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Choose Wisely

Jim Jung


Not all desiccant breathers are created equally

Desiccant Breathers have become a widely chosen solution for closing up a piece of equipment while still allowing the equipment to breathe. This is because they provide clean, dry air to your equipment – free from harmful water and particulate contaminants that can otherwise enter with some OEM or home-made breather solutions.

Desiccant breathers are not created equally, so when it comes to choosing the right one for your application, there’s going to be a few key factors that’ll you need to consider. These key factors will ensure you choose a desiccant breather wisely.


Indoor or otherwise controlled environments, where high humid conditions are not an issue, the standard base series is a generally sufficient application. However outdoor, washdown areas, or process area where humidity is high or moisture is present, breathers with check valves are suggested. Because desiccant will adsorb surrounding moisture in even static situations, check valves will prolong the life of the desiccant. The silica gel will only be exposed to the surrounding environment when the differential pressure reaches the cracking pressure of the valve for the breather to breathe in.

Along with the standard breathers and the check valve type breathers, there are other styles available depending on your application. Plastic versions with metal thread connections are available for high vibration applications. Complete metal units are also available.

Air Flow

Air flow is perhaps the main specification in selecting a desiccant breather. In equipment that is standalone, such as gearboxes, the air flow required to flow in and out of the equipment is generally not an issue as there is minimal air flow. But, for more dynamic equipment such as hydraulic reservoirs or oil tanks, where potentially large volumes of fluid are moving in and out, a large amount of air needs to be able to flow into and out of the breather. This is typically measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). Make certain that the breather you select is specified as capable of moving more CFM through it than required by your equipment. If not, seals can be blown or damage to the breather and/or equipment can occur.

Replacement Frequency

The amount of moisture and humidity present inside and outside, as well as the size of your equipment and the air headspace above the oil, can be directly proportional to the life you can expect to achieve from a desiccant breather. Smaller gearboxes, pumps, and containers will do well with the mini versions and are appropriate for these applications. Larger breathers will inherently last longer, so adjust sizes appropriately to the size of the application.

Adsorption Capacity

The amount of silica gel inside the breather is most important when cost comparing different brands of desiccant breathers. External dimensions can be very deceiving. Some models have a full cartridge of silica gel. Other models have an air flow tube that runs up the center of the unit. This will significantly impinge on the amount of silica gel in the unit. Always compare the weight of the silica gel (usually in lbs.) and the adsorption capacity (usually in fl. oz. or ml). When comparing costs of different brands always break the cost down to the cost per oz of water adsorbed. This will give you the true cost comparison.

Choosing Wisely

Desiccant breathers can be a powerful preventative maintenance tool, yet they are only good if they are fitted appropriately for the application. If you consider the factors above, you’ll choose the right desiccant breather for your application and budget.

Discover Trico’s Desiccant Breathers

Watch a video to learn more about Trico’s Desiccant Breathers – what are they, why you need them, and the differences between the types offered.


**PRODUCT UPDATE 2/1/2024**- Trico is excited to share enhancements across our desiccant breather product line, now featuring both orange/green and blue/pink desiccant options. The EX-series breathers check valves are shielded, ensuring they remain free from clogs and stickiness upon exposure. Additionally, the Particulate Filter is 3-microns crafted from dual-phase micro-glass for superior filtration. The updated Watchdog Desiccant breathers have a versatile “tri-fit” connection, compatible with 1-inch or 3/8-inch male threads, adaptable for NPT, BSPT, or BSPP standards. Discover the new and improved Watchdog Desiccant Breathers today!