How to Size an Air Compressor Accurately

Air compressors are big machines. Not only do they cost a lot to buy, but they’re also expensive to run. Choosing the right size air compressor is important to ensure you’re making the right investment upfront and running your shop or factory efficiently. An air compressor that’s too small won’t put out enough air, or you’ll run it to death well before the end of its lifespan. An air compressor that’s too large will carry a hefty price tag and will be costly to run. With all of that in mind, how do you size an air compressor accurately?

As you might guess, we always recommend you talk to an air technician or an experienced engineer before you make a final decision, but if you’re trying to gauge generally what size air compressor is right for your facility, here are the basics you need to know to size an air compressor the right way:

How Much Air Do You Need?

First things first — how much air do you need? To get the right size air compressor, you have to know how much air you need first. 

To determine how much air you need, take inventory of your shop or factory. 

  • What tools need air? 
  • What is their CFM (cubic feet per minute) demand, each?
  • Will all of those tools be running at the same time? 
  • If not, which tools will run at the same time? How much CFM will they need collectively?

Once you have a solid estimate of how much air you’ll need to run all of the tools in your facility, it’s a good idea to go ahead and add 30% to that total CFM number you came up with. This will help add a bit of a buffer for any air leaks and peak air requirements (we’ll talk about this more a little later). 

How Much Pressure Do You Need?

Every machine requires a certain level of air pressure — identified as psig (pound-force per square inch gauge). Each of your tools may require a different psig, so it’s best to figure out what tool requires the highest psig. That number is the maximum pressure needed to run your tools. You’ll want to find an air compressor that can match that psig. 

What’s Your Duty Cycle?

In other words, how often are you using your air compressor? For an in-depth definition of what a duty cycle is, and how to determine your needed duty cycle, check out this blog. The point of determining your duty cycle is to help you determine how much air you need, and for how long, so you can choose the appropriate air compressor control system. 

For example, if you’re intermittently using your air compressor to power a few small air tools in an auto garage or paint shop, you can choose from a number of smaller air compressors with simple start/stop or load/unload control systems. 

If you’re using your air compressor constantly, and at fairly high speeds, then you’re probably going to need a larger compressor (or two) with a variable speed drive or variable displacement controls. 

Duty cycle is an important indicator of the size air compressor you’ll need as well. Even if you’re only running your air compressor for short periods of time, if you need a ton of air in those 30 minutes, you’ll still need a bigger compressor.

Look At Air Compressors That Match Your Air and Pressure Requirements

With answers to the three questions above in hand, you’re ready to start looking at air compressors. Remember that there are a few different types of air compressors, so make sure you’re looking at an air compressor type that suits your facility. For example, a small machine shop won’t need a centrifugal air compressor. You will likely be looking at smaller reciprocating compressors. 

You’ll also need to determine whether you need an oil or an oil-free air compressor. That choice will depend more on your application than the size of your compressor, but it’s an important distinction to make. 

What About My Air Compressor’s Horsepower?

Here at TMI, we get questions about air compressor horsepower all the time. It is an easy way to categorize and talk about different sized air compressors, but you shouldn’t use horsepower to determine the right air compressor for you. We won’t get into the nuts and bolts of it all, but here’s the basic breakdown: 

More efficient air compressors can do more with less horsepower. 

The best judge of your air compressors’ ability is air pressure and flow, or psig and CFM. Those two numbers tell you everything you need to know about an air compressor’s capacity. Horsepower is an easy way to talk about different models, but it’s not a factor when you’re sizing an air compressor for your application.

Don’t Forget to Consider Peak Air Demand Requirements

And finally, before you go out and call up your air technician, there’s one last thing to consider — peak air demand requirements. Up until now, we’ve talked about how much air and pressure you’ll need in an everyday situation. But, as you know, not every day at your facility is the same. Sometimes it’s seriously hot in your facility. Sometimes you need to run some machines longer or harder than usual. It’s important to factor in peak air demand requirements when you’re sizing your air compressor, so you don’t run out of air when you need it most. We added on 30% of the estimated CFM in the first step for this exact reason. 

Depending on your air system, you may need to size up slightly, or even consider implementing a smaller backup air compressor to relieve your main compressor during peak use. This consideration can be tricky, so it’s a good idea to talk with an engineer or air compressor technician to get a confident solution for your unique facility. 

Sizing an air compressor takes a bit of math and a bit of research, but the effort is well worth it. Purchasing the right size air compressor for your facility means you save money upfront, and through the lifespan of your compressor, as you choose the most efficient option for your facility’s needs. If you’re stuck on any part of sizing an air compressor for your facility, the TMI team is here to help. No matter what you need, what size air compressor, or what type, our expert technicians can walk through your air requirements to match you with the most efficient air system for your facility. Give us a call at 800-875-9555 or contact us online today.

3 Types of Air Compressors

For many industrial applications, air compressors are a necessity. But choosing the right air compressor for your facility is a little easier said than done. There are a number of air compressors on the market, all designed to do things a little differently. The first step to choosing the appropriate air compressor for your application is understanding the three main types of air compressors most used today. Here’s a comprehensive look at 3 types of air compressors, how they work, and what they’re used for.

01. Reciprocating Air Compressors

The most common air compressors are positive displacement machines. While there are a few different types of positive displacement air compressors, they all work in generally the same way. A cavity inside the machine draws in and stores air. Then, the working components of the air compressor slowly compress the air in that cavity, increasing air pressure and potential energy.

A reciprocating air compressor is one of the most popular types of positive displacement air compressors. Reciprocating air compressors use a piston with a cylinder to compress air in its confined space. As air volume is reduced, pressure increases.

Reciprocating air compressors are:

  • Available as air or water cooled
  • Available in both lubricated and non-lubricated configurations
  • Available in a vast range of different pressures and capacities

Applications for reciprocating air compressors include:

  • Smaller construction sites
  • Workshops
  • Applications where they are not used continuously

Reciprocating air compressors are not designed for continuous use. They are best suited to smaller work sites and applications that have longer cycle times.

02. Rotary Screw Air Compressors

Another popular type of air compressor is the rotary screw compressor. This is another positive displacement air compressor, but it compresses air a little differently than the reciprocating compressor. A rotary screw air compressor has two internal rotors that turn in opposite directions. As they turn, the air is trapped between the rotors, which builds up pressure within the compressor’s housing.

Rotary screw air compressors:

  • Are available in many configurations. Spiral lobe oil flooded and single-stage helical are the most popular options.
  • Are oil cooled with either water-cooled or air-cooled oil coolers.
  • Designed for continuous use
  • Range in power from 5hp to 350hp

Applications for rotary screw air compressors:

  • Large manufacturing plants
  • Large construction sites
  • Any operation that needs a continuous supply of compressed air

Rotary screw air compressors are ideal for larger industrial applications because, unlike the reciprocating air compressor, they are designed for continuous use. They are not well suited to smaller applications as constant starting and stopping is damaging to the machine.

03. Centrifugal Air Compressor

The third type of air compressor is a centrifugal air compressor. This air compressor is a dynamic air compressor, rather than a positive displacement compressor. Centrifugal air compressors rely on the transfer of energy from a rotating impeller to the air.

An impeller is a disk with radial blades that spins forcefully inside the cylinder. As the impeller spins, air within the compressor gains velocity and is then pushed through a diffuser where it builds up pressure and is moved into a condenser. This method of compression means that centrifugal air compressors are most efficient when they are running at high speeds or near full capacity.

Centrifugal air compressors:

  • Deliver a continuous flow of compressed air
  • Are oil-free by design. The oil-lubricated gear is separated from the air by shaft seals and atmospheric vents.
  • Are relatively low maintenance, as they do not require much contact between internal and rotating parts.
  • Can deliver large amounts of compressed air with a relatively small machine
  • Can reach around 1,000 hp

Applications for centrifugal air compressors include:

  • Sensitive applications that require the highest standard of oil-free air
  • Large industrial applications that require continuous large amounts of compressed air

Centrifugal air compressors deliver a continuous flow of air through the compressor. For this reason, they are best suited to applications that require a higher air capacity. As mentioned above, these compressors are more efficient at greater capacities, so it’s best to opt for a centrifugal air compressor when you have large, continuous air demands.

While these are the three most common types of air compressors, there are a number of compressor configurations within each of these types,  all delivering different levels of air at varying capacities. If you’re new to air compressors, the TMI Compressed Air team is here to help. Our experts would be happy to match you with the right air compressor or compressed air system for your application.

If you’re feeling confident about which type of air compressor is right for you, we’d suggest you move onto Selecting the Appropriate Air Compressor Control System. It’s the next step in choosing the right compressor for your facility.

Selecting the Appropriate Air Compressor Control System

If you’re looking into a new air compressor for your company or facility, there are many considerations to make, from the type of compressor you choose to its size. Another important decision to consider is how your air compressor will be controlled. Your air compressor control system determines how much air you get, at what pressure, and when. It’s also a key factor in your air system’s overall efficiency.

If you’re new to air compressors and their control systems, this article takes a look at each available air compressor control system, breaks down its advantages and disadvantages, and gives you insight into which air compressors and applications that system is right for. Read on to discover the appropriate air compressor control system for your application:

Start/Stop Air Compressor Control System

The simplest control available, start/stop air compressor control systems do exactly what you’d imagine. They start when the machine’s pressure switch indicates that air pressure has fallen below the minimum discharge pressure, and they stop when the system has reached desired pressure.

In general, this air compressor control is best for applications with very low duty cycles. It is not well-suited to applications with frequent cycling; the constant starting will cause the motor to overheat.

The advantage of a start/stop air compressor control system is that you’re only drawing power when the compressor is needed. For low duty-cycle applications, this can contribute to significant energy savings.

The disadvantage of a start/stop air compressor control system is the compressor will have to compress a higher receiver pressure to allow air to be drawn from the receiver while the compressor is stopped.

Type of Compressor: Both reciprocating and rotary screw compressors can use start/stop air compressor controls.

General Application: Best used for applications with low duty cycles and intermittent use. Not an ideal option for a frequent cycling application.

Load/Unload Air Compressor Control Systems

Load/Unload air compressor control systems are also known as constant speed control. This type of air compressor control system allows the motor to run continuously, while unloading the compressor when discharge pressure is adequate.

The advantage of a load/unload air compressor control system is that you can eliminate the concern of overheating the compressor’s motor. Unlike the start/stop option, the motor keeps running, so you don’t have to worry about constant starts affecting the machine’s performance.

The disadvantage of a load/unload air compressor control system is that the system is constantly running. While this takes pressure off the motor, it’s not great for your facility’s energy bill. You might find that your compressor draws only slightly less power unloaded as it does loaded, while delivering no useful work.

Type of Compressor: Load/unload air compressor control systems are used for both reciprocating and rotary screw compressors.

General Applications: Can be used for a wide range of applications, but may not be the best option for large, industrial compressors that draw too much energy to justify the cost of their constant power draw.

Modulating Air Compressor Controls

Also known as throttling or capacity control, modulating air compressor controls work to progressively reduce air compressor output to match flow requirements. This is typically achieved by throttling or closing the inlet valve, reducing air to the compressor.

Modulating air compressor controls cannot be used on reciprocating or oil-free rotary screw compressors, and isn’t particularly efficient for oil or lubricated rotary screw air compressors.

The advantage of modulating air compressor controls is that you can vary output of your compressor to meet flow requirements. As pressure drops to a specified minimum, the compressor is unloaded.

The disadvantage of modulating air compressor control systems is that they’re not widely applicable. They’re best used for centrifugal air compressors, where they are both effective and efficient.

Type of Compressor: Modulating controls are best suited to centrifugal air compressors. They can also be used with lubricated rotary screw compressors, but are not the most efficient control option.

General Applications: Most often seen in large, industrial applications that must meet stringent air quality requirements. These applications typically require a centrifugal air compressor.

Dual/Auto Dual Air Compressor Control Systems

A dual or auto dual air compressor control system provides a greater range of control options for small reciprocating air compressors and for lubricant-injected rotary screw compressors.

Dual control air compressor control systems are used in small reciprocating compressors, and enable the operator to select either start/stop or load/unload controls, depending on the compressor’s application.

Auto Dual air compressor control systems are applied to lubricant-injected rotary screw compressors. They function to modulate the compressor to a pre-set reduced capacity. If the compressor has been running unloaded past a certain set period of time, the auto dual controls will stop the compressor.

The advantage of a dual or auto dual air compressor control system is flexibility. It allows the operator to select the control option that best suits the application. In the case of auto dual systems, it also protects your facility from excessive energy use, without putting stress on the motor of your air compressor.

The disadvantage of these systems is their limited application. They are not a control system that can be applied across a wide range of compressor types or applications.

Type of Compressor: Small reciprocating compressors and lubricant-injected rotary screw compressors.

General applications: Small industrial applications that do not need constant compressed air.

Variable Displacement Air Compressor Control Systems

Variable displacement air compressor control systems enable the compressor to adjust output pressure without starting or stopping, or loading and unloading. Generally, variable displacement air compressor control schemes combine a sliding or turn valve in conjunction with a modulating inlet valve to deliver more accurate, efficient pressure control.

The advantage of these systems is that they respond much better to changing output pressure requirements, without adding stress to the compressor with constant starting and stopping.

The disadvantage of a variable displacement air compressor control system is that it requires multiple control systems to function simultaneously. Pressure switch, variable capacity valve, and inlet valve must all be functioning together and properly for effective pressure control.

Type of Compressor: Variable displacement is applied to both reciprocating and rotary screw air compressors of various sizes.

General applications: Any industrial application, but is especially useful for compressed air systems that operate a compressor in two or more partially-loaded conditions.

Variable Speed Drive Air Compressor Controls

A variable speed drive is undoubtedly the most efficient air compressor control system available today. These control systems can hold compressor discharge pressure to +/- 1 psi ensuring your compressor is only working as hard as it has to. Air compressors with a variable speed drive make use of an electric motor that adjusts motor speed in response to system signals, to deliver the right amount of air, at the right time.

The advantage of a variable speed drive air compressor control system is that your air compressor only works as hard as it has to. This preserves the lifespan of the compressor while reducing its energy draw, helping to keep your facility at peak efficiency.

The disadvantage of a variable speed drive comes in the application. If your facility is only using the compressor with variable speed drive at lower speeds, you may not see the same energy savings as a compressor that’s used more constantly and closer to full capacity.

Type of Compressor: Variable speed drive air compressor control systems can be applied to a wide range of air compressor types, including reciprocating and rotary screw compressors.

General applications: Best used in mid-to-large-sized industrial applications, but can provide significant energy efficiency even to smaller applications that require constant compressed air.

Not sure which air compressor control system is right for you? Let the TMI team help. As compressed air efficiency experts, we’re always working to match our clients with the most efficient compressed air components. We can help you find the right air compressor control system for your application, that delivers you the best performance with high efficiency.

4 Common Air Compressor Problems [With Solutions]

Air compressors are an expensive, integral component of most facilities’ everyday operations. When your air compressor starts acting up, you lose time in production, which means a loss in profits. Like any piece of machinery, there are a few problems that we tend to see often with air compressors, and that have easily accessible solutions. Here are the solutions to 4 common air compressor problems you might experience often at your facility:

Problem #1: Compressor Is Constantly Leaking Air

If your air compressor is leaking air, it’s an issue. Air leaks are a top cause of excessive energy usage, and it also means your compressor isn’t able to function properly. You’ll know your air compressor is leaking when you shut it down and see that the pressure gauge indicates a drop in pressure. You might also have problems with the air compressor failing to shut off and stay off, because it’s compensating for the consistent loss of pressure.

To solve a constant air leak, you have to find the source of the leak and fix it. The best way to find air leaks in your compressed air system is to either:

  • Listen for air leaks. When your air compressor is running, take a walk around your plant. Any hissing sounds you hear are indications of an air leak. Connection points are a common culprit, but you may also find leaks along hoses.


  • Look for air leaks. If you’re having trouble hearing your air leak, take a few minutes to apply liquid soap to the connections, couplers, and pressure switch, while the compressor is unplugged. When you start it again, keep a close eye to see if you notice any bubbles forming. Those bubbles indicate a leak.

If neither of these methods turns up air leaks, take a look at the tank check valve. If it’s failing to close completely, it could be the cause of your drop in pressure. Inspect the tank check valve — it may need to be cleaned or replaced.

Once you’ve located the source of your compressor’s leak, take steps to fix it. We’ve written an article about How to Stop Air Compressor Leaks to help guide you through it.

Problem #2: Air Compressor Won’t Start

While problem #1 often causes air compressors to run constantly, another common problem is when you can’t get your air compressor to start at all. There are a few reasons this can happen, so it’s easiest to run through this troubleshooting list from the simplest to most difficult fix.

  • No Power. Make sure the compressor is plugged in and power is on. If it’s still not working, push the reset button.
  • Low Oil. It’s easy to forget to change the oil on an air compressor, but the results can be dramatic. (That’s why we always recommend a regular service schedule.) If your air compressor won’t start, and power isn’t the problem, check and change the oil.
  • Power Switch Failure. If your air compressor won’t turn on, there could be an issue with the power switch itself. A simple adjustment to the pressure switch should be able to fix any lack of contact between the pressure switch and the inner circuitry.
  • Pressure problem. Your air compressor also won’t turn on if the tank pressure is too low in relation to the cut-in pressure. This is easily fixed by either adjusting the pressure switch or replacing it with one with a lower cut-in PSI.

Problem #3: Air Compressor is Too Loud

Air compressors, depending on the kind you have, are inherently loud machines. But, if you notice your air compressor is making a lot more noise than usual, know that this is a common problem you can probably troubleshoot. Here are a few reasons your air compressor is making an excessive amount of noise, and how to fix it:

  • Loose parts. Any loose component in your air compressor will contribute to louder noise during operation. Take a minute to tighten any loose components like the pulley, flywheel, belt, belt guard, cooler, clamps, or any other accessories. Then, check to see if the noise is gone.
  • Pistons hitting valve plate. If the air compressor’s piston is hitting the valve plate, you’ll hear a whole lot of noise. Take out the cylinder head and check for any dirt or debris on the piston. Once it’s clean, replace the gasket and reattach the head.
  • Crankcase problems. The crankcase is another common culprit for a noisy machine. Check the crankcase. Does it look old and worn out? Replacing the oil or bearings can help, or it may just be time to replace the crankcase outright.
  • Improper floor mounting. If your air compressor isn’t properly and tightly mounted to the floor, it’ll make all kinds of noise. Check to see how vibration pads are weathering. If they’re worn, replace them. Tighten the bolts on the compressor as well to make sure it’s securely mounted to the floor and can’t move around.

Problem #4: Excessive Oil in Compressor Discharge Air

This is a common air compressor problem that can seriously affect your daily operations. When too much oil is aerosolized by the compressor’s discharge, it can damage pneumatic tools and accessories, or negatively affect the quality or your production. Luckily, this is a common problem that’s easily solved. Here are a few reasons you might have too much oil in your compressor’s discharge air:

  • Restricted intake. When intake filters wear out, they can restrict the compressor’s air intake, causing oily discharge. This is easily fixed by simply cleaning or replacing intake filters.
  • Worn piston rings. Piston rings should be replaced periodically. When they’re not, they can cause a range of problems, one of which is oil in your compressor’s discharge air. Replace those piston rings to fix the problem.
  • Overfilled oil tank. If there’s too much oil in your compressor, some of it can seep into the discharge. Never fill your oil tank over the “full” mark displayed on the gauge. If this is the problem, just reduce the oil level to that “full” mark.
  • Wrong oil viscosity. Your compressor’s oil viscosity should match the requirements of your compressor. If it doesn’t, it’ll end up in your compressor’s discharge air. If this is the problem, empty the oil tank completely, and refill with a different oil of the proper viscosity.
  • Inverted piston rings. Upside-down piston rings indicate that the crankshaft is starting to go. They also contribute to oily discharge. Check the piston rings. If they are inverted, it’s probably time to replace the crankshaft.

All four of these common air compressor problems are items our service team sees every day on the road. If you keep running into problems with your air compressor, especially common problems like these, you might benefit from a regular maintenance program that checks for and troubleshoots all of these issues on a regular basis.

If you’d like to get ahead of common air compressor problems and avoid the expensive troubleshooting time that goes with them, the team at TMI can help. Our trained, certified technicians can put your compressors on their schedule to service regularly, so issues like these are far less common. And if you do experience a problem, our team of engineers is available to diagnose your system’s problem 24/7. For maintenance programs or emergency service requests, get in touch with TMI Compressed Air Systems today.

5 Benefits of Aluminum Compressed Air Piping

For decades, engineers have used black iron, galvanized steel, copper, or stainless steel for compressed air systems. And while many of these options, notably black iron, have performed decently and remained favorites in the compressed air community, they are no longer the most practical or cost-effective solution. Though black iron piping does feature a low upfront cost, the costs associated with installation, maintenance, and repair quickly add up.

For manufacturers and plant managers looking for a better solution, aluminum piping is quickly becoming the most sought-after compressed air piping material on the market. Here are 5 benefits of aluminum compressed air piping that make it the best choice for any compressed air system:

01. Low Installation Costs

Steel or iron pipe installation is hard work. The material itself is heavy and grimy to deal with. The installer needs to thread each length of steel pipe, often overhead. Because of the weight and cumbersome nature of iron and steel, they often require more than one expert to complete the installation.

Aluminum compressed air piping, on the other hand, is lightweight, durable, and simple to install. Key features that make aluminum piping installation easy include:

  • Lightweight means only one technician is required for installation
  • Simple push-in lock-and-seal installation doesn’t require threading, welding, gluing, or crimping.
  • No special preparation or equipment required, other than standard cutting and deburring.

All of these features of aluminum compressed air piping work to drive down the total cost of installation, making it the most affordable option on the market.

02. Aluminum Compressed Air Piping is Less Likely to Leak

Given that aluminum compressed air piping doesn’t require threaded connections, it is much less likely to leak over time. The biggest problem with piping materials like iron and steel is that threaded connections will inevitably leak air. Air leaks are a costly problem that can significantly drive up your energy use.

By installing aluminum compressed air piping, you avoid the concern of leaks due to threaded connections altogether. The solid connection of aluminum piping also contributes to the overall longer lifespan of the system.

03. Exceptional Durability

Though aluminum is lightweight, that doesn’t mean it’s not durable. Aluminum can be expected to hold up just as long, if not longer than steel or iron piping systems. Systems like the one offered by Infinity Aluminum Piping provide marine-grade all-metal systems that can deliver exceptional durability for decades.

04. Aluminum Compressed Air Piping Doesn’t Corrode

Steel and copper pipes do eventually corrode over time. Even if your compressed air system makes use of a moisture trap, there will always be some moisture in the system, which will eventually lead to the corrosion and rusting of pipes. Even galvanized pipes, which are not typically galvanized on the interior, will begin to rust and corrode. This corrosion eventually leads to airflow restriction and can present air cleanliness problems.

Aluminum piping is naturally corrosion-resistant. Over time, your aluminum compressed air piping system will retain optimal airflow, providing better air quality and reduced energy costs overall.

05. An Affordable, Long-Term Investment

Perhaps the greatest benefit of aluminum compressed air piping is that it is an affordable, long-term investment. Though the cost for materials may be slightly higher than black iron or galvanized steel pipe, you’ll save as much as 50% on installation costs, and you’ll have installed a piping system that’s designed to last for years to come. With no threat of corrosion or leaks through threaded connections, there’s little maintenance that’s necessary for aluminum piping systems.

When you opt for a universal system like Infinity’s aluminum air compressor piping, you reap the added benefit of compatible pipe and fittings that can be reused again and again across your system.

Whether you’re looking to install a new compressed air system or upgrade the system you already have, aluminum is the best material for the job. A long term investment that’s quick and easy to install, aluminum will hold up without leaks or corrosion for years to come.

Interested in aluminum air compressor piping? TMI is a proud distributor of Infinity aluminum piping. With leak-free guaranteed connections and fittings that can be reused again and again, Infinity is the brand you can trust to eliminate air leaks in your system and provide long-term returns. For more information about Infinity or installing aluminum piping in your air compressor system, get in touch with the experts at TMI Compressed Air.

Oil vs. Oil Free Air Compressors

For any company, an air compressor is a big investment — and a necessary one. In most manufacturing facilities, if your air compressors are down, you’re not working. Purchasing the right air compressor is a big decision and one that can require a bit of research.

If you’re new to the air compressor purchasing process, one of the biggest distinctions you’ll come across in the industry is oil vs. oil-free air compressors. In this article, we’re going to break down the differences between the two and help you decide which option is right for your application.

Oil vs. Oil-Free Air Compressors: What’s the Difference?

The difference between oil and oil-free air compressors is the lubrication method used to keep an air compressor’s air-end moving smoothly. Most industrial air compressors use oil-injected compressors because they are less expensive and tend to last longer than their oil-free counterparts. An oil-free air compressor is just what it sounds like — an air compressor that does not use oil to lubricate components in the compression chamber. Although they require a larger monetary commitment, an oil-free air compressor may offer your facility priceless benefits.

Why Would You Use an Oil-Free Air Compressor?

If they’re more expensive to purchase and maintain, why would a manufacturing facility choose an oil-free air compressor over an oil-lubricated air compressor? It has to do with the air compressor’s application.

An oil-injected compressor is very effective at delivering compressed air quickly and consistently. The oil lubrication can help extend the life of the compressor, but the drawback is that during the compression process, oil particles or oil mist can get into the air that’s being compressed. This can lead to oil contamination in the compressed air you’re getting out of your system.

For many parts manufacturing workshops and industrial applications, a bit of oil contamination isn’t a problem. For sensitive applications, however, oil contamination is unacceptable. In these situations, an oil-free air compressor is necessary. Since these air compressors don’t use oil in the compression chamber at all, they can deliver a cleaner, oil-contaminant free compressed air end-product.

What Applications Can Benefit from an Oil-Free Air Compressor?

Since most applications do use an oil-lubricated air compressor, it’s easier to define the industries that do not. The following industries require a certain standard of air purity that means an oil-free air compressor is necessary:

    • Pharmaceutical applications
    • Food and beverage manufacturing
    • Electronics
    • High-tech manufacturing
    • Textile manufacturing
    • Robotics development
    • Paint applications
    • Some automotive manufacturing applications

The easy answer to the oil vs oil-free air compressor question is this: if air quality matters to you, you need an oil-free air compressor.

Understanding Air Purity Requirements for Oil vs. Oil-Free Air Compressors

If you’re not quite sure if air quality is important enough to your application to warrant an oil-free air compressor, check your ISO Class requirements. Compressed air has its own set of ISO standards, ranking air purity from ISO Class 0-5. If your application requires an air purity standard of either Class 1 or Class 0, you’ll need an oil-free air compressor. These two standards are often misunderstood, so we’ll break them down a bit further.

ISO Class 1 – Mostly Oil-Free Air

Compressors that meet a Class 1 ISO are considered to produce “mostly clean air”. That’s to say, an air compressor that provides air that meets Class 1 ISO standards must have an oil concentration of 0/01 mg/m3 at 1 bar(a) 14.5psia and 20° C (68°  F). It’s important to know that this standard doesn’t mean the resulting compressed air is totally oil-free.

ISO Class 0 – Oil-Free Air

If you’re looking for totally oil-free air, choose an oil-free air compressor that delivers air according to ISO Class 0 standards. These compressors can guarantee 100 percent oil-free air, a claim that ISO Class 1 compressors cannot make. With an ISO Class 0 compressor, you can be absolutely certain that no contamination will reach your resulting product or end consumer.

In Conclusion: Oil vs. Oil-Free Air Compressors

Choosing an oil vs oil-free air compressor comes down to your application. If you need clean, oil-free air, an oil-free air compressor is right for you. If the air quality doesn’t matter as much for your application, an oil-lubricated air compressor is a durable, high-performance option that will deliver the air you need at a more affordable investment level.

Whether an oil or oil-free air compressor is right for your application, TMI has the brand and model you’re looking for. As air compressor experts, we can design the system that’s best for your facility, and install and service your new air compressor. With reasonable rates and convenient maintenance programs, never worry about your air compressor again. Give our team a call at 800-875-955 or contact us online today for a personalized quote.

How to Stop Air Compressor Leaks

Air leaks are one of the most common operating concerns for air compressors. On average, about 10-20% of all plant electricity goes to the air compressor room. If your compressed air system is leaking, you’re spending a lot of energy on air you’ll never use.

While air compressor leaks can feel like an inevitable problem that just comes with the equipment, it’s good to know that there are ways to prevent and stop air compressor leaks. The team here at TMI always advises system optimization and preventative maintenance, but if your system has already sprung a few leaks, there are ways to fix them. Some of these fixes take just minutes to complete, and can contribute to significant savings for your plant. Here are a few key ways to stop air compressor leaks.

How to Stop Air Compressor Leaks

The best way to find air compressor leaks is to listen for them. A quick walk around your plant while your compressor system is on should reveal some of your biggest problem areas. If you hear a hissing sound as you go past hoses or connection points, you’ve got an air leak. Here’s what to do about them:

#1 Tighten Connections

Anything that can loosen is a prime spot for an air leak. It’s worthwhile to go around your compressed air system and tighten any connection points regularly. If you see or feel any loose components, tighten those as well. The more secure your system, the less compressed air you’ll lose.

#2 Repair or Replace Parts

Old, replaceable parts are another key spot where you’re likely to find a few air compressor leaks. Old filters, lubricators, regulators, flanges and leaking drains are common air compressor leak points. If you can, repair or replace those old parts as soon as possible. Even a small repair, like changing the filter, can go a long way to ensuring your air compressor is running as efficiently as possible.

#3 Swap Out Hose and Tube Sections

Air hoses and tubes are another common spot for air compressor leaks. These leaks might be a little harder to identify, but if you hear a leak, and can’t quite place it, apply a bit of soap to the area where you suspect a leak. When your compressor comes on, you’ll see bubbles popping up around the air leak. Swap out that leaking section of hose or tube for a new one, and your air compressor will be in good shape.

#4 Replace O-Rings and Valve Seals

Any rubber part on your air compressor is likely to harden and crack over time. Heat and pressure take a toll, especially on parts like O-rings and valve seals. Even though these are small components of your compressed air system, as they wear out and harden, they’re unable to maintain a good seal, and will start to leak air. Replace these parts regularly, and you should be able to stop a number of air compressor leaks.

#5 Tighten Fasteners

While this last method to stop air compressor leaks might take a bit more time, it’s still a worthwhile fix that will help increase the lifespan of your compressor as a whole. Internally, air compressor motors can destabilize if screws and fasteners in internal components begin to shake loose. If you notice any shaky components or extra noises coming from the motor, tightening those internal screws and fasteners can help fix the problem, and stop air leaks while you’re at it.

Proper, Regular Maintenance is the Best Way to Prevent Air Compressor Leaks

Air compressor leaks lead to costly inefficiencies. While many can be stopped or fixed, the best way to avoid air compressor leaks altogether is to schedule and complete regular maintenance. Air compressors are big-budget equipment. The better you take care of them, the longer they’ll last and the less they’ll cost over time. Here are a few ways you can keep up on air compressor maintenance to stop air leaks from happening in the first place.

Establish a Maintenance Schedule

Air compressors should be serviced regularly. Just like you’d change the oil in your car, an air compressor needs regular oil changes and maintenance. The easiest way to stay on top of maintenance and prevent air compressor leaks is to set up a regular maintenance plan or service schedule with your air compressor supplier. That way, their service technicians just come out to your plant and complete any necessary maintenance. This is a set-it-and-forget-it option that ensures your air compressor gets the service it needs, without adding much hassle to your schedule.

Regularly Inspect Compressors

In addition to a regular service schedule, it’s also a good idea to have one of your own maintenance or facilities staff inspecting your compressors regularly. Even a simple weekly walk around your compressed air system can go a long way to identifying air leaks early on. And the faster you stop air compressor leaks, the more you save.

Complete a System Audit

Smart, energy-efficient compressed air systems are the best way to keep your plant running efficiently and at peak productivity. System audits can help you get there. If you suspect your system has air leaks, or might not be running efficiently, a compressed air system audit can help you get to the bottom of it. TMI’s technicians use kW and pressure loggers to accurately and comprehensively measure your system and benchmark it against industry averages. From there, we can identify any problems, and provide recommendations to help you get your system running at peak efficiency.

Air leaks are a big concern for any plant with a compressed air system, but they can be prevented and stopped. With a bit of regular maintenance, and few simple repairs and replacements, you can minimize or stop air compressor leaks, helping your plant to function at peak efficiency.

Have a leaking air compressor, or a compressed air system with leaks? Either way, TMI can help you out. We are compressed air system experts, and we would be happy to help you troubleshoot your leaking system. From air system audits to emergency maintenance, we can fix your compressed air leak, now. Give our experts a call today at 800-875-9555 or contact us online for more information.