Air compressors range from large-scale industrial machines to small portable units. Purchasing the right machine for your need requires knowing the basics of how an industrial air compressor works and understanding your application. Whether you want to use an air compressor to power air tools or to apply a smooth paint coating, you must know how the different technologies available will affect your application.
Types of Air Compressor Systems
When you plan to purchase an industrial air compressor, your first task is deciding the type of the air compressor that you have to buy. In terms of design and principle of operation, there are 5 types of air compressors.
- Variable Speed Drive Rotary Screw
- Fixed Speed Rotary Screw
- Reciprocating Air Compressors
- Rotary Vane Air Compressors
These compressors are widely used in b2b industries such as general manufacturing, printing, packaging, plastic molding, marble & granite, woodworking, metalworking, electronics, auto repair, testing laboratories, and so many more!
Reciprocating vs. Rotary Screw Technology
For those who use air tools infrequently or have a horsepower requirement of 10 hp or less, a reciprocating air compressor may be the best solution. When larger horsepower is required, typically a rotary screw air compressors or rotary vane type compressor is used. Systems that have over 350 horsepower of constant load, a centrifugal may be utilized.
If you your compressor runs at a 60-100% duty cycle, a rotary screw air compressor is the right technology for you.
Variable Speed Drive Rotary Screw Compressors can be the are the most efficient type of rotary screw compressors when applied correctly. These speed up and slow down depending on your current air demand. This saves huge amounts of money in annual energy costs.
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Features to Check
Some people believe that models with high HP are better than those with low HP. This isn’t true. A 5 HP air compressor isn’t better than a 3 HP model and may consume more power if the extra hp is not required.
As the horsepower increases so does the CFM. CFM means cubic feet per minute. It’s the volumetric flow of the compressed air output.
To use any type of compressor effectively, you have to know your air requirements. Compressed air requirement dictates the amount of horsepower that you need. To calculate it, you can use either an operating analysis or compile the utilization factor with the air requirement for all of the connected equipment. Typically the flow per horsepower for a mid-range air compressor (25-100 hp) is 4.4 CFM.
Having a compressor that is too large for what your air requirements are, is expensive due to inflated energy, maintenance, repair, and capital costs. Many people seem to think that compressed air is free, but it costs 8 times more to run your compressed air equipment when compared to using a electrically driven device. You should only oversize your compressor if you foresee growth in your air requirements in the short term. It may be better to add an additional compressor at the time of expansion or even trade in the existing equipment towards a large more efficient unit.
Industrial air compressors have two voltage options: 208-230V, and 460V. You’ll obviously want to install the appropriate compressor for your voltage. If you have both voltages available in your plant, typically you’ll want to use high voltage. The Kw energy consumed is the same regardless of voltage, but it costs less to run a high voltage circuit.
Features to Look For
All air tools have a CFM requirement. CFM is an important factor in deciding what compressor system works for you.
If you will use multiple tools simultaneously, you will need a compressor with a higher CFM rating. If you frequently use equipment with a low CFM requirement, you can settle with a small model.
Before purchasing an air compressor, check the CFM of your air tools. You must add each of their CFM requirements up in order to calculate your total demand.. You have to estimate the amount of CFM you need at any given time.
- Pounds per Square Inch (PSI)
Air compressors with high PSI capacity, compress air to a higher pressure. High pressure is considered nothing over 125 PSI. Applications may include auto repair, sandblasting or lab applications.
How to Choose the Right Air compressor Model
After determining the type of air compressor and horsepower that is best for your application, you have to decide what model to buy. In comparing different manufacturers and models, you have to consider the following:
- Maintenance requirements
- Style – Tank mounted, Integrated Air Dryer
- Pressure requirement PSI
Once you have decided the type and model, don’t forget to check the reviews of your target unit and its manufacturer. Look for customer reviews on credible sites or visit the website of a trusted industrial air compressor distributor. Many online sites and shops offer low-priced and durable-looking compressors, but nothing beats the products that come from a licensed and accredited seller.