Snowmaking Tip: Your Air Line

If you’ve been around the home snowmaking community long enough, you’ve probably heard a lot of talk about air hoses. Why? 

The Problem

Over time, ice tends to build up in the air line, causing it to clog (and your snow gun to start making ice!). This process occurs quicker for small-diameter air hoses, such as the standard 3/8″ hose that might be used for air tools.

This problem can be explained by thermodynamics: when air is compressed by the air compressor, its temperature and dew point (the point at which condensation occurs) both increase. However, this air begins to cool as it travels down the air hose, eventually cooling back to the outdoor temperature assuming the hose is long enough. The dew point of this compressed air remains high, so as the air cools, it reaches this temperature, resulting in condensation of water or deposition of ice on the walls of the hose. As you can imagine, this can quickly become an issue with only a short amount of run time.

The Solution

There are a couple of easy solutions to keep your system running smoothly.

The first is to simply use a shorter hose – typically something around 6′ in length from the compressor to the snow gun. That way, the compressed air won’t have time to cool down to below freezing. There are some disadvantages to this method, however, as warmer compressed air means that more air may be necessary to achieve a frozen nucleation plume. Additionally, moving a heavy air compressor with the snow gun to different locations in the yard might be difficult.

If you prefer the convenience of a longer hose, the simple solution is to use a large-diameter hose. I recommend starting at 5/8″ diameter at a minimum (the size of a standard garden hose) and considering bigger options if you still have trouble. 

The diagram below shows how to use a garden hose as an air line in your home snowmaking system.

Garden hose adapter

For this setup, you’ll need a couple of fittings in addition to a garden hose. To go from the air compressor to the garden hose, use an air compressor QC to garden hose adapter. We have some of these adapters available for sale on our website, but if shipping time is a concern, you may be able to find this part locally. On the snow gun, you’ll need a pipe thread to garden hose thread adapter. When ordering our Snow Squall Snow Gun, you’ll want to choose the “3/4 Garden Hose Adapter (male)” under “Air Connection” at checkout.

Common Questions

I often get the question: “can the garden hose handle the pressure”? The answer is yes! Most garden hoses are rated for burst pressures greater than 120 psi, so they are perfectly safe. I have never seen instances of garden hose exploding when used for compressed air (I would not use one for high pressure water, though). 

What garden hoses do I recommend? My favorites are the neon-colored flexilla hose (5/8″ diameter) and the zero-g pro contractor grade hose (3/4″ diameter). Both hoses have been durable for me and remain flexible in the cold. 

Upgrading your air line to a large-diameter hose is one of the easiest and best improvements you can make to your snowmaking system to extend run time and ensure worry-free performance. That’s why we always recommend our customers use such a hose with our systems!

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