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Understanding the Difference Between Types of Air Compressors

July 01, 2016

Air Compressor Types

Purchasing an industrial air compressor system isn’t as easy as running down to the local big box hardware store. These systems represent a vital investment in your business. They are meant to fulfill a distinct need in your company and should be designed with all of your unique requirements in mind. Do you know the difference between the various types of air compressors? As you begin your research it is helpful to understand how each system works to ensure you make the right decision. Purchasing the right kind from the get-go will you save you a lot of money, energy, and time in the long run. Let’s look at the different types of air compressors and their advantages and disadvantages.

Which compressor type is right for you?

Every situation is unique, and it all depends on how and why you use an air compressor. We are going to lay out the differences in a few popular types and discuss their pros and cons. First let’s look at system that most laymen are familiar with.

Piston Compressors

Piston compressors are the most common air compressor tool, often found in hardware stores for the at home user. These also come in larger sizes for industrial applications. This compressor type uses a piston, which moves inside a cylinder, to compress the air. While the smaller versions are typically used for hand tools, paint jobs and roofing, the larger systems are used in oil refineries, chemical plans and natural gas processing. These machines are work-horses but are often louder and dirtier than scroll and rotary screw compressors and as such are not ideal for those needing cleaner compressed air.

Scroll Compressors

While scroll compressors are not as popular, they are nice because they run smoothly, make very little sound or vibration due to their clever design. This type compressor uses two spiral elements. One spiral does not move, while the other spiral moves in small eccentric circles inside the other spiral. The air gets transported in small air pockets to the center of the spiral. With fewer moving parts that reciprocating compressors these machines are very reliable. This type of compressor is used where clean air is of particular importance, for example, a drinking water-treatment facility. The downside of this type of air compressor is that they don’t produce high airflow and may not work for those with high capacity needs.

Rotary Compressors

One of the most popular compressor models is the rotary screw compressor. It is used in a wide range of industrial applications from medical research to food manufacturing. It uses two rotors that turn in opposing directions to compress the air. This type of compressor can supply a large amount of air fairly quietly and very efficiently. These compressors can be very compact when installed and will run smoothly with minimal vibrations.

There are two kinds of rotary screw compressors: oil injected and oil-free. Each offer a unique benefit and are typically designed based on the requirements of the application. Oil free rotary screw compressors offer the cleaner alternative for applications in which even miniscule contamination is not acceptable such as medical applications and superconductor manufacturing.

Oil injected rotary compressors utilize the oil not only to cool, but also to help filter non-polar particulates from the incoming air. Often times these are used in conjunction with coalescer or filter vessels to help purify the air.

Buying the right type air compressor

As you can see, industrial air compression systems vary in size, scope and price. When your company is dependent on compressed air we can utilized our 40 years of experience in compressed air systems to help make the process simple. Contact us today and we will help you find the right equipment to fit your needs. We will audit your needs and help you design a compressor system that is based on your unique situation.

Bi-State Compressor, Inc.
1571 Fenpark Drive
Fenton, Missouri 63026

Phone: (636) 349-8333
Fax: (636) 349-1411

Should the need ever arise, we offer 24 hour emergency service.

Rental units are also in stock, available for immediate hook-up.