Signs That Your Dust Collector May Need Maintenance
When you install a dust collector machine in your facility, you’re taking a big step toward creating a healthier, safer, and generally more pleasant work environment. But to keep a workplace clean and protected, a dust collector needs to work day in and day out, extracting particles like sawdust, powder, smoke, gases, particulates, and yes, dust from the air. That can become overwhelming, and left alone, a dust collector can become blocked, overwhelmed, and eventually break down. Thankfully, dust collectors work on fairly simple principles, and it’s not that hard to figure out when they need upkeep or even how to prevent the need for fixes at all. Here are a few signs that your dust collector may need maintenance.
Check Your Filter/Filters
One of the simplest and most basic ways to maintain your dust collector is to subject the filter to regular inspections and, if need be, replacement. Replacements should automatically happen every three months but check the manual to see if that action should be performed more or less often according to the system. The main reason for inspecting, cleaning, and replacing a filter is because it’s the part that receives the biggest brunt of the incoming dust and so forth, stopping and holding it in and creating dust cake (which is as inedible as it sounds). Nevertheless, dust cake is a built-up protective layer that keeps particles from passing through. All well and good, but the dust cake can become impassable in time. Watch for dust cake as well as rips and leaks in your filters if the collector appears to be working less efficiently.
Always keep tabs on your dust collector machine’s gauges. If the differential pressure drops in your system, it could mean that the filter or system has developed a leak, a hole, a bad seal, or a rupture. Higher pressure, on the other hand, could mean that the filter has become partially or completely blocked because of a failure in the cleaning system or that the place where the material collected has failed or become blocked itself. Gauges should show a steady state of pressure with no sudden fluctuations. If they do, investigate quickly before a hazardous situation develops. Keep track of the pressure daily and note any bizarre fluctuations that could indicate something bad is brewing.
Check the Hopper
Here’s another one of the big signs that your dust collector may need maintenance. Hoppers need to be regularly emptied. When they become filled it can cause your duct collector’s efficiency to bottom out. A full hopper can block the system and cause dust to go backward instead of forward, damaging the machine, stopping the flow of dust, damaging filters, and possibly leading to an explosion or fire hazard. At the same time, a low or empty hopper can mean your dust collector isn’t doing its job very well and requires maintenance. Sensors are available that can monitor the level of dust in your hopper and alert you to when it’s time to switch out. Otherwise, keep an eye out for empty or too-full bins.
Your Biggest Fans
Fans make a dust collector system work, so if they’re not operating at peak efficiency, then your dust collector will fail, and soon. Fans create the air pressure needed to keep things blowing and moving inside the device. As such, fans are one of the more audible and visual elements of dust collectors. Listen and watch for unpleasant sounds, slower performance, weird vibrations, starting and stopping, and anything other than smooth-running fans. And don’t forget to check the belts that keep the fans running. They tend to squeal and make odd and inconsistent sounds when they begin to fail.
You are already required to check your machinery for emissions according to the EPA’s standards. Periodic inspections can reveal whether your collector is still running at peak or at least above average capacity. A particulate monitor will reveal how much particulate discharge your duct collector is producing. Specifically, it reveals how many particles are allowed to enter the air because of your machine. If the reading is low then you won’t be fined by the EPA and other agencies, you can prevent damage to your machinery, save on filter replacement, and most importantly, spare your employees from breathing in materials that can cause short-and long-term health problems. Make sure your dust collector machine keeps dust and other particles low and in control to save equipment and lives.
Part of your regular maintenance should involve inspecting the ductwork connected to your collector. Ducts can also eventually become clogged with whatever they’re transporting, stopping the flow, and even creating internal fire and explosion hazards. Clearly, watch for ducts that appear to be sagging or hanging improperly, and note if there are holes or breaks between ducts where materials can escape easily. Watch ducts in areas that are experiencing higher levels of humidity or other moisture that can get in, slow down the flow, corrode the ducts, and so on.
Old and in the Way
Buying brand-new machinery can be an expensive, inconvenient, and otherwise unattractive proposition, but there comes a time when that reliable old workhorse of a dust collector has turned into a broken-down and lazy mule. If your dust collector machine is demanding more frequent repairs and attention, it could be it’s trying to tell you that repairs and upkeep are eventually going to cost more than the price of a new machine. Stay on top of your dust collector’s maintenance schedule and note if downtime is outstripping worktime.
Listen to Your Staff
If you want to be sure your dust collector (and the rest of your machinery in your facility) is working smoothly and correctly, let your employees know that vigilance is standard operating procedure, and any observations of failed or failing machinery is appreciated. Nobody knows a machine better than the person who works up close and personal with it every single day. Establish a daily/weekly/monthly/annual inspection schedule for all employees to follow and keep the lines of communication open and clear.