By: Brad Taylor

Rotary or Reciprocating - How to Choose the Right Air CompressorIf you are shopping for a new air compressor, you might be overwhelmed by the different types and options. The first and most important choice you will make is whether to buy a rotary or a reciprocating compressor. Many people don’t know the difference between them, so let’s look at these two types.

Reciprocating air compressors compress the air with pistons that move up and down inside the cylinders.

Rotary screw air compressors have two rotors that turn in opposite directions. The air is trapped between thus causing compression to occur.

Their manner of compressing air is not the only difference difference between these two types of compressors. Another significant difference between rotary screw air compressors and reciprocating air compressors is that rotary compressors operate with a lot lower dBa than reciprocating air compressors. Since the screws do not move up and down like pistons do, they are a lot quieter. Also for this same reason, rotary compressors operate with less heat and vibration than a piston compressor.

What really matters, is which technology is best suited to your application.

Reciprocating compressors are meant for intermittent use and when you need a small amount of air. These are best suited for home owners, do-it-yourself projects, workshops, small businesses and construction work. If your compressor is going to be idle more than about a third of the time, then a reciprocating compressor is a probably better choice for your needs because rotary compressors do not fare well with downtime.

On the other hand, rotary screw air compressors are for applications that need continuous air. They are designed to operate nonstop and produce a strong and consistent flow of air. Rotary compressors are a good choice for commercial and industrial users that have a constant demand for air. They are very durable and reliable in situations where they are put under a lot of demand. There are two types of rotary screw compressors: fixed speed and variable speed drive. Read our blog to figure out which is best for your application.