July 24, 2023
How to choose the right commercial air compressor for your needs
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
To select the right air compressor for your needs, you must understand your application and demand for air. The right type and size compressor can help you reduce energy costs and optimize productivity. Here’s how to get it right.
Understanding pressure and flow
Compressed air flow is typically measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM) or liters per second (l/s). Compressed air pressure is usually represented in pounds per square inch (PSI) or bar. Think of flow as the ability to perform a process within an acceptable time frame. Pressure is the ability to support multiple processes at once.
Choosing the right size commercial air compressor
A compressor that's too small won't produce enough flow and pressure to complete required tasks. On the other hand, a compressor that's too large will cost more to buy and operate. This can result in wasted air and energy expenses. Correctly sizing a compressor requires real data about your needs, not guesswork.
Whether upgrading your current compressor or designing a new system, you'll want an air system audit from a professional. This will measure your actual demand. If you're planning for future capacity, keep in mind that a compressor should address current needs.
Tip! Instead of anticipating potential future demand by oversizing, add a compressor only when your needs expand. This will provide flexibility and ensure you're not producing more air than necessary. Also, keep in mind that process improvements often reduce air demand. You may be able to expand your operation without expanding air production.
Watch this video to know more
Select the right compressor technology
Most commercial air compressors designed for commercial duty are either piston or rotary screw compressors.
Piston/reciprocating compressors are used in many small machine shops, body shops, tire shops, service centers, and small manufacturing facilities. Simple and robust, piston compressors are relatively inexpensive and easy to maintain. However, they also come with limitations.
● They are meant for intermittent use and can work for 50-60% of their duty cycle (about 30 to 35 minutes per hour).
● These machines require proper cooling time between duty cycles to prevent overheating and potential failure.
● Piston compressors produce significant oil in the compressed airstream. This must be treated properly to prevent damage to pneumatic piping and equipment.
● They are loud to operate. This can be hard on employees or customers.
If these disadvantages don’t impact your operation, a piston compressor may be an economical choice.
Rotary screw compressors are sophisticated machines designed for operations requiring a constant supply of compressed air. They can run continuously. Also, rotary screw compressors are often equipped with an integrated dryer to provide clean, dry air.
They come in sizes ranging from a few to a few hundred horsepower. Some units are mounted on an air tank to provide additional storage capacity. Integrated systems combine the compressor, dryer and tank in one unit, enabling plug-and-play installation of a complete system with a small footprint.
Variable Speed Drive
Air demand may fluctuate as work progresses. A variable speed drive (VSD) compressor senses air demand fluctuations. With this, it changes speed to produce the right amount of compressed air.
This is important because energy costs make up as much as 80% of the total operating costs of a commercial air compressor. To offset this expense, a VSD compressor can reduce energy costs by 35-60%.
Given this benefit, VSD air compressors are becoming the norm rather than the exception. Many operators can reinvest these savings into their business.
Ask an air system professional about the best options for your needs.
Compressors come in all types and sizes. From massive machines that keep huge production plants running to the small versions that avid do-it-yourselfers are using, there is a compressor for everyone. With so many models to choose from, which one is the right compressor for you? This guide will help you in making the right decision for your business.
Would you like to turn to one our experts? They are happy to assist you in finding the optimal compressor.