Aluminum Piping for Compressed Air Systems

Aluminum Piping for Compressed Air Systems

The best-practice in the industry for the distribution and delivery of compressed air is an aluminum piping system. Fluid-Aire Dynamics offers our preferred brand Unipipe.

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About Our Aluminum Piping for Compressed Air Systems

When it comes to the piping for the distribution of compressed air (or nitrogen, vacuum, or high-pressure air), black (iron), the only real choice is aluminum. We offer the best all-aluminum system on the market: Unipipe.. 

Aluminum piping systems for compressed air offer numerous benefits. 

  • Lightweight
  • Corrosion resistant
  • High leak resistance
  • Fast and easy installation
  • Flexible and reusable 

With these aluminum piping systems, no special tools are required for assembly or installation, and no grooving or crimping are necessary. All pieces connect together quickly and easily.

All piping and fittings are 100% aluminum and come in the broadest diameters and pressure ranges on the market.

  • Diameters ¾” to 10”
  • High-vacuum to over 1000 PSI
  • Max. working temperatures from -22°F to 266°F. 
Aluminum Piping for Compressed Air Systems
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Why do you recommend aluminum compressed air piping?

Aluminum is the best material for most compressed air applications. Black iron piping and other materials used for compressed air distribution–including galvanized steel, stainless steel, copper, plastic and rubber tubing–none of them can match the performance characteristics of aluminum. 

  • Traditional black iron piping is very heavy, requiring the use of anchoring for suspended distribution systems. It is also prone to corrosion and leaks, and requires a skilled plumber or welder to install. 
  • Galvanized and stainless steel reduce corrosion, but share the same drawbacks in terms of weight and installation difficulty. Stainless steel is also extremely expensive, making it best suited for specialty applications. 
  • Copper is corrosion-free and lighter than iron, but still requires a skilled plumber or welder to install or modify the distribution system. And like stainless steel, it is an expensive choice for compressed air. 
  • Some plastics (such as ABS, PE and HDPE) have been used for compressed air. They are lightweight and easy to work with, but do not have the strength and durability offered by aluminum distribution piping. Some plastics are also prone to degradation when exposed to lubricants in compressed air. Note: It is NEVER safe to use PVC pipe for compressed air distribution. 

Aluminum offers the best of all worlds when it comes to strength, durability, weight, ease of installation and overall cost. An aluminum compressed air piping system will not corrode, has very high leak resistance and is three times lighter than iron piping. Best of all, aluminum piping is extremely easy to install and easy to modify if your compressed air distribution system needs to be modified down the line. Aluminum piping systems from Unipipe require no special tools for assembly and do not require installation by a certified plumber, drastically reducing installation time and costs. All pieces of the modular system fit together quickly and easily, with no welding, grooving or crimping. And the system is leak-tight, even at the fittings and joins. 

Need help installing or updating your compressed air system piping? Contact us to set up a consultation with a compressed air system engineer.

How do I know what size compressed air pipes I need?

Compressed air piping comes in sizes from ¾” to 10”. How do you know which size you need? It comes down to your total airflow (CFM) and pressure (PSI). The higher your CFM, the larger your pipes will need to be to avoid excess pressure drop. Longer runs also require larger pipes to compensate for the friction air experiences as it moves through the distribution system. 

  • If your compressed air pipes are too small, friction in the pipes will slow the air down, resulting in pressure drop. 
  • If your pipes are oversized for your application, it will not have any negative impacts on performance, but you will be paying for more capacity than you need.

The formula for sizing compressed air pipes is complex. Fortunately, you can also rely on a compressed air pipe sizing chart to determine your size requirements. You’ll need to know: 

  • The max CFM for your system
  • The total length of pipe used in your piping system
  • The number of bends, fittings and valves (as a rule of thumb, every bend or tee is equivalent to another 5’ of piping)

If you’re not sure what size piping you need for your compressed air system, we can help. Contact us to talk to a solution specialist.

Can I use PVC for compressed air piping?

No! PVC should never be used for compressed air piping. The use of PVC or CPVC pipe for compressed air may lead to a dangerous or deadly explosion. PVC is not rated for compressed air applications.

While some PVC pipe comes with pressure ratings of 300 or more PSI, PVC is only rated for liquids, not for gases. While liquids stop flowing if there is a blockage, gases will continue to compress, leading to overpressurization. That is why pipes for compressed air must be rated for pressure much higher than your operating PSI. In addition, the pressure rating for joins and seals in PVC pipe is much lower than the rating for the pipe itself. Finally, PVC degrades or becomes brittle with time or when exposed to temperature extremes (such as hot compressed air). Seals and joins are especially prone to failures when exposed to lubricants in compressed air. All this adds up to a dangerous situation if PVC pipe becomes over-pressurized. Over-pressurized PVC pipe–or one hit with a sharp object–can send shrapnel flying at high velocities, putting people and facilities at risk.

If you are going to use plastic compressed air pipes, make sure the plastic is rated for use with compressed air. Better yet, consider a lightweight, durable aluminum piping system for maximum longevity and safety.