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Spraybooth TLC: Keeping it Well Maintained

You spend lots of money on a modern spraybooth, that’s for sure. So why not spend a little time maintaining it so you get the most for your money?

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A well-maintained spraybooth can have a tremendous effect on your shop’s throughput. Early spraybooths may have been little more than a metal box with an exhaust fan, but today’s downdraft booths have input fans, exhaust fans, multi-stage filtering systems, sophisticated control panels and a million or more BTU furnace.

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And though all these features may have worked great as the installer was leaving your shop, to keep your booth performing efficiently requires routine maintenance.

Some shop owners enter into service agreements with a booth maintenance firm that schedules visits throughout the year to perform preventative maintenance. For them, a signature is all that’s required. But if you choose to perform the necessary maintenance yourself, your job will require a bit more effort.

The assembly and operations manual – included when you purchased your booth – should outline recommended service procedures and indicate certain maintenance items at pre-determined intervals. The inclusion of an hour meter on the control panel is a great help in determining service time frames since hours of booth operation is the benchmark for proper maintenance.

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Though the extent and specifics of your maintenance plan will depend on the design of your booth and the manufacturer’s recommendations, a schedule for maintaining filters, fans and lighting should be a part of everyone’s overall plan.

Filters
No matter what kind of booth you buy, air enters and exits your booth through filters – and gradually clogs them with dirt, dust and overspray. Because filters play such a key role in quality paint work, pay close attention to them. The best way to devise a filter maintenance program is to talk to your booth representative and to look at how the manufacturer’s guidelines are affected by your shop’s output and by the type of spray equipment you use. Then devise a regular filter-changing routine.

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Keep in mind that most booths have three-stage filtration systems:

  1. First, outside air is pulled in and goes through a pre-filter. In some cases, the booth will have permanent grids from which the user removes old filters to replace with new ones.
  2. After passing through the pre-filter, the pre-cleaned and heated air winds its way to the ceiling filter.
  3. The third filter is the floor filter, which captures paint overspray. These filters require the most attention in a maintenance program. Your manufacturer may recommend changing the floor filters after so many hours of painting or after so many panels have been painted.

Frequent replacement of intake filters will save money in heat and cut and polish labor time. The finish will dry faster, too. You should also take the extra time to make sure each filter is seated perfectly in its opening. If modifying the mounting frame, rubber weather-stripping the edges or duct taping them in place will keep the air passing through – rather than around – the filter, it’s time well-spent.

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To assist in your quest for clean filters, you might also want to make it a habit to check your booth’s pressure daily with a manometer, which will indicate when the intake filters are overloaded. Some booths have a pressure switch that shuts off the air supply and exhaust fan when the intake filter gets clogged.

Fans
As you well know, fans help flow the air through the filters to create booth pressure. They also accumulate gunk. Because dirty fan blades can lead to imbalance, vibration and possible bearing wear, clean your booth fans on a regular basis.

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If your exhaust fan wobbles from overspray buildup on the blades, take care of it before it does more serious damage to the unit.

You should also check fan-belt tension regularly. Fans and motors should turn easily by hand. While checking these components, use lockouts on the electrical panels. If you have ball-bearing motors equipped with grease fittings, they should be greased approximately once every month.

Lighting
In a nutshell, all lights should be operational. Any weak or burned-out bulbs should be replaced immediately. A painter who can’t see properly can’t paint properly.

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When replacing bulbs, keep in mind that you’ll get more useful light from the more expensive bulbs. The $2 discount store bulbs generally don’t produce as much light as $5 or $10 bulbs. Color-corrected bulbs attempt to duplicate sunlight, under which the most accurate color matches are possible. If you elect to install color-corrected bulbs, make sure the illumination from them is equal to the ordinary bulbs being replaced.

All lights installed in a spraybooth must meet the Uniform Building Code and any applicable local ordinances, and they must be kept up to code with regular maintenance.

Lighting fixtures covered with dirt and overspray will cause poor visibility and costly redos. Clean the covers as often as necessary to keep the booth in compliance and lit at its optimum level.

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A Complete Checklist
In addition to maintaining the individual components, it’s also important to keep the booth itself in good condition.

Keep the entire booth free of dirt and overspray by wiping down the floor and walls before or after every job. Because some painted interior walls can be damaged by some cleansers, check with your manufacturer to see which cleaning agents should and shouldn’t be used.

An easy way to keep inside booth walls clean is to coat them with a strippable, spray-on coating. When the overspray becomes too thick, just strip the walls and re-coat.

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It’s also important to keep the entire booth clean to minimize dangers from excessive material buildup. The worst possible danger is from fire, so exhaust chambers, stacks and components must be kept free from paint overspray.

Several other areas in your booth also need maintained:

  • Occasionally calibrate thermostats and temperature indicators. Out-of-sync readings cause “you think it’s dry paint but it’s not” syndrome.
  • Monitor all door seals, latches and door alignment.
  • Dirt can get inside the booth through cracks and seams, so make it a point to periodically check for them and to caulk all places where dirt might enter, including the seams of the filter system and the lighting.
  • Regularly check all safety systems – such as sprinklers and air interlocks – for proper operation.
  • Periodically have someone clean off the top of the booth. Otherwise, when opening and closing the doors, dirt is sucked over the top, comes in around the openings and then ends up on the floor and walls.

By setting up and following a regular maintenance schedule that includes – but isn’t limited to – these listed items, you’ll ensure better, faster work flow and keep your spraybooth in top shape.

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Maintaining Top Gun Status
A well-cared for, properly used spray gun requires little maintenance. Spray guns should be cleaned every time they’re used. They also need periodic lubrication.

You should also have a designated place to keep guns. Hang siphon guns on a rod and locate gravity-gun holders in a convenient storage place. Be sure to store guns in their designated spot so they’re not knocked off a bench or a drum. You should also be careful to avoid laying down a gravity gun, especially with the air cap removed because this will expose the fluid tip and needle.

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Occasional packing replacement or the replacement of a compression ring between the fluid cap and the gun body round out gun maintenance. When replacing packing, lubricate it sparingly with a lubricant designed just for this purpose.

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