How To Run Oil-Lubricated Air Compressors in Cold Weather & Not Trip Breakers

Folks, my shop is unheated and the space where my 60 gallon oil lubricated Ingersoll Rand (IR) 2340L5-V sits can get well below freezing – sometimes even well under 20F. That presents a challenge because the lubricating oil gets thicker as it gets colder and this puts more and more of a load on the motor to start. What usually results is a tripped breaker -I know my 30amp breaker would trip regularly until I took some corrective actions.

One option you can run with is to run variable weight thinner synthetic oil in the winter. I don’t want to run into issues with my pump so I stick with IR straight weight compressor oil so I’m not really keen on doing that. There are guys who will disagree with me and that’s why I point out the option.

The solution I put in place works great. I simply put two Kat’s 24025 25 watt heating pads that measure 1″x5″ on each side of my pump level next to the oil reservoir. These heaters were designed to warm fluid reservoirs including those with oil. I’ve used a ton of them over the years for warming pressure tanks and what have you and have not had one fail yet. My oldest units are probably 3-5 years old and no problems — I just use them during the Winter.

In terms of heating my compressor’s pump, I just run mine non-stop in the Winter but if you’d really rather only run them when it is at or below freezing, there are thermal power plug adapters that only turn on when it is that cold. Note, at 25 watts they do not heat fast. If your pump is real cold it could take it a while to get up to an acceptable temperature. That’s one reason why I just let them run and I can turn the compressor off independent of the heaters.

Along with the little 1×5 units, I use one larger 4×5 Kat’s 24100 pad at the bottom of my compressor to allow me to drain the condensate that would otherwise freeze. I do not run that non-stop as it is 100 watts. It’s on a thermally switched outlet that turns on at 35F and off at 45F. Yeah, it may run more than I need it to but I haven’t invested in a better controller yet for that part. I will list the digital controller I plan on getting some day so you can decide.

Installing is about as easy as it can get. The Kat’s units have a self-adhesive back and must be installed before you plug them in or you will ruin them. Clean the surface of oil and dust, peel the cover off the adhesive, stock the heater on and wait the prescribed time then plug it in and it warms up. Note, I have only used them on steel surfaces. They get hot and I would not be inclined to install them on plastic for example.

Kat’s products are made by Five Star Manufacturing and they have a ton of different products for different applications. Click here for their website.

This is the Kat’s 24100 4×5 heater that I have at the bottom of my compressor to keep the condensate from freezing.
This is the Farm Innovations TC-3 that governs when the 4×5 heater turns on and off. I’ve been using it two years now without any trouble,

The setup works great. No more tripping breakers due to thick oil caused by cold weather. I hope it helps you out.


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