A number of factors, including cost, safety, and the environment, are motivating the change to on-site gas generators. The lower maintenance demand of gas generators versus gas cylinders is another key reason why so many labs are eager to get themselves set up with an on-site gas solution.
Cylinder maintenance woes
“Gas cylinders require regular and pretty in-depth maintenance,” says Kevin Garell, service and operations manager for North America at Peak Scientific (Inchinnan, UK).
According to John Speranza, vice president of commercial product sales at Proton OnSite (Wallingford, CT), the high maintenance demands of a gas cylinder come down to the fact that cylinders have a finite supply of gas. “A cylinder with a limited supply of gas to support a process or an instrument in a laboratory needs to be monitored and tracked, replacement gas needs to be ordered, the gas needs to be received by someone, and then it needs to be moved and installed in the laboratory space,” he says. Additionally, Garell notes that each cylinder requires a gas regulator, which must be inspected annually and should be replaced every five years.
Along with requiring time and logistical planning, the maintenance cycle of a gas cylinder can also impact the purity of the gas and the safety of lab personnel. Whenever the cylinder is disconnected, humidity, air gases, and any other impurities in the surrounding environment can enter the piping, Speranza explains. He adds that the use of compression fittings means two metals are being crushed together and creating particulates that end up in the gas supply.
Simply moving around a heavy cylinder filled with flammable gas is a considerable safety hazard, especially given the fact that the task typically gets relegated to graduate students or research scientists who might not have received sufficient safety training.
Gas generators keep it simple
A gas generator, on the other hand, requires far less maintenance and avoids many of the safety and gas purity issues associated with maintaining a cylinder. An annual preventive maintenance procedure is normally sufficient for a gas generator, says Garell. He recommends that users conduct all regular maintenance outlined in the user manual for their particular gas generator. As for other general maintenance tips, Garell says, “For hydrogen, you want to use high-quality deionized water … using anything of lower quality could potentially damage the machine.” Additionally, he advises users to ensure that their generator is exposed to the right environmental conditions: temperature below 35 degrees Celsius and humidity below 80 percent.
Speranza also refers to an annual preventive maintenance cycle for gas generators, which consists mainly of changing air filters, if it’s a nitrogen or zero air gas generator, or changing water filters or gas filters in the case of a hydrogen gas generator. “The maintenance cycle, no matter how big the unit is or what gas it’s producing, is roughly one or two hours on an annual basis,” he says.
No time? No problem
Lab members can perform their own maintenance, but both Peak Scientific and Proton OnSite offer maintenance contracts. “We organize it, we schedule it at a time that’s convenient for you … you don’t have to worry about anything other than scheduling the downtime of the system,” says Garell of Peak Scientific’s Fixed Price Preventative Maintenance plan.
Similarly, Proton OnSite’s Proton Care is a “bumper-tobumper maintenance and repair program,” says Speranza. The program includes an annual maintenance visit by a Proton-certified service provider and all parts and labor for that visit, as well as an extension of the warranty.
Whether users take care of their own maintenance or outsource it, gas generators offer more tangible benefits than gas cylinders in terms of ease of maintenance.
For additional resources on gas generators, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit www.labmanager.com/gas-generators