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Choosing your new air compressor

Choosing your new air compressor

Making an informed decision when choosing your new air compressor can have an impact on your operation, both financially and operational.

Air Tools WA, with our 20+ years’ experience, are here to help. This guide will help direct you towards making the best possible purchase and we are always here to assist choosing your new air compressor.

There is a great variety of air compressors on the market today with a wide range of functions from industrial through to home use. It’s definitely a good idea to invest in a newer machine if your air compressor is starting to show its age. The latest air compressors are vastly more efficient, and can offer manufacturers considerable ongoing energy savings, but only when the correct air compressor for the application is chosen.

The key to selecting the right air compressor is to do a proper due diligence process and to audit your business. Understand what your business needs an air compressor for, and what tools will be used with it. That knowledge will help you to narrow down from the vast range of air compressors on the market which is the one best suited to your operation.

One of the biggest challenges is to correctly size your new air compressor. New air compressors on the market are more efficient and employ better technology, therefore you must understand the application and usage to size the machine correctly. Choosing the wrong air compressor for your facility or workshop can lead to problems with production and or increased costs due to wasted energy.

A number of decisions must be made choosing your new air compressor to suit the user’s immediate needs as well as taking into consideration future expansion projects. The starting point must always be the specific application that will be using the compressed air.

10 things you should consider when selecting an air compressor:

  1. Determine your type of use: DIY, professional or industrial
  2. Define the tools you will work with to size up the total Free Air Delivery requirements (FAD). FAD is often expressed in cfm (cubic feet per meter) or l/m (litres per minute)
  3. Define your frequency of use: occasional, intermittent, frequent
  4. Define the spacing requirements of your machine: fixed, moveable or remote device – horizontal or vertical vessel
  5. Define the comfort you need in terms of noise level
  6. Define your electrical requirements
  7. Define your vessel size
  8. Define the accessories you need
  9. Check the quality label
  10. Check ease of maintenance, parts and service availability

Once you have the size of the air compressor figured out, the next thing to do is to decide on the type of air compressor you will need for your application. Let us take a look at two of the most popular options available.

The Piston Air Compressor

The most economical and least expensive air compressor available is the piston or reciprocating air compressor. This is a very simple and robust air compressor that is used in many small shops. You can oftentimes find the piston compressor in small work and machine shops, body shops, tire shops and small manufacturing facilities. Piston compressors are relatively easy to maintain and as previously mentioned require minimum investment. Considering that piston compressors are economical, there are some drawbacks that should be taken into account before making a decision.

Piston compressors are only meant for intermittent use, meaning that the compressor can only work at about 50-60% of its duty cycle. This means it will run 30 to 35 minutes, every hour during its duty cycle. These units require proper cooling time between cycles, otherwise they will overheat and or fail. It is also important to understand that piston compressors put out a lot of oil downstream and if not treated properly they can damage the machines that utilize the compressed air. Lastly, piston compressors tend to be very loud when in operation, which can be hard on the employees working in close proximity to the compressor.

The Rotary Screw Compressor

If your operation requires constant compressed air supply, you should consider a rotary screw air compressor. Unlike the piston air compressor, rotary screw air compressors are used for any operations that require up to a 100% continuous duty cycle and are built for long lifetime of reliable operation. Rotary screw air compressors are a great alternative for the piston units and there are various available, depending on your needs and budget. One of those options is the ability to integrate an air dryer into the package, which is ideal for the applications that require clean and dry air. Furthermore, smaller screw compressors can be tank mounted allowing for additional storage capacity which, coupled with an integrated dryer, allows for plug and play installation. This makes it ideal if you have limited space at your facility and if you want to save on installation costs. Depending on your budget, there is a screw compressor for everyone, ranging from basic design, usually available on smaller kW/HP ranges, all the way to Variable Speed (Frequency) Drive (VSD) units. Those are more expensive but typically make up for the initial cost with energy savings.

At Air Tools WA we offer a wide range of air compressors and with 20+ years experience we can offer you the best expert advice when choosing your new air compressor.

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