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What’s the #1 thing we don’t want in our air tools? Water!
Either as liquid or vapor, water can catalyze the damage in our air tools through corrosion, freezing, or disrupting the proper function of the tool.
Desiccant dryers are an amazing way to guarantee dry air without high running costs or hassle. But there’s plenty of desiccant options out there. To help simplify things I’ve built this guide to the best desiccants on the market – of all sizes.
Note: You need an oil filter hooked up before your desiccant dryer. These dryers are only made to handle water and air, not oil.
Looking to build a new setup? Make sure you get a truly quiet air compressor with our detailed, 4000+ word guide to the quietest air compressors.
Best Desiccant Dryers: Overview
Detailed Reviews: Best Desiccant Air Dryers
Campbell Hausfeld Air Cleaner & Air Dryer
One of the main downsides of desiccant dryers is that they can’t work with oil.
No matter what, you need to ensure that there’s no oil in your air when it touches your desiccant material.
Not this time.
By including an oil-removal filter, Campbell Hausfeld have halved your setup requirements.
Both of these are offered at a great price – typically less than $90. This level of value is incredible for two filters. Especially with 2 bags of desiccant beads included.
My one worry would be that they’d hold back on quality in this combo set. Thankfully that’s not true. The build quality is excellent and the see-through strips are some of the clearest I’ve ever seen.
Note: Only available in 3/8” thread size.
|Includes oil-removal filter||Jack of all trades, master of..|
If you don’t already have an oil-removal filter, this is a fantastic deal.
Both the oil filter and air dryer are solid in quality. The performance is a great middle-of-the-road option – ideal for any standard home use.
Personally I also really like the design. One on it’s own is good, but having two matching branded filters is great.
Overall this is just a great package for anyone who doesn’t already have a way to take oil out of their air. These two aren’t going to blow anyone’s minds, but they’ll give you a great filter system for a very fair price.
For serious compressor users, you can’t get better performance than this dryer from Plews & Edelmann.
The dryer just screams quality. The materials used are solid, and the dryer comes with two extra filters. A 70 micron polypropylene one on the inlet, and a 40 micron sintered bronze filter on the outlet. These help to mitigate the drying work, as well as guarantee exceptionally dry output.
This dryer is made to power pneumatic tools – it’s incredibly accurate.
Plus, with 10CFM at 90PSI, it’s unbeaten in the amount of air it can continuously provide to your air tools.
Note that although you can’t see it in the image, there’s a transparent section on the back to check the bead status.
|Made in the USA||Expensive!|
|Excellent build quality|
|Top airflow – 10CFM at 90PSI|
A must for any serious user – or anyone using pneumatic tools.
Everyone knows quality can pay for itself. And this is especially true here.
By having an amazingly efficient dryer like this one ensures you get the driest possible air, which will keep your air tools working in peak condition for longer.
If you have a serious set up that deserves protection from water, then this is worth every penny.
For new systems, sometimes you can’t beat buying everything as an all-in-one deal.
This setup from ALL Tools will thread the air through three different elements:
- A Pressure Regulator & Compressed Air Filter. Removing almost all of the main dirt and moisture from the air.
- A Silica-Gel Desiccant Dryer. Ensuring the air is about as dry as it ever can be.
- A Coalescing Filter. A final 0.01 micron filter to guarantee there’s absolutely no impurities in the absolutely dry air you’ll be working with.
While more expensive than a standalone dryer, this system is a fantastic package to upgrade your air compressor system for any air tool.
It’s fantastic for spray painting – practically guaranteeing no impurities in the air.
Each element is detachable if you already have a system and want to save one unit for a back-up.
|3-in-1 System||May be overkill for most uses|
Ideal if you’re looking to take a new system to spray-paint ready levels of dryness.
Between these three filters there’s almost no potential for moisture or impurities. Plus, since they’re all professionally connected, you have no hassle about making sure they’re connected properly.
It’s also great that these can be manually detached and used separately, or replaced.
All-in-all this is a fantastic intermediate package for anyone looking to upgrade their system for spray painting or sandblasting.
I wasn’t sure whether to include this system – but here it is.
It’s a bit out of the scope of a standard household use, and at this level you may want to be talking to a technician, not an online guide.
That said, the option is out there. This system is made up of:
- 5 micron particle filter
- .01 micron oil removing filter
- 1 gallon desiccant dryer
- 3 micron absolute filter
- Precision regulator with gauge.
That desiccant dryer is huge!
Safe to say – this is the ultimate in prepackaged dryer systems. Although it only includes one more element than the 3-stage system above: an oil removing filter. The ALL Tool system doesn’t count it’s regulator as a separate part (since it’s also an air filter).
|Includes oil-removing filter||Far from cheap|
|1 gallon (!!) desiccant dryer|
|Perfect setup for dry air|
This one is fairly self-explanatory. It’s the ultimate system for anyone going from 0 to 100 on a new air compressor system.
By including an oil removing filter you guarantee the effectiveness of the desiccant dryer. The other 2 filters are just icing on the cake. Having the regulator at the end of the system also gives you greater control than if it’s near the start.
Super low price yet fully functional.
In terms of a great value pick, you can’t get better value than these dryers by EDGE Industrial.
At under $50 you’re getting fully functional desiccant dryers, complete with 2 full bags of beads.
Despite being on the lower end of price tags, they’ve still included transparent sections which let you see what condition the beads are in. However, part of the reason this is so cheap is that it doesn’t come with a mounting bracket.
These dryers are available in both 3/8” and 1/2” thread sizes.
|Unbeatably low price||No mounting bracket|
|Transparent sides||Smaller size|
|Comes with 2 bags of beads|
If you’re not a serious user but do need a desiccant dryer, this might be a great pick-up for you.
They’re an absolute steal for a smaller dryer that comes fully set with 2 bags of beads and transparent sides. Just do be aware there’s no mounting bracket included.
Pros & Cons of Desiccant Air Dryers
|Works in All Temperatures - Unlike other dryers that need all water vapor to become liquid, desiccant dryers work in any temperature. Even down to -100F!||Expensive - These dryers have a higher upfront cost than other types. (Cheaper models are available but can be very ineffective).|
|Simple - There’s no power supply needed and desiccant dryers are super simple to install and replace.||Can’t Handle Oil - If using silica gel, you need to ensure all oil is filtered out of the air – or else it can damage the beads.|
|Reusable - Unlike dryers with replaceable filters, desiccant materials can be dried out for reuse. Beads can be ‘baked’ in the oven, and activated carbon replenishes itself.|
|Low Running Costs - With no power supply and nothing needing replaced, these dryers have practically no running costs.|
Which Desiccant Dryer Is Right For You?
There’s plenty of desiccant air dryers out there, but which is the best for your setup?
Let’s look at a few aspects together:
You’ll get different performance from your dryer depending on the material within it. Let’s quickly run through the most common types:
Silica is used by in most desiccant dryers, and for good reason. Typically coming in small beads, this gel is cheap and effective at removing moisture from the air. They’re also easy to dry out and re-use. Great for standard use in a home workshop.
Dryers using activated carbon don’t need refilling. It’s pretty great to work with.
They work by passing the air through large amounts of activated carbon – which has tons of tiny pores and imperfections. These latch on to any water AND dirt that passes through it.
These filters typically have 2-3 towers so that they can use one while another regenerates. Giving you a completely renewable system.
A form of aluminum oxide, activated alumina is a great alternative material similar to silica gel beads. Made up of tiny balls, the alumina traps water in the air by latching on to it – allowing the air to pass through freely. The alumina simply doesn’t care about the liquid, and won’t get soft or lose structural integrity when wet.
Just like silica gel, this material can also be dried out and reused by simply baking it in an oven.
Other Things to Consider
Most warranties are typically just for a year, but do keep an eye out for models with longer plans. Not only does this offer better peace of mind, but it also implies a better product since the manufacturer’s putting their faith in it.
The size of your water collection bowl isn’t as important for desiccant dryers as it is for other types – but it’s still worth bearing in mind. A larger bowl will mean less immediate worry about replacing it. However, it should generally be the desiccant that needs replacing first.
As with any compressor tool – don’t forget to ensure the thread’s going to fit your system. While some dryers come with every option, others are only available in one thread size.
Number of Columns
Multiple filters are a massive upgrade. They allow you to double the length of time between replacing the material. More importantly, then mean you can run the dryer continuously by replenishing one column while using another.
How Does a Desiccant Dryer Work?
These dryers are filled with material that absorbs moisture from the air. This is almost always in the form of small beads made of Silica Gel. That’s the same material that you get as small sachets inside new clothes or bags – because it’s fantastic at keeping things dry.
Back to the dryer. As humid air is passed through the beads they absorb almost all of the moisture. Doesn’t matter if it’s in liquid or vapor form – the water gets absorbed like a sponge. As they get saturated the beads will turn a different color (for example, pink). This lets you know when to replace them with a fresh batch. You can simply dry out old beads by baking them in an oven, and they’re good as new.
There’s nothing like the peace of mind of knowing you’ve got an efficient, solid system supplying your air tools.
I hope this guide’s helped you find clarity on the ideal desiccant dryer for your system.
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