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Home > What's New > 3 Secrets to selecting the right Air Compressor
  • 3 Secrets to selecting the right Air Compressor2009-05-11
  • What are the secrets to choosing the right Air Compressor for my operation?

    Compressed air is used widely throughout industry and is often considered the "fourth utility" at most facilities. So...before you invest the money...invest some time to learn these compressed air basics.

    1. Gain a basic understanding of Compressed Air terminology:
    Knowing these basics can speed up your selection process and boost your ability to choose the most efficient and cost effective air compressor system. You'll be better informed to talk about your needs with any air compressor sales representative.

    SCFM: Standard Cubic Feet per Minute.
    This is the volume of air flow. You will need to know how much SCFM you need to operate your equipment.

    PSIG: Pounds per Square Inch Gauge
    It is the pressure resulting from a force applied to an area of one square inch-a unit of pressure relative to the surrounding atmosphere.
    ISO: International Organization for Standardization
    The ISO provides a set of Standard Classes of Compressed Air Quality.
    ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world's largest developer and publisher of International Standards.
    Learn more-See these actual standards by clicking here.

    The duty cycle of a machine refers to how long it can keep operating before it needs a rest, or what percentage of the time it's designed to be in use. The Duty Cycle is generally 75% in Reciprocating Compressors and 100%with Screw Air Compressors. Example: During one hour of operation for a Reciprocating Compressor, the compressor will run 75% of that hour – or run for 45 minutes and rest for 15 minutes.

    VOLTAGE, AMPERE and PHASE: You should know what is available at your location to run your equipment. Always have a qualified electrician review electrical requirements

    These terms deal with the physical location of your compressor in relation to other equipment, noise level requirements, and ventilation. Also consider the need to have enough space around your compressor to perform needed maintenance.

    2. Gather your vital information.
    The best and easiest place to begin is to discover what your air requirements are according to your equipment manufacturer's specifications. Then...determine the answers to the following questions:

    -How much air flow (SCFM or CFM) is needed to operate ALL related equipment?
    CFM helps you determine the HORSEPOWER you'll need...which also affects your POWER requirements.

    -How much pressure (PSIG or PSI) is needed to operate ALL related equipment?
    Compressor discharge pressure (PSI: pounds per square inch) must exceed the PSI requirement of all pneumatic tools or equipment being operated. You want to make sure that your compressor can successfully provide the air you need for ALL your equipment.
    -What ISO Air Quality Classification do you need?
    Do you need oil-free air? Breathing air? Both of these can be produced with oil-free compressors, or with lubricated compressors and additional filtration equipment. Careful consideration should be given to the risk and cost associated with product contamination, before selecting an oil-free or lubricated air compressor.

    -What Class does your air fall into?
    Plant Air: Air tools, general plant air
    Instrument Air: Laboratories, paint spraying, powder coating, climate control
    Process Air: Food and pharmaceutical process air, electronics
    Breathing Air: Hospital air systems, diving tank refill stations, respirators for cleaning and/or grit blasting

    -What are your electrical or power requirements?
    Identify available incoming electrical service before specifying an air compressor. Always have a qualified electrician review electrical requirements. You may need to upgrade your electrical service.

    -Where is the best location for your compressor?
    An important consideration when utilizing a compressed air system within an operation is where to physically locate the unit. There isn't just one way to install a compressor, but be aware of all the advantages and disadvantages to each system and layout. For most plant environments, compressed air systems are designed to fit in a centralized area, adjacent or near the actual applications in which it serves. Sometimes it may be more beneficial to have several smaller compressors with separate distribution systems located throughout a plant rather than one larger compressor.

    -Do you need a back-up compressor?
    Downtime can be very costly. Consider how vital compressed air is to your operation to determine if you need a back-up.

    3. Apply your knowledge and data to help determine your air compressor specifications.
    Now you are ready to take all your information gathered on your air compressor needs and talk to an authorized air compressor distributor. With your vital information in can make a wise and cost efficient decision.
    The two most popular types of air compressors are Reciprocating Compressors and Rotary Screw Compressors.
    Reciprocating Air Compressors
    - Low initial cost
    - Low maintenance cost
    - Higher energy operating cost
    - Maximum Duty Cycle = 75%

    Reciprocating compressors are available in sizes from less than 1 hp to more than 600 hp. Oil less compressor models are also available for applications requiring a higher quality of air, such as breathing air in hospitals, or for use in food or pharmaceutical production.
    Rotary Screw Air Compressors
    - Medium initial cost
    - Medium maintenance cost
    - Lower energy operating cost
    - Maximum Duty Cycle = 100%

    There are various types of Air Compressors to select from and many things to consider in order to select the compressed air system that best suits your needs. Key issues are always reliability, cost-effectiveness, ease of operation and maintainability.
    1. Understand your needs.
    2. Gather your information and specifications from equipment manufacturers, and review your power requirements.
    3. Apply what you've learned and the data gathered...and talk to a knowledgable and authorized compressor distributor to help you make the best equipment choice.
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