Maintenance Engineering: Dust Collectors

The basic operations performed by dust-collection devices are (1) separating particles from the gas stream by deposition on a collection surface; (2) retaining the deposited particles on the surface until removal; and (3) removing the deposit from the surface for recovery or disposal.

The separation step requires the following: (1) application of a force that produces a differential motion of the particles relative to the gas, and (2) sufficient gas-retention time for the particles to migrate to the collecting surface.

Most dust-collection systems are composed of a pneumatic conveying system and some device that separates suspended particulate matter from the conveyed air stream. The more common systems use either filter media (e.g., fabric bags) or cyclonic separators to separate the particulate matter from air.


Fabric- filter systems, commonly called bag- filter or baghouse systems, are dust collection systems in which dust-laden air is passed through a bag-type filter. The bag collects the dust in layers on its surface and the dust layer itself effectively becomes the filter medium. Because the bag's pores are usually much larger than those of the dust-particle layer that forms, the initial efficiency is very low. How ever, it improves once adequate dust-layer forms. Therefore, the potential for dust penetration of the filter media is extremely low except during the initial period after startup, bag change, or during the fabric-cleaning, or blow-down, cycle.

The principal mechanisms of disposition in dust collectors are (1) gravitational deposition, (2) flow-line interception, (3) inertial deposition, (4) diffusion deposition, and (5) electrostatic deposition. During the initial operating period, particle deposition takes place mainly by inertial and flow-line interception, diffusion, and gravity. Once the dust layer has been fully established, sieving is probably the dominant deposition mechanism.


A baghouse system consists of the following: pneumatic-conveyor system, filter media, a back- flush cleaning system, and a fan or blower to provide air flow.

---1 A typical baghouse.

Pneumatic Conveyor

The primary mechanism for conveying dust-laden air to a central collection point is a system of pipes or ductwork that functions as a pneumatic conveyor.

This system gathers dust-laden air from various sources within the plant and conveys it to the dust-collection system.

Dust-Collection System

The design and configuration of the dust-collection system varies with the vendor and the specific application. Generally, a system consists of either a single large hopper-like vessel or a series of hoppers with a fan or blower affixed to the discharge manifold. Inside the vessel is an inlet manifold that directs the incoming air or gas to the dirty side of the filter media or bag. A plenum, or divider plate, separates the dirty and clean sides of the vessel.

Filter media, usually long cylindrical tubes or bags, are attached to the plenum.

Depending on the design, the dust-laden air or gas may flow into the cylindrical

filter bag and exit to the clean side or it may flow through the bag from its outside and exit through the tube's opening. ---1 illustrates a typical baghouse configuration.

Fabric- filter designs fall into three types, depending on the method of cleaning used: (1) shaker-cleaned, (2) reverse- flow-cleaned, and (3) reverse-pulse-cleaned.

Shaker-Cleaned Filter

The open lower ends of shaker-cleaned filter bags are fastened over openings in the tube sheet that separates the lower, dirty-gas inlet chamber from the upper clean-gas chamber. The bags are suspended from supports, which are connected to a shaking device.

The dirty gas flows upward into the filter bag and the dust collects on the inside surface. When the pressure drop rises to a predetermined upper limit because of dust accumulation, the gas flow is stopped and the shaker is operated. This process dislodges the dust, which falls into a hopper located below the tube sheet.

For continuous operation, the filter must be constructed with multiple compartments. This is necessary so that individual compartments can be sequentially taken off line for cleaning while the other compartments continue to operate.

Ordinary shaker-cleaned filters may be cleaned every 15 minutes to 8 hours, depending on the service conditions. A manometer connected across the filter is used to determine the pressure drop, which indicates when the filter should be shaken. Fully automatic filters may be shaken every 2 minutes, but bag maintenance is greatly reduced if the time between shakings can be increased to 15 to 20 minutes.

The determining factor in the frequency of cleaning is the pressure drop. A differential-pressure switch can serve as the actuator in automatic cleaning applications. Cyclone pre-cleaners are sometimes used to reduce the dust load on the filter or to remove large particles before they enter the bag.

It’s essential to stop the gas flow through the filter during shaking for the dust to fall off. With very fine dust, it may be necessary to equalize the pressure across the cloth. In practice, this can be accomplished without interrupting continuous operation by removing one section from service at a time. With automatic filters, this operation involves closing the dirty-gas inlet dampers, shaking the filter units either pneumatically or mechanically, and reopening the dampers. In some cases, a reverse flow of clean gas through the filter is used to augment the shaker cleaning process.

The gas entering the filter must be kept above its dew point to avoid water-vapor condensation on the bags, which will cause plugging. However, fabric filters have been used successfully in steam atmospheres, such as those encountered in vacuum dryers. In these applications, the housing is generally steam-cased.

Reverse-Flow-Cleaned Filter

Reverse- flow-cleaned filters are similar to the shaker-cleaned design, except the shaker mechanism is eliminated. As with shaker-cleaned filters, compartments are taken off line sequentially for cleaning. The primary use of reverse- flow cleaning is in units that use fiberglass fabric bags at temperatures above 150.8C (300.8F).

After the dirty-gas flow is stopped, a fan forces clean gas through the bags from the clean-gas side. The superficial velocity of the gas through the bag is generally 1.5-2.0 feet per minute, or about the same velocity as the dirty-gas inlet flow.

This flow of clean gas partially collapses the bag and dislodges the collected dust, which falls to the hopper. Rings are usually sewn into the bags at intervals along their length to prevent complete collapse, which would obstruct the fall of the dislodged dust.

Reverse-Pulse-Cleaned Filter

In the reverse-pulse-cleaned filter, the bag forms a sleeve drawn over a cylindrical wire cage, which supports the fabric on the clean gas side (i.e., inside) of the bag. The dust collects on the outside of the bag.

A venturi nozzle is located in the clean-gas outlet from each bag, which is used for cleaning. A jet of high-velocity air is directed through the venturi nozzle and into the bag, which induces clean gas to pass through the fabric to the dirty side.

The high-velocity jet is released in a short pulse, usually about 100 milliseconds, from a compressed air line by a solenoid-controlled valve. The pulse of air and clean gas expand the bag and dislodge the collected dust. Rows of bags are cleaned in a timed sequence by programmed operation of the solenoid valves.

The pressure of the pulse must be sufficient to dislodge the dust without cessation of gas flow through the baghouse.

It’s common practice to clean the bags on-line without stopping the flow of dirty gas into the filter. Therefore, reverse-pulse bag filters are often built without multiple compartments. However, investigations have shown that a large fraction of the dislodged dust re-deposits on neighboring bags rather than falling to the dust hopper.

As a result, there is a growing trend to off-line clean reverse-pulse filters by using bags with multiple compartments. These sections allow the outlet-gas plenum serving a particular section to be closed off from the clean-gas exhaust, thereby stopping the flow of inlet gas. On the dirty side of the tube sheet, the isolated section is separated by partitions from the neighboring sections in which filtration continues. Sections of the filter are cleaned in rotation as with shaker and reverse- flow filters.

Some manufacturers design bags for use with relatively low-pressure air (i.e., 15 psi) instead of the normal 100 psi air. This allows them to eliminate the venturi tubes for clean-gas induction. Others have eliminated the separate jet nozzles located at the individual bags in favor of a single jet to pulse air into the outlet gas plenum.

Reverse-pulse filters are typically operated at higher filtration velocities (i.e., air to-cloth ratios) than shaker or reverse- flow designs. Filtration velocities may range from 3-15 feet per minute in reverse-pulse applications, depending on the dust being collected. However, the most the commonly used range is 4-5 feet per minute.

The frequency of cleaning depends on the nature and concentration of the dust.

Typical cleaning intervals vary from about 2 to 15 minutes. However, the cleaning action of the pulse is so effective that the dust layer may be completely removed from the surface of the fabric. Consequently, the fabric itself must serve as the principal filter medium for a substantial part of the filtration cycle, which decreases cleaning efficiency. Because of this, woven fabrics are unsuitable for use in these devices and felt-type fabrics are used instead. With felt filters, although the bulk of the dust is still removed, the fabric provides an adequate level of dust collection until the dust layer reforms.

Cleaning System

As discussed in the preceding section, filter bags must be periodically cleaned to prevent excessive buildup of dust and to maintain an acceptable pressure drop across the filters. Two of the three designs discussed, reverse- flow and reverse pulse, depend on an adequate supply of clean air or gas to provide this periodic cleaning. Two factors are critical in these systems: the clean-gas supply and the proper cleaning frequency.

Clean-Gas Supply

Most applications that use the reverse- flow cleaning system use ambient air as the primary supply of clean gas. A large fan or blower draws ambient air into the clean side of the filter bags. However, unless inlet filters properly condition the air, it may contain excessive dirt loads that can affect the bag life and efficiency of the dust-collection system.

In reverse-pulse applications, most plants rely on plant-air systems as the source for the high-velocity pulses required for cleaning. In many cases, however, the plant-air system is not sufficient for this purpose. Although the pulses required are short (i.e., 100 milliseconds or less), the number and frequency can deplete the supply. Therefore, care must be taken to ensure that both sufficient volume and pressure are available to achieve proper cleaning.

Cleaning Frequency

Proper operation of a baghouse, regardless of design, depends on frequent cleaning of the filter media. The system is designed to operate within a specific range of pressure drops that de fines clean and fully loaded filter media. The cleaning frequency must ensure that the maximum recommended pressure drop is not exceeded.

This can be a real problem for baghouses that rely on automatic timers to control cleaning frequency. The use of a timing function to control cleaning frequency is not recommended unless the dust load is known to be consistent. A better approach is to use differential-pressure gauges to physically measure the pressure drop across the filter media to trigger the cleaning process based on preset limits.

Fan or Blower

All baghouse designs use some form of fan, blower, or centrifugal compressor to provide the dirty-air flow required for proper operation. In most cases, these units are installed on the clean side of the baghouse to draw the dirty air through the filter media.

Since these units provide the motive power required to transport and collect the dust-laden air, their operating condition is critical to the baghouse system. The type and size of air-moving unit varies with the baghouse type and design. Refer to the O&M manuals, as well as section 2 (Fans and Blowers) or section 4 (Compressors) for specific design criteria for these critical units.


The primary measure of baghouse-system performance is its ability to consistently remove dust and other particulate matter from the dirty-air stream.

Pressure drop and collection efficiency determine the effectiveness of these systems.

Pressure Drop

The filtration, or superficial face velocities used in fabric filters are generally in the range of 1-10 feet per minute, depending on the type of fabric, fabric supports, and cleaning methods used. In this range, pressure drops conform to Darcy's law for streamline flow in porous media, which states that the pressure drop is directly proportional to the flow rate. The pressure drop across the fabric media and the dust layer may be expressed by:

Delta_p = K_1 x V_f

+ K2 Vf where D_p = Pressure drop (inches of water) Vf = Superficial velocity through filter (ft=min)

! = Dust loading on filter (lbm=ft^2) K1 = Resistance coefficient for conditioned fabric

(inches of water=ft=min ) K2 = Resistance coefficient for dust layer (inches of water=lbm=ft=min )

Conditioned fabric maintains a relatively consistent dust-load deposit following a number of filtration and cleaning cycles. K1 may be more than 10 times the value of the resistance coefficient for the original clean fabric. If the depth of the dust layer on the fabric is greater than about 1/16 in. (which corresponds to a fabric dust loading on the order of 0.1 lbm = ft^2), the pressure drop across the fabric, including the dust in the pores, is usually negligible relative to that across the dust layer alone.

In practice, K1 and K2 are measured directly infiltration experiments. These values can be corrected for temperature by multiplying by the ratio of the gas viscosity at the desired condition to the gas viscosity at the original experimental condition.

Collection Efficiency

Under controlled conditions (e.g., in the laboratory), the inherent collection efficiency of fabric filters approaches 100%. In actual operation, it’s determined by several variables, in particular the properties of the dust to be removed, choice of filter fabric, gas velocity, method of cleaning, and cleaning cycle. Inefficiency usually results from bags that are poorly installed, torn, or stretched from excessive dust loading and excessive pressure drop.


Most baghouse systems are provided as complete assemblies by the vendor.

While the unit may require some field assembly, the vendor generally provides the structural supports, which in most cases are adequate. The only controllable installation factors that may affect performance are the foundation and connections to pneumatic conveyors and other supply systems.


The foundation must support the weight of the baghouse. In addition, it must absorb the vibrations generated by the cleaning system. This is especially true when using the shaker-cleaning method, which can generate vibrations that can adversely affect the structural supports, foundation, and adjacent plant systems.


Efficiency and effectiveness depend on leak-free connections throughout the system. Leaks reduce the system's ability to convey dust-laden air to the bag house. One potential source for leaks is improperly installed filter bags. Because installation varies with the type of bag and baghouse design, consult the vendor's O&M manual for specific instructions.

Operating Methods

The guidelines provided in the vendor's O&M manual should be the primary reference for proper baghouse operation. Vendor-provided information should be used because there are not many common operating guidelines among the various configurations. The only general guidelines that are applicable to most designs are cleaning frequency and inspection and replacement of filter media.


As previously indicated, most bag-type filters require a pre-coat of particulates before they can effectively remove airborne contaminants. However, particles can completely block air flow if the filter material becomes overloaded. Therefore the primary operating criterion is to maintain the efficiency of the filter media by controlling the cleaning frequency.

Most systems use a time sequence to control the cleaning frequency. If the particulate load entering the baghouse is constant, this approach would be valid. However, the incoming load generally changes constantly. As a result, the straight time sequence methodology does not provide the most efficient mode of operation.

Operators should monitor the differential-pressure gauges that measure the total pressure drop across the filter media. When the differential pressure reaches the maximum recommended level (data provided by the vendor), the operator should override any automatic timer controls and initiate the cleaning sequence.

Inspecting and Replacing Filter Media

Filter media used in dust-collection systems are prone to damage and abrasive wear. Therefore, regular inspection and replacement is needed to ensure continuous, long-term performance. Any damaged, torn, or improperly sealed bags should be removed and replaced.

One of the more common problems associated with baghouses is improper installation of filter media. Therefore it’s important to follow the instructions provided by the vendor. If the filter bags are not properly installed and sealed, overall efficiency and effectiveness are significantly reduced.

---2 Flow pattern through a typical cyclone separator. Clean gas outlet; Dust shave-off Shave-off-dust channel Inlet for dust-laden gases; Shave-off-reentry opening; Pattern of coarser dust mainstream; Dust outlet; Pattern of dust stream (principally the finer particles) following eddy current


A widely used type of dust-collection equipment is the cyclone separator. A cyclone is essentially a settling chamber in which gravitational acceleration is replaced by centrifugal acceleration. Dust-laden air or gas enters a cylindrical or conical chamber tangentially at one or more points and leaves through a central opening. The dust particles, by virtue of their inertia, tend to move toward the outside separator wall from where they are led into a receiver. Under common operating conditions, the centrifugal separating force or acceleration may range from five times gravity in very large diameter, low-resistance cyclones to 2,500 times gravity in very small, high-resistance units.

Within the range of their performance capabilities, cyclones are one of the least expensive dust-collection systems. Their major limitation is that, unless very small units are used, efficiency is low for particles smaller than 5 microns.

Although cyclones may be used to collect particles larger than 200 microns, gravity-settling chambers or simple inertial separators are usually satisfactory and less subject to abrasion.


The internal configuration of a cyclone separator is relatively simple. ---2 illustrates a typical cross-section of a cyclone separator, which consists of the following segments:

  • _ Inlet area that causes the gas to flow tangentially
  • _ Cylindrical transition area
  • _ Decreasing taper that increases the air velocity as the diameter decreases
  • _ Central return tube to direct the dust-free air out the discharge port.

Particulate material is forced to the outside of the tapered segment and collected in a drop-leg located at the dust outlet. Most cyclones have a rotor-lock valve affixed to the bottom of the drop-leg. This is a motor-driven valve that collects the particulate material and discharges it into a disposal container.


Performance of a cyclone separator is determined by flow pattern, pressure drop, and collection efficiency.

Flow Pattern

The path the gas takes in a cyclone is through a double vortex that spirals the gas downward at the outside and upward at the inside. When the gas enters the cyclone, the tangential component of its velocity, V_ct, increases with the decreasing radius as expressed by:

V_ct _ r _n

In this equation, r is the cyclone radius and n is dependent on the coefficient of friction. Theoretically, in the absence of wall friction, n should equal 1.0. Actual measurements, however, indicate that n ranges from 0.5 to 0.7 over a large portion of the cyclone radius. The spiral velocity in a cyclone may reach a value several times the average inlet gas velocity.

Pressure Drop

The pressure drop and the friction loss through a cyclone are most conveniently expressed in terms of the velocity head based on the immediate inlet area. The inlet velocity head, hvt, which is expressed in inches of water, is related to the average inlet gas velocity and density by:

hvt = 0:0030rV2

where hvt = Inlet-velocity head (inches of water)

r = Gas density (lb=ft^3) Vc = Average inlet gas velocity (ft=sec) The cyclone friction loss, Fcv, is a direct measure of the static pressure and power that a fan must develop. It’s related to the pressure drop by:


Fcv = Friction loss (inlet-velocity heads) Dpcv = Pressure drop through the cyclone (inlet-velocity heads) Ac = Area of the cyclone (ft^2) De = Diameter of the gas exit (ft:) The friction loss through cyclones may range from 1 to 20 inlet-velocity heads, depending on its geometric proportions. For a cyclone of specific geometric proportions, Fcv and Dpcv, are essentially constant and independent of the actual cyclone size.

Collection Efficiency

Since cyclones rely on centrifugal force to separate particulates from the air or gas stream, particle mass is the dominant factor that controls efficiency. For particulates with high densities (e.g., ferrous oxides), cyclones can achieve 99% or better removal efficiencies, regardless of particle size. Lighter particles (e.g., tow or flake) dramatically reduce cyclone efficiency.

These devices are generally designed to meet specific pressure-drop limitations.

For ordinary installations operating at approximately atmospheric pressure, fan limitations dictate a maximum allowable pressure drop corresponding to a cyclone inlet velocity in the range of 20-70 feet per second. Consequently, cyclones are usually designed for an inlet velocity of 50 feet per second.

Varying operating conditions change dust-collection efficiency only by a small amount. The primary design factor that controls collection efficiency is cyclone diameter. A small-diameter unit operating at a fixed pressure drop has a higher efficiency than a large-diameter unit. Reducing the gas-outlet duct diameter also increases the collection efficiency.


As in any other pneumatic-conveyor system, special attention must be given to the piping or ductwork used to convey the dust-laden air or gas. The inside surfaces must be smooth and free of protrusions that affect the flow pattern. All bends should be gradual and provide a laminar- flow path for the gas.


This section identifies common problems and their causes for baghouse and cyclonic separator dust-collection systems.


----1 lists the common failure modes for baghouses. This guide may be used for all such units that use fabric filter bags as the primary dust-collection media.

Common Failure Modes of Baghouse

Common Failure Modes of Cyclonic Separators


----2 identifies the failure modes and their causes for cyclonic separators.

Since there are no moving parts within a cyclone, most of the problems associated with this type of system can be attributed to variations in process parameters such as flow rate, dust load, dust composition (i.e., density, size, etc.), and ambient conditions (i.e., temperature, humidity, etc.).

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