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The Problem with Air Compressors
If you’re reading this, you probably know how useful air compressors can be. They are used worldwide to efficiently operate various tools and machinery. Whether gas or electric, compressors have become an essential piece of the operation for many industries. One of the only real drawbacks of many air compressors is the noise.
What makes air compressors so loud?
There are a few factors that make air compressors so loud, but most of the noise can be attributed to friction. Metal hitting or sliding against metal can be loud! Typically, the more moving parts an air compressor has, the louder it will be. This is true in the motor as well. Gaspowered compressors are bound to be louder than electric compressors because they create combustion and have many moving metal parts. Aside from friction, the environment around your compressor can also contribute to its noisiness. Smooth concrete floors and open areas can amplify any noises, including those made by compressors. If your factory floor has the acoustics of a large gymnasium, that could be a problem.
How do people measure how loud something is?
The decibel (dB) is a unit of measurement that is frequently used to measure the intensity of sound. The higher the decibel measurement, the louder the noise; but it is not a completely straightforward scale. A sound that is 50dB is going to be more than twice as loud as a 25dB noise. This somewhat exponential increase continues along the scale. We don’t have room here to get into the science of the decibel, but the image below provides some examples.
Would the noise be as loud if I put all my compressors in the same place?
For medium-to-large businesses, the concept of a “compressor room” is fairly common. It’s a way to streamline installation, connectivity, and future expansion. While it’s true that this will keep the source of the noise in one spot, it does not eliminate the noise. And when you need to do regular maintenance on one of the compressors, the noise of the others will be deafening unless you shut them all down.
Most air compressors operate from 40dB to 100dB, which is a huge range (roughly a quiet office to a lawnmower). The possible effects of loud compressors include: ● Loud noises contribute to workplace dysfunction and overall chaos. ● Studies have shown that loud noises can lower morale, limit communication, and harm productivity. ● Noisy compressors are annoying. The constant starting and stopping of the loud motor can be a constant distraction.
How can I protect myself from loud noises?
While all these problems are significant, the most dangerous problems are the potential health issues that can be caused by prolonged exposure to loud noises. Hearing protection, such as earplugs or noise cancelling earmuffs, is recommended for people who are around noises above 85dB. As we’ve already established, many air compressors are in that range and even higher.
What could happen if I’m exposed to loud noises?
If company noise safety policies are loose or go unenforced, employees who spend lengthy amounts of time around loud compressors could develop noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). NIHL can be caused by prolonged exposure to regular loud noises, or singular exposures to extremely loud noises. Another hearing issue, which sometimes go hand-in-hand with NIHL, is tinnitus. Tinnitus is also caused by loud noises and causes a persistent ringing in your ears. It has the potential to get bad enough that you cannot hear past the ringing.
Even if your compressor isn’t loud enough to cause hearing damage, it could be negatively affecting your business. Many small businesses operate with limited space due to cost restrictions, which means inperson customer interaction or phone calls may take place near a compressor. A compressor switching on could interrupt a conversation and generally make your business seem less professional than you may want.
Am I at risk of lawsuit if an employee experiences hearing loss?
Though this is uncommon, it is not unheard of. Depending on the circumstances, employees can sue their employer for hearing loss obtained on the job. While there are only a few cases in which the employer can be at blame, it is something worth looking out for. Protecting employees is important for company morale and maintaining relationships, so why risk it?
Luckily, covering your ears isn’t the only solution to this noise problem! Air compressors have come a long way since they were first introduced, and not all of them are the noise machines that most of us are used to. As mentioned earlier, some compressors have the capability to run as quietly as 40dB, which is like the ambient noise of a library. This is a volume that won’t hurt your ears or distract you from work.
Do quiet air compressors exist?
Low volume air compression is possible with Chicago Pneumatics’ rotary screw air compressors. Our screw compressors were designed to provide constant airflow while also running at a much lower volume than traditional piston compressors. The rotary screw element eliminates a multitude of moving parts, making these models quiet and efficient. They also feature casings that cover all of the workings, which dampens the sound significantly. This following video is a customer testimonial of the benefits of our rotary compressors.
Is there another option for reducing air compressor noise?
If you’re not ready to switch to a Chicago Pneumatic compressor, another solution to try is soundproofing your compressor. This has more to do with manipulating the space around your compressor than actually doing anything to the compressor itself. As we know, hard, flat surfaces amplify noises and help them travel farther. If you have a specified location for your compressor(s), installing soundproofing materials could help confine the sound to a specific location.
Installing sound dampening measures, such as wooden walls lined with foam soundproofing, around your sound compressor can help limit the noise that escapes. However, you will need to make sure there is still a way to vent heat and exhaust, as well as ports for cables and attachments. Another simple option is to use rubber isolation pads under your compressor, which will absorb and minimize vibrations so they don’t reverberate throughout the space.
Contact us today to learn more about how to quiet your environment by switching to a Chicago Pneumatic compressor. We’re here to answer your questions and connect you to an expert in your area who can come to your facility and assess your specific needs.