Running A Compressor When Its Cold

air compressor cold in snow
(Last Updated On: October 11, 2020)

If you’re a Do It Yourselfer with compressed air, and you, like me, live in the frigid climes, where do you keep your air compressor?

In the garage, like me?

You know how sluggish the truck is when you go to start it after it’s been sitting outside all night freezing. (It’s not in the garage, ’cause that’s where your tools are!). You turn the key, and get that characteristic groan as the starter motor tries to turn over a flywheel that’s mired in thick, frigid oil.

A little later that day you decide that you need to do a little work with an air tool, run your compressor extension cord to an outlet, and the relatively small electric motor on the compressor tries to start moving the compressor piston(s) to compress air. The oil inside the compressor is frozen thick as molasses, and it’s a real hard grind to get going.

Yup, you will burn out a compressor motor if it can’t overcome the frozen head and start moving or, at the very least, you’ll likely pop a breaker.

Take your compressor into a warm place for an hour or two before you try to use it in the winter. You’ll reduce your maintenance woes if you do.


What happens when you cool compressed air?

A reader posed this question…what happens when you cool compressed air?

In most cases, you actually want to cool compressed air. The compressing of air into the compressor’s receiver creates heat. As the heat builds the air in the tank holds more water vapor. It becomes super saturated.

You can look at this Van Air system here

When a downstream application calls for compressed air, the compressed air exits the tank, and flows through the mains, hose and tube to the application.

In so doing, the compressed air cools. As it cools, the water vapor held in it condenses out into free water, and now water and compressed air are reaching your application.

If you cool the compressed air after it’s compressed, where you cool it is where much of the water vapor will condense out, leaving less to travel downstream to your tools, valves, air cylinders, etc.

Have a look at this high power air compressor;

Hello, I am Bill, the Compressed-Air-Man. I have years of experience in industrial and residential compressed air applications, air compressors and general pneumatics. I created this site to help professionals, students, and DIYers understand and properly implement and maintain compress3ed air systems.


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