Compressor Oil or Lubricant – What It Does & How To Choose Which to Use

Oil or Lubricant

One of the key ingredients to a well-functioning commercial compressor is having the right lubricant in place. Oil or lubricant protects your compressor, and without it, your compressor will break down quickly. The problem is that there are many different types of compressor oils and lubricants on the market, so you need to know how to choose the right type for your commercial system.

How Commercial Compressor Oil and Lubricants Work

Compressor oil is designed to serve three critical functions inside your equipment. First, it lubricates all of the moving parts so that they can work around one another without binding or wearing. Secondly, it provides a means of cooling the equipment, carrying heat away as the oil cycles. This is important because the internal components can get extremely hot during normal use, which causes them to expand and contract. Without the cooling oil in place, they would eventually seize against one another. Finally, many compressors use oil to ensure tight seals by preventing gaps around o-rings and gaskets. This ensures that your system is operating at maximum efficiency without losing pressure along the way. You may notice that your compressor becomes far less efficient once the oil begins to breakdown because it will not provide the same level of lubrication, cooling, and sealing that your system requires. This creates gaps and hot spots where future damage could occur.

Choosing the Right Lubricant

Now that you understand the purpose of your compressor oil, the next step is to choose the right product for you. The problem is that there are many different lubricants available these days, and you may think that they are all alike. In truth, you need to be very careful. As mentioned above, you need an oil that is capable of both lubricating and cooling. Many traditional oil products do not have the proper additives to handle the task of cooling. Either they provide no relief at all from the heat, or they separate and break down under extreme heat conditions, which means you will have to constantly change your oil to keep things running smoothly.

In general, you will want to select an oil that is specially formulated for use with the refrigerant being used in your commercial compressors. These lubricants are usually labeled distinctly to let you know that they contain additives for cooling, foam control, sludge control and more. They should also say that they have high oxidation stability to prevent rust and corrosion.  While many of the commercial compressors use refrigerants designed to run with mineral oil, the newer refrigerants will usually run with a synthetic oil. Again, select an oil that matches the refrigerant used to insure proper lubrication for your commercial compressor.

It is also important to note that if your commercial compressor is working with specialized gases or refrigerants, you may need to find a lubricant that is non-reactive with those gases to prevent chemical reactions or the formation of water inside your system. It is best to consult with your commercial compressor manufacturer or a qualified refrigeration expert if you are unsure.

Compressors Unlimited is your number one source for all things compressor related. Our team is here to help you identify the right products and maintenance steps to keep your compressor up and running. Don’t settle for the first bottle of oil you come across. Instead, call us and we can help you track down the manufacturer’s recommended lubricants and give you helpful tips for changing the oil and setting up a maintenance schedule.


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