter uses a membrane that only lets air pass through and blocks other contaminants like dust, pollen and dirt.

Why choose a particulate air filter?

Particulate air filters are often used after an adsorption dryer like a desiccant dryer. They also filter internal particulate matter like corrosion to help your air compressor live longer.

Benefits of a particulate filter

  • Filter particulate impurities like dust
  • Prevents clogs in air lines

If you’re looking for a finer filter that removes fumes and vapours, the activated carbon filter is what you need, for moisture you are better off with a coalescent filter.

2. Activated carbon air filters

Activated carbon filters are often referred to as vapour removal filters, perfectly describing how carbon is used to attract gaseous contaminants and immobilise them. The carbon has a large surface area making it a durable type of filter.

As the filter becomes more saturated, however, the pressure will need to drop to reach the same quality of filtration. In order to maintain a reasonable amount of pressure, the carbon filter needs to be replaced every so often.

Why choose an activated carbon air filter?

Activated carbon filters or vapour filters are mostly used for food processing and the production of breathable air.

Reasons to go for a vapour removal filte

  • Filters gaseous contaminants like odours, chemical fumes and vapours
  • Most common filter type
  • Easy to maintain

Vapour filters are often followed by a particulate filter to catch possible carbon particles that break off into the air.

If you’re looking for a filter to take care of moisture, you are more likely to find what you need in a coalescing filter.

3. Coalescing air filters

Coalescing air filters remove liquids like water, aerosols, lubricants and other oil particles from the air. They coalesce aerosols into droplets through pressure drops and the tortuous path working principle.

Because of this versatile way of working, coalescing air filters also catch particulates. They are caught along with the aerosol particles, drained and run through an oil-water separator to avoid pollution.

As with the carbon air filters, coalescing filters need regular replacing to avoid the pressure dropping too dramatically.

Why choose a coalescing air filter?

Coalescing air filters are incredibly versatile, though not very energy efficient.

  • Filter water and oil aerosols
  • Filter particulate contaminants to a high degree


What is the best air compressor filter for me?

Choosing the right compressed air filter is an important step when optimising your air treatment system. With these tips, you’re on your way to choosing the perfect compressed air filter.

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  • Find out what type of filter best fits your goals. An auto shop will need a different quality of compressed air than a food processing business.
  • Pick the filter type you need without going overboard. Filtering the air more than you need to will not make a difference for your work, but will cost you more.
  • Finally, make sure to calculate the costs in the long run. Cheaper compressed air systems might cost less now, but you’ll end up paying a lot more in repairs, new material and replacements over the years.

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Advice for your type of compressed air filter

Make sure to use both air dryers and air filters in your compressed air treatment. Though they both filter your compressed air, there are important differences between dryers and filters.

Still not sure what type of compressed air filter you need? Get in touch with the experts at Mark for personal advice.

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