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What Are Compressed Air Piping Systems?


The concept behind compressed air systems is simple in theory. We’re talking about transferring air from one part of your workshop to another where a device can use the energy your compressor creates. To do this, you need quality compressed air piping to connect everything together. Sounds simple, right? It should be, but many people run into problems because they haven’t planned their layout and their systems properly. To put it in basic terms, if you haven’t planned your compressed air piping system, you’re could lose efficiency, time and consequently money. Let’s have a look at how you can get the most out of your compressed air system.


Compressed air piping is often the last consideration when setting up a workshop. If you’re still in the planning stages, we encourage you to think about the placement of your end-use devices now.  If you’re already set up and need to work with what you’ve got, wherever possible, you want your compressed air to travel on a straight path. Sharp angles in your piping are a major cause of lost pressure because the air has to slow down to make that turn. Think of it like riding a bike – you can’t make a 90 degree turn without slowing down. In fact, for air, a 90-degree bend can cause between 3-5 PSID of pressure loss. When air has to travel around sharp corners, we call the air flow ‘turbulent’, and what that means for you is lost efficiency. Rather than creating a sharp angle with your piping, use a series of 30 to 45-degree bends, evenly spaced, to avoid turbulent airflow in your compressed air piping system.


Depending on your piping material, water could corrode and rust your pipes. This is obviously bad for the long term health of the pipe, but it can even cause rust to flake off into the air flow and clog your end-use devices, even contaminating your materials. If that’s not bad enough, the inside surface of your pipes will end up rough and cause turbulence. There is no way to completely avoid moisture when dealing with air compression, but you can limit it. Water will be more prevalent in the bottom of the compressor, so you can use a supply inlet source towards the top of the compressor. You can also dry the air before it gets into the compressor. You could use driers to remove moisture from the air after it is compressed, but this can slow down airflow and reduce pressure. One of the best ways to combat moisture is the use of an after cooler. This removes the moisture early in the process and you can avoid having it circulate through your piping system.


Your safest option is to use non-corrosive piping materials

If you’re using compressed air piping made of corrosive materials, there is a likelihood you will have issues with corrosion. Pieces of corroded piping can break off, build up and form obstructions in your air flow, usually around valves, connectors or other devices. While blockages are easy to identify, they are a hassle you don’t need. Your safest option is to use non-corrosive piping materials. Aside from corrosion, the particulate content of air drawn into the compressor can also cause a problem. This is an unavoidable by-product of the air compression process, but much like moisture there are options. Using a good quality air filter on your compressor, cleaning the air before it even gets into your system is the most effective way to reduce the risk of clogging valves, piping and end-use device nozzles.


When it comes to pipe materials you basically have the option of choosing plastic or metal, however there are several variables in each category. Plastic pipes have the benefit of not corroding, and generally they are easier to work with due to their weight and the fact they can be easily cut and glued. This is generally a cheaper option, however you need to be careful because any old plastic pipe won’t do. We recommend only using quality HDPE (high density polyethylene) pipes. Please note your standard PVC pipe is not suitable for moving compressed air. When it comes to metal pipes, we prefer aluminium piping for many of the reasons above. It is lightweight, non-corrosive, and easy to work with. The price can be a little higher, but the easier installation usually sees you saving money on labour.


Getting the help of experienced professionals can save you a lot of time and money

While it can be tempting to cut costs and set up your compressed air piping system yourself, getting the help of experienced professionals can save you a lot of time and money. Airtools WA are highly experienced in compressed air installations. You can provide us with detailed drawings or we can even visit your site to assess the planning of your air system. We provide advice on all aspects of your compressed air system, including the piping size and material as well as all the associated equipment such as air hoses, air filter and regulators, water separators  and all the air fittings you could possibly need.  Get in touch with our team today and get maximum efficiency for your compressed air system.

Check our related products: Air CompressorsAir FiltersAir Manifolds & Air Tools (Homepage).

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