A quality air compressor is a jack-of-all-trades whether you want to increase the production in industries, want something to facilitate day-to-day workshop jobs, or use other tools with this machine. From painting to nailing, repairing a wooden fence, and much more, a compressor can do all the things. If you, once in your life, have used a pneumatic tool, you most probably know the significance of these power tools.
However, compressors come in different types, shapes, and sizes that make it challenging and exhausting for users to pick the right one that suits their demands. So, it becomes highly significant that you have an idea about your needs and a little basic knowledge about an air compressor. To save your day, this article provides an in-depth insight into air compressors, their types, uses, and benefits. So, dive right in for more.
What is an Air Compressor?
A compressor is a mechanical device that is partially responsible for raising up the pressure and volume of any gas, known as compression of a gas. An air compressor is one that uses air as a working fluid and works with it to get some significant work done.
In simple words, compressors compress the air to a certain temperature so that it can be used by big industries and experienced users in their workshops. Air compressors became famous with rising industries in the late 19th century. Initially, wood was used in industries to boost up production by increasing the engine’s efficiency.
These woods were soon replaced by compressors as they were quite efficient in raising the pressure output and pressure range by a significant gap. Hence, with fast delivery and quick recovery, companies turned to these machines, and the demand for compressors grew drastically.
How Does an Air Compressor Work?
Although different compressors work on different mechanisms, the underlying principle of each is similar. In simple words, the basic working of compressors is done by changing the volume of the gas enclosed in a cylinder or tank.
Hence, some use a piston and other blades to diffuse the pressure and compress the air until it reaches the desired pressure you want for each application. So, after the air has entered the system and has been compressed for quite a decent amount of time, it is transferred to a storing container.
Compressors are generally used by big industrial corporations to increase production and eventually lead to the development of these industries. Initially, although wood was used to boost up production, modern compressors have made the job easy. Moreover, these compressors are used for using pneumatic tools for diverse applications, i.e., painting, nailing, sawing, using other air tools, and so on.
Benefits of Using an Air Compressor
There are a number of benefits of using air compressors. Some of them are listed below;
- These machines are the easiest and simplest way to perform a variety of routine tasks with absolute functionality.
- Using an air compressor is economical as it drastically lowers the running costs and provides you with reasonable alternatives (be it a day-to-day task or industrial-grade job).
- These machines are used to boost up production and perform complex tasks in the simplest way possible.
- These are safe alternatives to be used as a replacement for many other electric tools (where the chances of getting an electric shock or potential accidents are higher).
- These are low on RPM and torque ratings, so you are saving time as well as struggling.
The pneumatic tools with these machines are quick to change.
Types of Air Compressors
There are two major types of air compressors that are further divided into subcategories. Here is a brief account of everything you need to know about these machines;
Positive Displacement Air Compressors or PD
These compressors are the most commonly used and straightforward across the market, famous for their simple yet efficient designs. These machines work on the principle of suction air and compress the air in the compression chamber until the air pressure reaches its desired output range.
As the name suggests, these machines draw a significant amount of air and compress it to the pressure you want, exiting it from the outlet. These are further divided into;
These compressors use a piston mechanism to push the air into the main shaft and move it at a constant speed. Hence, each time, a drive from the piston sucks the air and compresses it.
Most commonly, they operate on HP ranging between 5 and 30. You can even find bigger reciprocating compressors with high HP (ranging up to 1000) for commercial and industrial-grade applications.
- These are easy and straightforward.
- These are ideal for beginners as well as professionals.
- These are highly flexible and economical.
- These can be a bit noisy and includes many vibrations.
Another type of PD is the rotary compressor that is used in contemporary times. This works on the simple mechanism where the air is sucked by a compressor pass through the openings, and after getting compressed, exits from the cavity.
These machines gradually increase the pressure and reach the desired output, known as the peak. These come in a variety of forms and have largely higher efficiency and pressure output than counterparts, not to mention low vibrations and adjustable speed options.
- No piston included.
- Offers easy and convenient usage (assembly, running demands, and straightforward controls).
- These are more stable and have fewer vibrations.
- These are power-efficient and more reliable.
- These need special equipment processing.
- Demands financial investments.
- Difficult to maintain over time.
Dynamic Air Compressors
Second in the list of air compressors are these dynamic compressors, famous for their ability to facilitate a variety of tasks with absolute functionality and ease. These are best known for their turbo engines and rapid speed range that helps you with a number of industrial-scale and basic applications.
These machines are further divided into centrifugal and axial compressors. Here is an insight on how these devices work;
To start with, as the name suggests, centrifugal compressors use a rotatory disc to push the air into the blades of an impeller so it gets compressed. After this step, the impeller increases the speed of the gas, and when it reaches the desired pressure, the machine releases it. The element used to convert the energy of the gas into pressure is a diffuser.
- Ideal for fixed applications (commercial and industrial, like petrochemical, paintings, and so on).
- Used for large-scale manufacturing work.
- These machines produce high-pressure output, having powerful motors.
- These can be a bit expensive.
- Includes high running costs.
Axial Air Compressors
Secondly, these axial air compressors are known for their compact designs and their ability to facilitate heavy-duty applications. These machines use a series of fan-shaped blades for compression and gradually increase it to the range you want.
The rotating blades are designed in a way to increase the rotatory motion and speed so that the liquid compresses gradually with high efficiency and power output. These are most commonly used in gas turbines and CNG pump stations.
- These are highly power-efficient and reliable.
- Offers high-pressure output ratio and fast delivery than counterparts.
- These are designed for multi-staging.
- It offers great portability and durability.
- These can be really expensive.
- Different constructions.
Now that you have an idea about the types of air compressors, you can choose the right one based on your working environment and individual demands.
How to Choose the Best Air Compressor: All You Need to Know
Air compressors come in different sizes and shapes, so it becomes important that you have an idea about your working requirements and their construction. From power range to design, motor efficiency, and pump construction, everything is important for users to consider.
If you are currently looking for the right compressor that can help you with your small-scale or industrial-grade work, here are some things you should look into while buying these noteworthy machines;
Lubricated or Oil-Free Pump
The first and foremost thing I would suggest you look into while buying the best air compressor is whether it comes with a lubricated or an oil-free pump. Choosing the right pump depends on your working conditions, as each is designed for a different purpose.
If you are looking for ease and convenience, going for an oil-free pump is best. On the contrary, if you want proper functionality that can accommodate heavy-duty applications, I would recommend a lubricated one for its ability to run the engine efficiently.
When it comes to oil-free pumps, these are usually an expensive option, however, with fewer chances of contamination and damage. Lubricated machines spread fumes that can lead to the contamination of air that can result in manufacturing flaws.
In contrast, lubricated ones need constant monitoring and make the engine work at an optimal rate that increases the performance. Here, one thing you should keep in mind is that these can be power-consuming and demand high running costs.
Likewise, it is important to know about the power source of your machine as it will decide the installation cost, running cost, and so on. Most commonly, across the market, you can find two different types of compressors, being gas-powered or electrical air compressors, both having equal merits and demerits. Here are some things you should know about both:
Gas-Powered Air Compressors are best known for their ability to facilitate heavy-duty and industrial-grade working projects. These are famous for their powerful motors that ensure a smooth air delivery rate and fast recovery, not to mention a high-pressure output.
However, these can be demanding in terms of financial investment. Likewise, these cannot be carried around because of their heavy designs that need to be positioned in one place.
Electrical Air Compressors are usually designed for convenience and lower running costs. These are portable and economical with a fast yet noiseless motor, making these easy alternatives to go for.
These small machines are famous for their low power consumption and high energy efficiency, not to mention a quick recovery and smooth delivery. All in all, these are great for low to intermediate applications.
What many people don’t consider while buying the best air compressor are speed adjustments. Yet, I am here to tell you that it can seriously impact your performance and the work you want to be done.
There are two types of air compressors you can find, one with fixed speed and the other having variable speed options. So, based on your budget and working demands, you can choose the one that suits you well.
Likewise, when it comes to fixed speeds, as the name suggests, they only have a one-speed option. In contrast, if you want to save energy and lower the running cost to a great extent, I would undoubtedly recommend you go for variable speed-driven compressors.
Here, based on the application or projects you are doing, you can increase or decrease the output and units. So, for some tasks, your motor consumes less than usual power, saving you energy and eventually money.
CFM and PSI Range
Similarly, one thing you should never compromise while buying a compressor is the pressure range. The pressure range of this machine can either be measured in PSI (Pounds per square inch) or CFM (Cubic Feet per Minute), both having their own importance.
When it comes to the PSI range, for beginner or intermediate applications, I would suggest anything up to 90. If you are going for a heavy-duty industrial compressor, going above 90 upto 150 or 170 is considered ideal for a PSI range.
Speaking of the CFM range, it is ideal that you know what suits you well. When we consider an individual who is using this machine at a workshop for some basic to intermediate repairing job, I would say it should be up to 6 CFM.
In contrast, if you want to facilitate versatile, industrial-grade working, having something above 6 CFM is going to provide you with a higher pressure output and fast delivery through the process.
Is Tank Size Significant?
Yes, tank size is another important element of a compressor that needs special attention. In simple words, it is the size of your tank or its ability to keep the air moving in the container. Hence, having a large tank capacity can help you with demanding projects. All in all, it truly depends on the work you are doing and your skillset.
On the other hand, if you are a professional who needs long working hours assistance and long life, it is ideal that a person looks for something bigger such as a 60-gallon compressor.
Is Your Motor Noisy?
One thing many people are often irritated by is their motor being too noisy and disturbing others’ peace of mind in the surroundings. Although there is no denying that these machines can be overwhelmingly noisy and disturbing, you can still find one that is not as crazy as some others. In these situations, it becomes important that you inspect the motor quite thoroughly.
To begin with, noise is measured in decibels or dBs. So, if you are one who can’t tolerate high noise and wants to enjoy a noiseless motor, I would suggest going for something between 60 and 78 as above this is considered quite high for a compressor. Here, one thing you should keep in mind is that gas-powered compressors are usually less noisy than electric ones. So, choose wisely.
Design and Dynamics
Another thing quite important to look for in an air compressor is the design and construction. So, there are two main things you should make sure of, being durability and portability. Speaking of the first, you can find compressors being made up of either stainless steel or cast iron, most commonly across the market.
Both of these materials are outstanding in sealing the air inside the tank with less than usual chances of damage; however, make sure that your machine is made up of quality material to make it last for long.
Secondly, it is equally significant that your machine has a portable design that lets you carry it around from time to time. For this purpose, it is ideal that you go for something lightweight and easily portable design to start with.
However, if your machine, for any reason, is a bit heavy or has a large tank, try to look for ways that can make it portable. For instance, having rolling wheels or a carrying handle can help you effectively in traveling around your machine with absolute ease and convenience.
Brands of Air Compressors
To save your day and make buying even easier, I have brought together this list of top brands that can help you in making a firm decision;
Craftsman is one of the most reputable brands, established in the market since 1927. This brand is popular for its manufacturing of steel wrenches and other power tools. Many quality tools such as saws, generators, compressors, grills, and much more have been coming from this brand with high standards of quality performance.
California Air Tools is undoubtedly another leading name in the industry, famous for its efficient and functional designs over the years. This manufacturing company was largely responsible for making power tools, one of which is compressors.
The company is relatively new and was developed in 2002, yet the standard and quality it has come up with make this brand stand in the list of top ones. The manufacturers have also designed for all the budgets that give it an edge in the market.
Porter-Cable is another leading brand, founded in 1906, extending from the family of Black+Decker. As we already know, Black+Decker has built its reputation over the years by selling off quality goods and budget-friendly designs.
So is the case with Porter-Cable, which was built as a power tool and equipment manufacturing company, popular for its high standards when it comes to durability, functionality, and reliability.
Dewalt is a pretty much-known name across the world in terms of reliability and performance. Working since 1927, the company has established its own following across the globe, for making the most innovative and high-standard tools.
The manufacturer is leading in all the industries not only for its functional designs but different budget ranges that make it stand among others. Dewalt customers are loyal to the company and vice versa.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to use an air compressor?
To operate an air compressor, you only need basic skills and some training done in the past. Start off by reading the instruction manual and proceed with the task as per the manual. Also, it is recommended that you make a maintenance list beforehand to eliminate any issues afterward. Some important things you should make sure of are;
1. Ensuring safety protocols before each application.
2. Make sure the machine is lubricated, and the tank is full.
3. Check valves and moisture in the tank from time to time.
How to clean an air compressor?
Here is a small guide to clean the inside of your air compressor;
1. First of all, unplug the machine from the main source and release the compressed air from the system.
2. Once you are done, use the drain valve to eliminate any moisture left in the system.
3. Eliminate everything from the tank including oil, water, or any other kind of moisture.
4. Leave the valve open until it is completely dry.
5. After it is done, close the drain, and you are pretty much done.
It is recommended that you clean your tank after every two days to extend the life of your tank and protect it from potential damage.
What are some tips for maintaining the air compressor?
There are some things you should always remember to maintain the air compressors. To start with, make sure that before using the machine, you have inspected everything from valves to oil levels, tank capacity, moisture, and so on. Likewise, always wear PPE and never compromise on safety, especially if you are new to this skill. Finally, connecting all the pneumatic tools before work can add to your peace of mind.
Watch to know more about Air Compressor
Wrapping up, I hope that after reading this comprehensive insight about air compressors, you can choose the one that is best suited for you. In order to choose the right one, a thorough examination of your needs, the types available, and features is a must. Over the years, the industry has gained an increase in demand that has made these alternatives quite famous.