June 4, 2024

What to do about high and low compressed air temperatures

Summer can be fun — BBQs, pool parties, ice cream, and more. But facilities managers believe summer can be stressful, too. High ambient temperatures, the source of so much summer fun, can impact the overall performance of an air compressor system.

But it’s not just summer that’s a problem. Extremely low ambient temperatures, especially when they approach freezing, can also impact compressor systems.

Why air temperature matters

Higher ambient temperatures influence the amount of moisture in the system. When the air is 95 degrees Fahrenheit, for example, it holds roughly 230% more moisture than when it’s around 65 to 70 degrees. This means more moisture in the system, impacting tool performance and internal air quality.

Most air compressors must maintain an internal temperature of roughly 50 to 100 degrees. When air is extremely cold or too hot, performance lags. They can overheat or, when too cold, freeze and stop functioning, which can damage internal parts. Also, many systems rely on ambient air to stay cool. When temperatures are hot, staying cool becomes increasingly difficult.

Key factors

Altitude and “volumetric flow”

Air compressors are designed to operate at a specific volumetric airflow. However, changes in altitude will impact this air flow; the higher the altitude, the less air flows into the system. Therefore, more volumetric flow is needed to achieve the best results. We won’t bog you down with the physics and math; just know that if your facility is at a higher altitude (Denver or Albuquerque, as examples), you’ll need a stronger air compressor to achieve the same results than at close to sea level (Detroit).

Cooling methods

The cooling method for an air compressor is a significant design choice. Air-cooled compressors and dryers need thousands of cubic feet per minute of cooling air to maintain ideal operating temperatures. It all depends on the size of the system, but if your compressor room can’t bring in enough air, it may struggle to maintain performance.

If air temperatures often exceed operating temperature, you may need a water-cooled system. For instance, if your facility is in Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia, etc. where summer temperatures constantly surpass 100 degrees, the air won’t cool the compressors. (At least, not as effectively.) Therefore, a water-controlled system may be ideal.

Dirty or dusty environments

High temperatures often bring dusty conditions, which places more strain on the system. When the compressed air system operates in a dusty environment, the service intervals need to be shortened to reduce the chances of overheating, excessive operation, and low airflow. Motor greasing should be a priority, as friction can cause greater harm to the system. If your environment is dusty, take additional steps to maintain your compressors, especially when temperatures are hot.

Keeping your system cool in hot temperatures

Proper placement

Having an air compressor in the right place is critical. If you stack multiple compressors next to each other in an area with numerous other machines, they may struggle to keep a cool internal temperature. Like multiple people in a crowded room, air compressors like having enough space to stay cool and comfortable.


This is directly connected to compressor placement. These machines need good ventilation to work properly. Placing them where they receive enough airflow is important, and adding fans and other air-movement and ventilation sources can help. Open windows and large fans can help a compressor with ventilation.

Appropriate size

Smaller air compressors have to work harder to reach the same air volume as a larger system. This extra work can result in higher temperatures. While other factors are at play, if your system is constantly overheating, a larger compressor may be required. If a larger compressor is not possible, an additional compressor of the same size could help.


When it comes to keeping the system cool, diligence is key. Knowing how the system runs can make a big difference in understanding and managing the compressors. Monitoring key points, such as the compressor, dryer, and overall system, will indicate how well or poorly the components are running. Monitor information like discharge temperature, motor temperature, and system pressure so you are fully informed about what happens within the compressed air system.


Keep up with maintenance throughout summer (and all seasons, for that matter). Scheduled routine maintenance ensures your compressor runs better and is ready for higher ambient temperatures.

Should you purchase a water-cooled compressor?

Installing a water-cooled system is one of the most effective ways to deal with high ambient temperatures. Multiple types of water cooling are available, and they help maintain compressor discharge temperatures.

However, these systems have a higher overall cost. While the initial capital is not huge (compared to an air-cooled system), the operating costs are higher. The costs of running a water-cooled system can exceed $100,000 annually (see “Water-cooled Air Compressors”), while air-cooled systems are often less than $10,000 to operate. There is an additional expense if a cooling tower or chiller system needs to be added.

Design, installation, and service for your entire system

Proper installation is crucial for maintaining compressed air temperatures. Work with the industrial experts at Elevated Industrial Solutions, and we’ll ensure you have a system designed to handle years of hot (and cold) ambient temperatures!

From scorching summers to frigid winters, we can provide a compressed air system from Kaeser or help your current compressed air system.

Christopher Richmann
Author: Christopher Richmann
Kif Richmann is a professional writer and editor who has been creating content since 2011. With degrees in communication and journalism from The University of Iowa, Kif has been a full-time self-employed freelancer since 2014. Throughout his career, he has served numerous industries including manufacturing, real estate, technology, finance, healthcare, transportation, and education.
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