What Type of Air Compressor is Right For You?

June 14, 2010

There are mainly three types of air compressor pumps:

1. Reciprocating Air Compressors: Also referred to as a piston compressor, this is a positive displacement machine which basically means the air volume is confined into a smaller space like a holding tank. This is accomplished with a piston in a cylinder. Reciprocating units can be powered by gas or electric and are usually under 50HP. For large industrial plants that need over 100HP they can be built as multi-stage units. Because of the moving parts, these units tend to operate at high temperatures and must be air or water cooled.

2. Rotary Screw Air Compressors: This type is also in the positive displacement category. This simple design has been around for over 50 years. The basic principle behind this unit is the twin rotors that compress the air internally. There are less moving parts than the reciprocating models so you will have less maintenance costs with a rotary screw. Less vibration allows for easier installation and no need for mounting on special foundations.

3. Centrifugal Air Compressors: The design of this dynamic compressor allows oil free air. The gear is separated from the air in an enclosed oil filled structure. It provides continuous air pressure by increasing the air’s velocity with high powered impellers. Powered by turbo motors, a centrifugal unit can reach pressures as high as 1200 PSI and can be packaged for industrial use up to 500 HP.

You must consider both the cost of the machine and the operating costs to determine the most efficient and economical system for your application.

How to power your air compressor?
Electric: Older units would run continuously, but newer high efficient models will shut off the motor during periods of no demand.
Gas: Gas motors continue to run in periods of no demand. Larger units will vary the RPM’s of the motor based on the demand for air.

Other factors to consider in your air system:

  • Filters: Remove the Liquid water and lubricants from the compressed air.
  • Piping Systems: This is a very important part of the system. A well designed system will provide maximum output of quality air from the compressor to the source. Proper maintenance will minimize leakage and keep energy costs down.
  • Receiving Tanks: Large tanks will hold the air until it is needed. This also prevents the compressor from cycling too often and will save on maintenance costs.
  • DryersRefrigerated Dryers cool the compressed air and remove the moisture through a mechanical refrigeration system.  Desiccant Dryers use chemical beads made from silica gel and activated alumina to absorb the water vapor.

An air compressor system is a major investment. Check with the experts to be sure to get the proper style and size for your needs. There are many quality used air compressors for sale by reputable dealers. Our members from across the United States can help you with your industrial air compressor needs.