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Direct Drive vs. Belt Drive Air Compressors

Whether you’re driving pneumatic tools or want to improve energy efficiency in your operation, the type of air compressor you purchase can make a big difference in the performance you’ll receive. Though many larger operations will go with a rotary screw compressor to provide tankless operation, many companies find themselves puzzling out the differences between direct drive units and belt-driven models when trying to make a decision between the types of air compressors available on the market.

In this article, we’ll get into the fine details and differences between these types of air compressors, whether you’re using a portable compressor or a stationary compressor for your operation. We’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages between a belt drive air compressor and a direct drive model, so that you can determine which is the best option for your needs, including initial investment, compressor performance, which has less maintenance, noise level, and similar aspects. Let’s get started.

Direct Drive Air Compressors

What is a direct drive compressor? A direct drive air compressor directly connects the motor to the compressor pump using a crankshaft. This direct transmission of power doesn’t limit the compressor to single-stage compressor operation, however, with two-stage compressors available with a direct drive power system.

Advantages of Direct Drive Air Compressors

Because they have fewer moving parts, direct drive air compressors are low maintenance, with fewer parts to wear and require replacement. This means that you’ll have fewer failure points than a belt-driven compressor and overall maintenance costs will be lower with less downtime.

This simplicity also means that it will do better in harsh environments, holding up better to extreme temperatures than its belt-driven counterparts. This makes a direct drive air compressor a better option for hot and cold weather, where belts can be impacted by the temperature. This represents the overall ruggedness of direct drive compressor options.

Direct drive air compressors also have higher levels of efficiency in operations, as there is no loss of power transmission in the belt. This allows you to get more energy from every cycle than you would receive from a belt drive compressor.

Disadvantages of Direct Drive Air Compressors

However, as with any list of benefits, direct drive compressors also have drawbacks. Because of the direct connection between the electric motor and the compressor pump, this compressor type tends to be much louder than a belt drive compressor.

The other issue that can arise is higher repair costs. Because there are fewer parts to fail, if one part does fail, it typically has a much higher cost of repair, because it is more integral to the overall operation of the direct drive compressor, such as a shaft seal at the connection points for the crankshaft.

Because the direct drive compressor must be constructed to higher initial standards to hold up in a wider range of environments and with fewer moving parts, it will often have a higher initial cost as its final disadvantage.

Common Applications of a Direct Drive Air Compressor

If you’re in a situation where you’ll need significant cubic feet per minute (CFM) and a large air compressor to keep your air compressor in operation, a direct drive rotary screw air compressor will generally provide the best outcomes for your operation, due to better energy efficiency, continuous operation, and lower downtime.

Belt-Driven Air Compressors

By comparison, a belt drive compressor uses a belt to connect the electric motor to the drive pump using a pulley system, which may include other items being powered such as an exhaust fan.

Advantages of Belt Drive Air Compressors

A belt drive air compressor will provide greater flexibility to your operation, allowing you to adapt to variable speed by changing out the pulley system for different-sized pulleys. This allows you to change how much air flow and pressure you can pack into your storage tank.

The fewer direct connection points of a belt drive compressor mean that this type of compressor will be less noisy than a direct drive compressor, making it more suitable for an indoor environment where the air compressor can’t be removed from the work area.

Because they don’t need to be as hardy as direct drive compressors, you’ll often find that belt drive compressors are less expensive initially than their direct drive counterparts, making it much easier on the budget for the initial investment.

Disadvantages of Belt Drive Air Compressors

Because the belt drive compressor uses a rubber belt to drive the compressor pump, the belt must remain at the proper tension. This means that at extreme temperatures, you may find that there is too much slack or too much tension in the belt, which impacts appropriate operation. This limits the range of temperatures in which it can operate.

Because the belt is made of a flexible material, there is some loss of efficiency in a belt drive air compressor, as there will always be some slippage given the properties of the belt material. Changes in temperature can impact this, making the belt slide more as the belt relaxes in higher temperatures, making the proper tension of vital importance to efficient operations.

Finally, the additional wear points will require more maintenance and more frequent downtime than direct drive systems, impacting your operational efficiency.

Common Applications of Belt Drive Air Compressors

A belt drive compressor will do best when flexibility is needed in an operation. If you need to push lug bolts with your crew this week and push paint the next, being able to rapidly change out your CFM and PSI by simply changing pulleys and belts can be a huge advantage. Belt drive systems also tend to be more portable, making them easier to move from point A to point B.

Belt Drive & Direct Drive Air Compressors: Which is Right for You?

Though you’ll need to consider all aspects of your operation, there are some differences between these two types of compressors that may stand out and help make your decision easier. As an example, temperature, maintenance, downtime, budget, or similar aspects may play a strong role in your selection process. To help you decide, here are a few factors to consider:

Use Frequency

If you only need to use an air compressor every once in a while, a belt drive will typically suit your needs much better, due to its lower overall cost and need for regular maintenance and downtime. For frequent to continuous use, the direct drive will be a better option, as it is designed to operate on a near-continuous basis with lower downtime and infrequent maintenance needs.

Budget

If you’re on a tight initial budget, a belt drive will work better, giving you a lower starting budget to get your air compressor into operation. However, if you’re concerned about your long-term operating budget, a direct drive will have lower maintenance costs down the road, often giving you a lower overall cost over the lifespan of the air compressor.

Maintenance

If you need to limit downtime on your line, a direct drive system that requires fewer maintenance tasks carried out on it is a better option than a belt drive, which will require more frequent services. The direct drive system will also have a longer overall service life, requiring less frequent replacement and providing a higher level of reliability than a belt drive system.

Environment

The environment that your air compressor will be used in can also impact the type that you should purchase, with harsh conditions and extreme temperatures causing problems for some air compressor types if it’s used there on a regular basis. For an ideal solution in a harsh environment, go with a direct drive system that has fewer wear points and maintenance requirements, rather than a belt drive air compressor that will not do as well in extreme temperatures below freezing or in very hot conditions.

Contact Advanced Air for Your Industrial Air Compressor Needs

Whether you’ve decided on the exact air compressor you need for your operation or need assistance deciding whether a belt drive air compressor or direct drive air compressor will be best for your company, Advanced Air & Vacuum can help. Our team of experienced professionals has worked in a wide range of industries, and knows what will work best for your operation. Please feel free to reach out today with any questions, for more information, or to get a quote on the perfect air compressor system for your business.

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How to Quiet an Air Compressor

Pressure Gauge on an Air Compressor

Though air compressors can be a very handy tool and pneumatic power source, they can also create a high noise level, making the search for a quiet compressor important to many business owners. However, just because you’re on the hunt for a quiet air compressor doesn’t mean that you have to have a lot of noise in the meantime. This article will delve into the causes of noise in a loud compressor, how to use different tools and techniques to quiet your air compressor, and what types of air compressor are the quietest to begin with.

How Loud are Air Compressors?

With the usual decibel range of a vacuum cleaner, an air compressor can be rather noisy. Used to power a pneumatic tool, air tool, air up car tires, or push paint or other material through a sprayer assembly, a silent air compressor is practically non-existent. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy normal conversation in your shop without the loud noise of your portable air compressor operating in the background.

But let’s start by talking about how sound volume is measured. Sound output is measured in decibels, which increase on a logarithmic scale. A decibel is the smallest change in sound volume that the human ear can detect. Using the scale, this means that a 40-decibel sound is 10 to the 4th power louder than a single decibel, or 1,000 times louder. In some situations, a decibel meter may be used to measure noise pollution in an environment, determining at which point hearing protection should be required of workers to protect their hearing.

Though some air compressors, such as rotary screw compressors, are by nature low noise generators, using a circular motion of a screw to compress the air into the system, most air compressors, including both a portable compressor and stationary compressors, create a lot of noise in industrial application. For that reason, taking steps to reduce noise in the work environment is important both to worker health and occupational safety. In this next section, we’ll discuss some of the ways you can reduce noise in your industrial application.

How to Make Air Compressor Quieter

The amount of noise that is generated in industrial applications can be bothersome, making normal conversation difficult and the work environment dangerous as workers fail to hear potential hazards due to the noise level. The powerful motor that runs the air compressor can create a lot of noise in and of itself, as can vibrations, the air intake, and other parts of the air compressor.

Air compressor noise reduction can happen in multiple ways, from an intake silencer to a soundproof enclosure, and all attempts at noise reduction make your shop a more pleasant place to work. Here are some of the top ways you can improve noise reduction in your industrial application.

Soundproof Box for Air Compressor

One option is moving your air compressor out of or away from the workspace. This can include building a soundproof box, complete with concrete block and acoustic foam. An intake muffler can generate less noise that would otherwise escape through the intake needed to keep air moving into the compressor.

However, when planning your acoustic barrier, remember to include a certain number of cubic feet within the enclosure, especially for air-cooled motors. You can also place rubber grommets between the feet of your stationary air compressors and the slab they’re mounted to so that vibrations don’t pass along the slab to generate more noise and vibration throughout the shop. You should also ensure that adequate ventilation is available to help keep your air compressor cool to ensure a long workable lifespan.

Air Compressor Sound Blanket

But what if you can’t create a soundproof box to enclose your air compressor? Hanging a sound blanket around the air compressor saves room while causing noise reduction to happen, which you could back on the outside with stainless steel bars to prevent it from being pulled into the intake muffler.

In addition to hanging sound blankets at the sides of your industrial air compressor, you can also include them over the top of your air compressor to further reduce and control noise in your industrial application. Rubber grommets can be placed between your air compressor and the slab it’s mounted on as well, or rubber mats can be placed beneath it, to help reduce the noise that is caused by vibration on the slab.

Perform Regular Air Compressor Maintenance

Regular maintenance can also impact how loud your air compressor can be. Maintenance helps your air compressor run more smoothly, reducing how much noise it generates. These steps should include:

  • Check lubrication levels on a regular basis. This system is typically laid out in your air compressor’s manual or on the manufacturer’s website. As mentioned above, an air compressor that requires oil changes will be quieter than an oil-free air compressor. Try to keep spare oil on hand so that you’re not caught short when you need it most.
  • Place the air compressor on a rubber mat to absorb vibrations and check the mat’s condition regularly. Because the vibration caused by the air compressor will cause mats or grommets to be moved against metal or concrete, it can cause significant wear on these parts. Consider keeping spares on hand.
  • Keep air filters clean and change them often. Again, your manufacturer’s website or manual is the best place to reference this information, but it’s especially important if you’re in a dry, dusty climate that can cause dust to build up on the filters quickly. If you can, try blowing the dust out of the filter outside to get more use from it, and always keep spares on hand.

Use a professional maintenance service. Because professional maintenance technicians also manage repairs, they’re a good person to have on hand to spot issues that may arise in your air compressor, allowing you to catch problems early on when they’re easy to fix rather than later when they’ve become a serious issue.

Choose a Less Noisy Air Compressor

Though all air compressors will generate some amount of noise, some types will generate less noise from the beginning, making it easier for you to create further noise reduction in your workshop or industrial application. These include:

  • Compressors requiring oil changes
    • An oil-free air compressor is typically louder than its oil-change-required industrial models. Part of this is because industrial air compressors will typically include better construction than an oil-free compressor, such as stainless steel versus mild steel parts, and take steps to reduce the amount of noise generated by the compressor. Don’t give into the urge to go low maintenance with an oil-less compressor! One great option to consider is the Atlas Copco CR5 to 7.5 Vertical 80-Gallon Air Compressor.
  • A rotary screw compressor
    • Rotary screw compressors run constantly, but do not make as much noise, because they constantly generate pressured air instead of trying to “catch up” the tank so that it can take time out of the duty cycle. Towards that end, they tend to have fewer revolutions compared to piston-driven tank models and show a related 10 to 15 decibel drop in noise level, typically topping out at 70 to 75 decibels compared to the 85 decibels that are more normal for piston-driven air compressors. We recommend the Atlas Copco G7-15 series of rotary air compressors to meet your needs.
  • A larger-capacity compressor
    • Though this doesn’t necessarily reduce the noise of the air compressor, it can reduce how often it needs to be operated to fill the storage tank. By increasing the tank capacity, the air compressor will have to operate less frequently to fill it, remaining quiet the rest of the time. This can make it much quieter in your shop the rest of the time and is a great option to consider if you’re planning a shop expansion down the road that may require a larger compressor to begin with. We recommend the Atlas Copco two-stage CR10 and CR15 series, which features a 120-gallon storage tank. (Read more about two-stage air compressors here!)

Advanced Air’s Quality Air Compressors

By starting with a high-quality industrial air compressor from your local Arizona or California air tools supplier, you’ll get much higher quality than you would from a hardware store air compressor. Because an industrial air compressor is built to withstand demanding environments, they’re often quieter from the beginning, due to the superior construction and materials used in creating them.

At Advanced Air & Vacuum, our highly trained team of technicians gives you a multi-faceted approach to finding the perfect air compressor for your business, installation process, and continued service and maintenance for many years to come. Our dedication to our customers is second to none. Please feel free to reach out today with any questions, to get more details on our outstanding lineup of air compressors and accessories, or to get a quote on your next air compressor project.

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What is the Best Air Compressor for Spray Painting Cars?

When your business is spray painting car bodies, you need an air compressor that provides steady compressed air at continuous air pressure. You’ve invested a lot into your auto body operation and having the best air compressor is often as important as having the perfect HVLP gun to get the right finish. This means that not just any air compressor will do. How do you find the perfect size air compressor for your operation? In this article, we’ll look at factors you should consider, air compressor features that will impact your operation, and some of the best air compressors for your needs.

Factors to Consider

man-spray-painting-red-car

To start, let’s look at what your needs are to ensure that you’re getting the right air compressor for your requirements.

CFM

Many individuals who work with multiple pneumatic tool types may not realize the importance of CFM, or cubic feet per minute, in determining the appropriate type of air compressor for their needs. However, automotive painting requires not only constant pressurized air, but also specific quantities of it. A small compressor may be able to provide sufficient compressed air for operating a wide range of air tool types, but because a paint sprayer provides continuous flow to deliver the best results, it requires a much higher volume of air on a regular basis. If the spray gun were only used for a few seconds at a time, a small compressor might be able to do the job. Still, paint spray processes often require the paint gun to be used continuously for longer periods of time during the painting job to ensure that the car paint comes out with a similar texture across the entire vehicle.

Air Pressure

When using spray guns for large projects such as auto painting, the air pressure must be high enough to provide consistent results. Low pressure can put the paint droplets on in too large of a size, preventing the paint from laying down smoothly or causing runners to form. Your sprayer will come with specific requirements that should be followed carefully, both in terms of volume per minute, or airflow, as well as air pressure, or PSI. Having the right air pressure ensures that you can complete your auto painting project smoothly and effectively, providing a high-quality finish to the vehicle you’re working on. However, if you’re going to be using another pneumatic tool or tools at the same time off of the same air compressor, it’s important to keep their total air pressure and airflow needs in mind when selecting your air compressor to prevent pressure drops when a new air hose is attached to the compressor, or another high-flow pneumatic tool causes a low pressure situation to form in your shop.

Tank Size

If you’re wondering how large of a tank you’ll need for your automotive painting operation, both the best and most annoying answer is “it depends.” How many paint guns will you be running at the same time? Will you be running other pneumatic tools at the same time? From that information, you can calculate your absolute maximum air demand and then add a buffer, just in case you get a new air tool or paint gun that has higher demand than the previous one. From there, you can calculate how big of a storage tank size you’ll want to have available for additional air storage. You should also take into account the duty cycle of your air compressor so that the air stored in the tank provides sufficient flow and pressure to keep your shop moving while your air compressor is resting.

Horsepower

The horsepower of your air compressor is often tied in with other common factors, including the stages, type of compressor (more on that in a few moments), tank size, overall pressure, overall airflow, voltage, and similar issues. Overall, you’ll want to have an air compressor that is capable of around 3 horsepower for single-tool operations, such as one-man shops where only a single tool is used at a time. For multi-person shops, 5 horsepower is a minimum, and large shops will want a production air compressor of 10 horsepower or much larger, depending on how much production you push through on a daily basis. Horsepower is tied to the common factors mentioned above, as larger horse motors will require higher voltage while providing higher pressure, airflow, and larger tanks.

Which Type of Air Compressor Should I Use?

different-types-of-industrial-air-compressors

Single vs. Two Stage

If you’re a hobbyist or a very small shop, you may be able to get by with a single-stage air compressor system, provided that it’s large enough to keep up with your paint sprayer gun. You’ll still want to go with a compressor that has a larger storage tank and higher horsepower to be able to keep up with airflow and PSI demands. However, if you’re doing end-to-end bodywork with just yourself or one other individual in the shop or can split the work so that there is minimal draw-down of the air compressor during your painting operations, you’ll be able to keep up with your work with a single-stage compressor with a bit of creativity. These air compressors also nearly always use 115V power, reducing the need for you to have to rewire your shop to be able to use the air compressor. This can be a big boon to someone who is starting out their business in their garage but may need to be remedied down the road to expand your business operations to a professional shop.

Generally speaking, to get more out of your storage tank, you’ll want to look at a two-stage compressor over a single-stage compressor. This is because a two-stage or dual-stage compressor will take two steps to provide further compression of the air, reaching pressures as high as 175 PSI. They also tend to have longer duty cycles, as well as a range of features built in to help you work longer and easier, which is one of the main reasons for having a solid air compressor system in your shop to begin with. Dual-stage compressors meet a wide range of needs, allowing you to run your entire shop from a single compressor. However, you may need to install a special electrical service, as many two-stage air compressors require 230V power, and those that do not will still often require a switch to 20-amp service in 115V power, requiring a new plug, and sometimes new wiring, to be run to the breaker box for operation.

Rotary Screw Compressor vs Reciprocating Air Compressors

If you’re wondering about the differences between reciprocating air compressors versus rotary screw compressor systems, you’re not alone. As you reach higher levels of demand on your air compressor system, you may want to make the change. The single and two-stage compressors mentioned above both use pistons that reciprocate, or move back and forth in their shafts, to compress air. This provides a relatively simple way of compressing the air before it is moved into the storage tank for future use. However, rotary screw compressors can be a boon for high-demand systems, especially when maintaining consistent air pressure and flow is of vital importance for your spray guns.

A rotary screw compressor rotates to compress air and move it into your compressed air lines, essentially creating pressure and flow during the motion and providing superior performance for your operation. This type of air compressor typically drives large quantities of air in a continuous, highly pressurized manner. Because it has a very short rest, if any, rest period during its duty cycle, rotary screw air compressors are considered the gold standard in the industry, providing the most reliable air for pneumatic tools. If you have the ability to switch up to this type of air compressor, it is highly recommended in the industry.

The Advanced Air Difference

When you’re working with Advanced Air & Vacuum, you’ll get the best possible service, information, and assistance in the industry. Our many years of experience in the area means that we can provide you with solid solutions to your needs, from compressed air piping to industry-leading advice. We stand behind our products and ensure that you’ll get the right products for your needs. For automotive painting, we recommend the following products:

Ready to get started with the perfect air compressor for your auto body shop’s needs? We’re ready to help. Please feel free to reach out to Advanced Air for more details, with any questions, or to get started on a smart design that will keep your operation in motion.

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A Guide to Single vs. Two Stage Air Compressors

If there’s one thing that’s constant about air compressors, it’s that their classifications are many and diverse. You could sort by storage tank size, electric motor horsepower, electrical phase, maximum airflow, maximum pressure, and many others. Among the other classifications is a single stage compressor versus a two-stage air compressor. What exactly is the difference between these two types of compressors, and does it really make that big of a difference to your operation? In this article, we’ll discuss the biggest differences between the compressor types, in which situations a single- or dual-stage compressor may be more effective, and pricing differences you can expect to see from air compressors that have otherwise very similar specifications.

The Main Differences

Let’s start out with what makes a single stage air compressor different from a two-stage unit: their stages. Generally speaking, you can tell this very quickly by looking at the piston system at the top of the air compressor. In a single-stage air compressor, air is drawn into the piston until it’s at full capacity, then pushed into a higher pressure and moved into the storage tank, reaching a top pressure of between 110-145 PSI. A two-stage air compressor starts out the same way, but before the compressed air is pushed into storage, it’s moved to a second compression using a smaller piston, where an additional step allows it to reach higher pressure yet to about 175 PSI. Because it’s under higher pressure, it can store more air at atmospheric pressure in cubic feet using the same sized tank when it reaches full capacity compared to its single-stage counterparts.

However, simply looking at the air compressor may not tell you enough about the machinery’s potential. Some single-stage air compressors will use two pistons on top, with one filling as the other empties into the tank. The smaller cylinder tends to be the main giveaway for a two-stage air compressor, as it shows that the initial compressed air does not take up as much room as it did prior to compression. The two stages that are being referred to are the two separate compression processes that take place in a dual-stage air compressor system, providing you with higher air pressure in the end and more storage in limited space.

Another indicator to look for is a cooling system between the two pistons. Because of the additional amount of compression that must take place, the temperature of the air can go up significantly. To avoid possible mechanical problems from this heat, high-quality two-stage air compressors will have an intercooler that will cool the air between compressions. This helps cool the mechanical parts and prevent damage from overheating.

In most situations, single stage compressors will be used in portable applications and are typically hooked up to 120V outlet systems. By comparison, two-stage systems generally are permanent installations that usually require 240V power, though the rare one may take 120V at 20 amps, providing a significantly different plug compared to standard household outlets. Single stage air compressors will also often be lighter weight, making them popular for construction and other temporary job sites. Two-stage systems are much heavier, requiring mechanical assistance to move, which is why they are typically used in permanent locations.

Uses for Single Stage and Two Stage

Though a single stage air compressor may seem like it has fewer moving parts and, therefore, is more reliable, this often isn’t the case. Typically designed for single-user operations as well as homeowner and very light business use, single stage air compressors often fail more quickly because they are not designed for constant duty and continuous applications. In these situations, it’s very easy to get caught up in work and go over the compressor’s rated duty cycle, causing overheating and a shorter lifespan overall.

When you use an air tool or multiple tools in your business, you’ll have a particular range of PSI and flow that you’ll need to meet. Depending on the different types of applications and usage you’re putting your compressor through, you may be able to get by with a single stage system, provided that you have a long enough duty cycle that the air compressor can rest on occasion. If your air compressor is constantly running or struggling to keep up with demand for compressed air in your situation, you may want to consider moving to a two-stage system.

However, that’s not the only reason to make the change. As a whole, two-stage air compressor systems tend to be significantly hardier, as they are built for higher pressures and harder work. This is among the reasons why they will often feature an intercooler to help prevent mechanical breakdown. They’re a great option for medium-sized shops that have not yet gone to rotary compressors which can work continuous duty cycles. They typically have larger tanks, allowing them to store more pneumatic energy for continuous applications. They’re also energy efficient, allowing you to get more work done with a lower cost of electricity, propane, or natural gas.

Typically available as oil-filled compressors, you’ll still need to undertake basic maintenance, such as semi-annual, quarterly, or monthly oil changes, but because dual-stage air compressor systems are designed to have longer duty cycles and higher pressures, you’ll find that they can operate much more effectively than single stage air compressor systems, while their tough build makes them last much longer in most situations.

What is the Pricing Like?

So what kind of difference can you expect to see in terms of pricing between single stage and a dual stage compressor systems? As you might expect, there is a much higher level of engineering that goes into dual-stage compressors, mainly due to the higher pressure that they undergo, as well as the fact that it has more components compared to their single-stage counterparts. However, there are often many other aspects that should be taken into account. For this reason, we’ve selected two of our most similar air compressors, one of which is a single-stage and the other of which is a dual-stage system.

Single Stage: The Quincy 12126VPQ Vertical & Portable Air Compressor $1,350

 As one of the few single-stage air compressors that we have, the 12126 has a 26-gallon storage tank and can reach up to 135 PSI. It features a two-horsepower electric motor that plugs into a standard household outlet, and the wheels display its portability, making it a decent option for construction sites and shops where your compressor must be moved around the shop space. It is, however, much closer to the weight you’d perhaps expect from a permanent compressor at 165 pounds, with a powder-coated ASME tank, as we’ll see on our next example.

Dual Stage: The Quincy QT-54 Vertical Air Compressor $2,925

By comparison, one of our smallest Quincy dual-stage compressors, the QT-54, has a 60-gallon storage tank capable of reaching up to 175 PSI. A sturdy five-horsepower electric motor requires a 230V outlet to manage its workload, and there are no wheels on this 475 pound permanent lightweight. Though it’s on the small side of permanent two-stage air compressors, it will provide plenty of pneumatic power for shops, but will not be taken out to temporary job sites often. 

As you can see, the pricing between these two models is fairly different, with the dual-stage compressor rating a much higher investment. However, it will also last longer, can store significantly more air in its storage tank, is built for higher pressure, and is designed for hard work over many years. For this reason, it makes a much better investment than the single stage, which may be replaced several times before the dual stage reaches its end of life.

Though you’ll have to decide whether a single- or dual-stage system is best for your situation and bearing in mind that this does not include rotary screw compressor systems, either type of compressor could provide you with excellent results. However, for most professional situations that do not involve individual air compressors at workstations, we recommend stepping up to a high-quality dual-stage air compressor for industrial work, as it will combine the higher pressure, longer lifespan, and superior energy efficiency you’ll need in continuous applications. 

Are you ready to make a change in your business to improve the operation of your industrial air compressor? Advanced Air & Vacuum has years of experience helping companies find the right solutions to their issues, from humidity levels causing corrosion to compressed air lines needing upgrading. If you’re ready to take the next step, please feel free to reach out today with any questions, for more details, or for help finding solutions that meet your company’s needs.

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What is the Best Air Compressor for a Body Shop?

Whether you’re taking over a body shop business with an existing air compressor that doesn’t seem to be keeping up enough or looking to purchase your first compressed air tool system and need to know the basics, there’s no doubt that auto body work requires a particular set of equipment and technology that go beyond that of normal pneumatic tools. But what tools will you need to run from your air tank? What do you need to take into consideration in your compressed air system? Are you a small shop that can run on an air hose or two from your main tank without lowering air pressure or air volume too much, like a regular automotive shop with a digital tire inflator or a home garage running an impact wrench? Or will you be painting car after car with a spray gun?

Finding the best air compressor for body shop work can seem like a difficult process, but it doesn’t have to be. In this post, we’ll explain what you need the air compressor for in your body shop, what you need to consider when purchasing an industrial air compressor, and which air compressor is right for your needs.

Why Do You Need an Air Compressor in a Body Shop?

different-types-of-industrial-air-compressors

Let’s start by looking at all the things you can use an air compressor for in a body shop. There are a ton of air tool applications, including an impact wrench for loosening lug nuts on tires, a spray gun for painting vehicles once repairs have been made, digital tire inflator tools for bringing tires back up to pressure, and grinders, ratchets, sanders, and more. In fact, the number of air tools used in an auto body shop can be overwhelming, which is why you’ll want to go beyond a simple portable air compressor and look into a quality industrial or commercial air compressor that can keep up with your shop’s demands.

What to Consider when Purchasing an Air Compressor

Size

While it’s easy to assume that you need a certain gallon air compressor to keep up with your needs, you should go beyond that point when calculating the size of air compressor for your auto body shop. How many spray guns will you be running at a time, and how much air volume and air pressure will they need to operate successfully? Spray painting will likely take up the bulk of your size needs, but you’ll still need to calculate for other air tools, including impact wrenches, tire inflators, grinders and sanders. Once you’ve estimated your total maximum air volume and pressure needed at a time, make sure to add an in an extra margin to allow for future growth of your business or for extreme circumstances.

Type

Should you go with a piston compressor or a rotary screw compressor for your operation? The first thing to bear in mind is the duty cycle. Most piston compressor systems are designed to have a 60-70% duty cycle, which means you’ll need to intentionally “oversize” your system to prevent the compressor from burning out over time. By comparison, a rotary screw compressor can be smaller in size, as its duty cycle is closer to 100%, if not at 100%. This means that rotary screw compressors can run all the time without causing problems to your overall system longevity.

Pressure & Volume

How much air pressure and air volume do your tools need? Some tools, such as truck jacks, will require pressures up to 165 PSI, but only for a short period of time. By comparison, your spray guns may only require between 30-60 PSI, but at a much longer volume as they run for extended periods of time. Take the time to determine both figures, then if you choose to go with a piston compressor, consider that you’ll probably need to increase the tank capacity by 40-50% to prevent the compressor from running longer than it should. Another aspect to consider is an air filter in line, especially for the painting process, as moisture or oil in your paint can cause flaws in the final work.

Placement

Once you’ve selected an air compressor, consider where you’re going to place it in or near your shop. Because of the amount of noise that it can produce, many businesses choose to locate the compressor in a separate room or structure with compressed air piping run to the shop. No matter where you house your new air compressor, however, you’ll want to make sure there’s at least 36″ of space on each side around it. This allows you to move around the air compressor if you need to troubleshoot it, provide maintenance or similar issues. You’ll also want good ventilation so that the air heated up by the compressor can move freely out of the structure, so the compressor stays cool and prevents overheating. Generally speaking, you’ll want to be able to keep the air temperature in the location below 104ºF, because above that temperature, overheating can damage the air compressor.

So, what is right for me?

Let’s take a look at several types of air compressors that will provide you with decent results, depending on your shop size and overall needs.

Home Garage

For the smaller needs of the hobbyist, the Quincy Q12120P is a portable 20-gallon horizontal air compressor that is capable of reaching up to 135 PSI and up to 7.4 cubic feet per minute, allowing it to run a single spray gun and any number of air tools. Powered off of 115 volts and a two-horse motor, the additional tank capacity provides you with a smoother operation with a spray gun.

It features an aluminum head with a special fin design to encourage heat dissipation, while the fully-enclosed belt guard protects both your fingers and the belt. With the two-horsepower motor, it is recommended that the compressor be wired into a 40-amp circuit, to reduce breaker throws. Although it weighs in at 155 pounds, it only takes up a svelte 35″ by 20″ by 32″ space, making it easy to move it out of the way when you don’t need to use it. Currently priced at $1275 puts it in the range of most serious hobbyists.

Small Shop

If you’re operating a small shop, stepping up to the Quincy QT-54 gives you a 60-gallon vertical air compressor and makes it much easier to run a spray gun along with other tools at the same time. Reaching pressures up to 175 PSI and up to 15.4 cubic feet per minute, the 5 HP Baldor motor with overload is operated on a 230 volt single-phase circuit. 

As a two-stage air compressor, it’s designed with a 100% duty cycle, so you can keep it running continuously during busy times, making it easier to keep up with your workload. The two-phase compressor system runs at lower RPMs, keeping it cooler, while providing more efficiency out of every stroke. It’s currently priced at $2,925, making it well within reach of the average small shop while delivering superior results.

Large Shop

For a large shop, you need a serious air compressor that can keep up with your workload, and Advanced Air’s 10-HP Horizontal Air Compressor fits the bill perfectly. With an outstanding 120 gallons of capacity that is capable of reaching up to 175 PSI and delivering 32 cubic feet per minute, you’ll be able to operate at least a couple of spray guns as well as multiple other air tools with this compressor.

Designed to work on either single-phase 230 volt or three-phase 230 volt or 460 volt, it’s available in a range of power options, making it easier to adapt to your shop’s needs. The cast-iron construction and a three-piston, low-RPM design helps it run cooler and quieter, incorporating a Weg industrial motor for superior performance. Magnetic starters are mounted and wired for easier operation, and a two-year pump warranty is included. It’s competitively priced at $6,150 for the single-phase version.

The Advanced Air Difference

Buying an air compressor for your auto body shop goes beyond simply picking up the best model and driving it away. When you work with Advanced Air & Vacuum, you also receive expert advice from individuals who have been in the industry for more than 20 years. Advanced Air’s expert team can help you troubleshoot any issues, perform repairs, or provide rentals. Contact us today for a smart start to your auto body shop.

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What Oil Should I Use for An Air Compressor?

An industrial air compressor is a hard-working machine, and like so many machines working in industry, they require oil for lubrication and to operate smoothly. But why do you need to add oil to your air compressor? Is it the same as the oil that you use with your pneumatic tools? Is there a particular type you should use? How often does it need to be changed during its life span? Is there a particular viscosity that is better than others? Is there a specific standard that needs to be followed? Here’s an in-depth look at using oil in air compressors, including what types, how often and much more.

Oil to Keep Your Air Compressor Running Smooth

An air compressor’s oil is designed specifically for the demands that an air compressor faces daily. Unlike motor oil, which often has a comparable price point and may be easier to find, air compressor oil does not contain detergents, and often has much lower amounts of carbon and sulfur, which are commonly found in motor oil. Motor oils are designed to operate in lower temperatures and higher volumes than air compressor oil, so if you try to substitute motor oil in your air compressor, it can fail, because motor oil breaks down at lower temperatures than air compressors operate at and can oxidize at much lower temperatures. For this reason, it’s very important to use the correct type of oil for your air compressor, which will withstand the high heat and has gone through evaporation, desalting and solvent extraction processes to make it work well in those conditions.

Why Does My Air Compressor Need Oil?

Air compressors tend to build up heat, especially in the pump assembly. Oil helps not only dissipate some of that heat, but also keeps the interior parts lubricated, so they don’t bind up or stick when they reach those higher temperatures. It also keeps the surfaces inside your air compressor pump coated, preventing oxidation and corrosion. Regularly changing the oil in your air compressor ensures that it will last for many years to come, giving you a much longer overall life span as compared to an air compressor that does not receive regular maintenance. To protect your investment, make sure to keep up with this important maintenance step.

How Often Should I Change My Oil?

Unfortunately, the simplest answer is that it depends. To start, if possible, check your owner’s manual to see how often the oil should be changed in your air compressor. However, if you don’t have your manual and can’t find a copy online, there are some general guidelines that can help. If you have a reciprocating air compressor, you’ll want to look at changing the oil every three months if using conventional oil, or up to every six months using synthetic oil. If you have a rotary screw compressor, you’ll want to change the oil every 1,000 to 2,000 hours if you’re using conventional oil, and every 2,000 to 4,000 hours if using synthetic oil. The time period will be impacted in both cases by how dirty and dusty the environment is, how long your compressor is running at a time, and similar factors. The easiest way to tell, especially when you’re just starting the process, is to check how dirty the oil looks, or have it tested to see how well it’s holding up at various points in the duty cycle.

Substitutes for Air Compressor Oil

So, what if you just can’t find air compressor oil? Although it’s best to stick with the right type of oil for your industrial air compressor, there are a couple of other options that can work well in a pinch. Hydraulic oil is designed for heavy usage, and so is a decent option to consider if you need to make substitutions. Similarly, because it’s often used in lower volumes than motor oil, transmission oil can be used in many situations where you don’t have air compressor oil available for your compressor. If you find that you’ve put motor oil in your air compressor, change it ASAP.

FAQs About Air Compressor Oil

1. Should I use regular or synthetic oil in my air compressor?

Though it’s fine using either, the choice of which is best will often depend on how you use your air compressor. If you typically only use it for short periods of time, such as the short periods of cycling to refill a tank on your home air compressor or to run it less than three times weekly, using regular oil will work fine and will often save you some money over buying a synthetic oil. However, if your air compressor is running almost constantly, or if you’re using it three or more times a week, you’ll want to switch up to a synthetic oil, which will last much longer and provide a higher degree of protection in your air compressor pump. Synthetic oils also deal better with a wider temperature range and allows your air compressor to run more quietly and smoothly in most situations.

2. What makes air compressor oil so special?

Though it’s easy to fall into the idea that oil lubricates, so any oil should do, when you get deeper into engineering, you’ll find there’s a huge difference between oil types. What makes air compressor oil stand apart is that it has several specific properties that are keyed into air compressor usage. These include heat dissipation, resistance to oxidation, better viscosity in cool temperatures, anti-foaming ability, longer life span, and demulsification. In short, it helps keep your commercial air compressor cool, resists rust, keeps flowing in the cold, doesn’t create rust-inducing foam, works for longer between oil changes, and keeps any water separated from the oil to provide better protection and easier separation later.

3. What about oilless air compressors?

Though these are typically limited to very small household compressors or tire inflators, oilless air compressors aren’t without oil, but have had a specific amount added at the factory, at which point the air compressor is sealed. However, over time, the oil in the compressor will eventually degrade and burn off, at which point the compressor will seize up. For this reason, we don’t recommend oilless air compressors for any serious usage, because they’re essentially short-term disposable items.

4. What weight of air compressor oil should I use?

Most modern air compressors work well at an SAE 20 or 30 weight oil, so where should you be watching for the difference? A 20SAE oil will have a better flow at lower temperatures, making it a better option for winter operations if your facility tends to cool down during the cold months, but will break down and oxidize more readily in the hot summer months. Similarly, a 30SAE oil is more resistant to breaking down, making it a better option in the summer, while its higher viscosity in the winter can make your compressor run less smoothly and efficiently. But what do you do if you live in extreme climate conditions? Though you’ll want to talk to a local air compressor shop or two to see what their standard is for your area, extreme cold could see you stepping down to a 10SAE while extreme heat could step you up to a 40SAE.

5. How do I check the oil level on my commercial air compressor?

While you can find this information specifically in your owner’s manual in many situations, there are several ways in which the manufacturer makes this possible. The first is the inclusion of a dipstick, often found attached to the oil fill cap. The second is a window that shows what the oil level is in the machine. Some manufacturers have also moved to making a completely clear oil reservoir, making it easy to see from a distance. The last type that you’ll typically find is a porthole, through which you should see some oil if the air compressor is good to go. You should typically check the oil level when the industrial air compressor is cold, as oil expands when it heats up and may appear to be in a proper zone, but the level will drop outside of the appropriate levels after the air compressor and oil cools down following use.

By having a solid grasp of why it’s important to not only use the correct oil in your air compressor but also what types to use and how to maintain your air compressor. This allows you to get much more use out of your industrial air compressor for many years to come. If you’re at the point where you have concerns about your commercial air compressor, need parts or service, or are considering getting into a new air compressor system, the experienced professionals at Advanced Air are ready to help. Please feel free to contact us today with any questions, for more information, or to get a quote on some of our outstanding products and services.

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Air Compressor Service in San Diego

When you’re looking for commercial or industrial air compressor repair or service in the San Diego area, there’s a good chance you’re looking for something beyond the simple maintenance needed by the average homeowner with a pancake air compressor. You need to have certified technicians take on the task, preferably at your installation site, so that you’re not having to haul heavy air compressor equipment in for them to check. You may have advanced systems that require specific handling by trained technicians who understand the nuances of your system. Where do you find these kinds of individuals without having to deal with constant sales contacts or long delays for parts? Let’s look at how to get high-quality commercial air compressor service in San Diego.

When Should You Service Your Air Compressor?

Because there is such a wide range of commercial and industrial air compressors available on the market, there is also a range of service times. This includes how often and in what conditions your air compressor is operated. A homeowner with a small pancake air compressor for inflating tires may only need to service their air compressor once or twice a year. However, that same small air compressor would not keep up with the demands placed on an industrial air compressor.

To determine how often you should service your industrial air compressor, it’s important to start by looking in the manual that came with your equipment. It may include details about the environment in which your air compressor is being operated, with dusty or dirty conditions requiring more frequent service to ensure that the parts do not become worn as dust and debris builds up in the oil. Similarly, in marine conditions, you may find that you need to service your air compressor more frequently to avoid the potential issues that can be caused by the corrosive nature of water, especially saltwater. Environments with high levels of corrosive chemicals can fall into the same category due to the prevalence of corrosion. 

Is there anything you can do to reduce the frequency of service? To start, make sure that you have a commercial air compressor that can handle the job. An industrial air compressor that is too small for the job at hand will cycle constantly, causing the oil to become dirty faster and burn off due to the heat from constant cycling. By having an air compressor with sufficient capacity, you can ensure that it will be able to keep up with your workload. If you have environmental conditions, adding air filters and dryers before the air intake can help treat the air and lower the issues caused by it, as well as remove dust and debris from the intake, keeping the oil from getting dirty as quickly.

8 Common Air Compressor Issues

There are some common industrial air compressor issues that we see frequently in our line of work. These include:

  1. Incorrectly-sized air compressor piping. Whether you use a branch or loop system, having the wrong size piping in your pneumatic system can cause serious problems, including not providing enough air for high-pressure tools, not providing consistent pressure for spraying tools or causing the industrial air compressor to short cycle frequently due to a too-large air compressor piping size. These issues can be solved by adapting the size of the piping to better match your air compressor or tools.
  2. Short cycling. If your air compressor frequently turns off for a short period of time and then back on again for a short period of time, this is referred to as short cycling, and it’s very hard on your industrial air compressor equipment. It’s most often caused by pairing a high-volume pneumatic tool with a smaller air compressor system. As the tool draws large quantities of air from the piping system, it causes the air compressor to kick in to refill the system, then the commercial air compressor turns back off again once the piping is refilled.
  3. Constant operation. If your air compressor runs continuously, it’s about as hard as short cycling your air compressor. If an industrial air compressor is in constant operation, there can be two causes. You could have a leak somewhere in your system, causing you to lose significant efficiency as the air needed to run your pneumatic tools leaves the system. It could also be that your needs have grown beyond the capability of your air compressor, causing it to run constantly to keep up with demand.
  4. Lack of pressure. This could be a problem with either your air compressor being undersized for your needs, your piping being too large for your air compressor to keep up, your piping being too small to supply the pneumatic tool’s needs, or an issue with the air compressor itself, such as an old belt that is not delivering sufficient power, a leak in the air compressor system or similar issues. This can cause serious problems in your production and should be addressed immediately.
  5. Won’t start. This can be caused by a wide range of issues, from a blown fuse or flipped breaker to voltage or power supply issues to motor problems to safety features built in by the manufacturer. If your team isn’t able to address the potential simple issues involved in the problem, it may require calling a professional company to help you solve the problem, typically involving a company experienced with and certified to work on advanced air compressor systems. However, before you make that call, check your manual to see if your compressor has a reset switch or button to try.
  6. Oil in the water or air. If you’re getting oil in the water or air, there are a couple of sources it could come from. It could be that you have a bad seal somewhere in your pump, which is allowing the oil to migrate over. However, a more common cause is either your system is adding too much oil to your lines for your tools, or that your oil separator is not working correctly. In these situations, taking a look at your equipment may help troubleshoot the cause of the problem.
  7. Excessive noise. An excessively noisy industrial air compressor can have several issues, most of which are related to the air compressor itself. You could have loose parts, such as a flywheel, belt, pulley or clamp. Worn or hardened gaskets are another potential source of noise in your air compressor, as is a dirty cylinder-head piston. Cracks in the equipment can cause excessive noise, and crankcase failure can also create serious issues. In any of these situations, the noise can lead to much more serious issues, so address this problem immediately.
  8. Fast or excessive belt wear. This is typically caused by problems with belt tension. If the belt’s tension is too loose, it can cause the belt to move around in the pulley and flywheel, which in turn causes abrasions on the belt itself from the metal. If it is too tight, it can stretch, causing wear as the stretched surface passes over the surface of the pulley and gears. In either situation, it can cause the belt to wear quickly. Take a look at your manual to get a feel for how much play your belt should have to ensure proper tension. 

Advanced Air’s Difference

When you work with Advanced Air & Vacuum, you’re working with a team of dedicated professionals who have a solid understanding of pneumatic systems. Rather than the shop on the corner that handles everything and anything, our advanced knowledge of air and vacuum systems makes us the perfect fit for your San Diego area business’ industrial air compressor needs. Our team only works on these types of systems, so our attention to the small details of your air compressor means that we’ll catch difficult or easily-missed issues early on, giving you the optimum usable lifespan for your air compressor and connected pneumatic equipment.

Even better, we’ve got the paper to back up our claims of superior industrial air compressor service. Our EASA certification means that every time we look at your industrial air compressor motor, we’re always meeting or exceeding the best standards in the industry for electrical motor repair and service. Our AR100 certification means that our experienced technicians are well up to the tasks of handling, repairing or servicing your factory equipment, even the most high-level machinery on your line.

Advanced Air’s Services

At Advanced Air & Vacuum, we provide a wide range of additional services beyond commercial air compressor service. We also handle troubleshooting, installation and design, making it easier to ensure that you’re getting the best possible results from your industrial air compressor system. Our experienced technicians can handle rebuilding your electric motor, including motor re-wrapping to ensure the best possible performance. Our on-site storehouse of parts ensures that you’ll have a minimal wait before your equipment is repaired or serviced. But what about when you’re waiting on your work to be completed?

Because we understand that your company can’t stop working without consequences. we offer a wide range of rental services, including vacuum pumps and air compressors of all sizes and types. This ensures that you can get your line back in operation quickly and effectively, giving you a way to keep going even as we fix the problem. If you’re ready to get started with a quality industrial air compressor company, Advanced Air & Vacuum is ready to be of service. Please feel free to reach out today with any questions, for more details or to request a quote.

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How to Keep Water Out of Air Compressor Lines

Uh oh, there’s water dripping out of your industrial air compressor lines or your pneumatic tools. How did it get there? Is it bad for your system? How can you get existing water out of your air compressor, lines and tools, and how can you prevent water from getting into your air compressor in the future? At Advanced Air, water in air compressor lines is a common problem that we see and help business owners fix. Keep reading to discover how to avoid this potentially harmful situation from developing in your air compressor lines and how to treat it if it does occur.

How did water get in my air compressor in the first place?

industrial-air-compressors

Most water that shows up in industrial air compressor systems is because it’s pulled in from the environmental air that is compressed in your equipment. Even in semi-arid environments, the air still contains some humidity. Because your air compressor equipment packs a lot of air into your tank or system, that moisture builds up. But how can you get so much water into your air compressor system? Let’s go through a quick thought exercise to get an idea of how much water can get into your air compressor under normal operating conditions.

Using this handy calculator at Quadco Engineering, you can calculate how much moisture is in the air. We know that at our El Cajon, California location, which is considered semi-arid, our average annual humidity is 71%, and the average annual temperature is 17.78ºC. The calculator determined that for every cubic foot of air that is pumped into your air compressor, you’ll get 0.00878 cubic feet of water, or 0.878%, in your tank as well. To put it into easier terms, if you consider that every cubic foot has 1,728 inches, that means that you’ll get a little over 15 cubic inches of water into your compressor.

That’s at standard pressure for El Cajon, which is around 1015 millibar, or a little under 15 PSI. But the air in your storage tank is significantly higher than 15 PSI. Let’s say you keep it at a relatively moderate 90 PSI. That means for every cubic foot of capacity in your tank, you’re storing six times that 15 cubic inches, or about 90 cubic inches of water. If you’ve got a 50-gallon tank, that’s a touch over 7 square feet, so you’ll have 630 cubic inches of water added to your tank every time you cycle it, taking up about a gallon of capacity every three cycles.

That’s a lot! And if you use higher pressures, the number increases even more. Though some portion of it will go out through your tools as you work as part of the compressed air, a lot of it condenses in the tank, especially as decompression of the air in the tank makes it cool down. The next question you have is whether this really is a problem (it is) and what you can do about it to protect your investment (a lot). 

Is water in my air compressor bad?

Like having water anywhere, water in your air compressor can cause a lot of problems. This can shorten the lifespan of your tools, compressor, lines and equipment, depending on how you have it set up. You don’t want to have to replace your tools and equipment, and you don’t want to end up with an expensive and harmful accident. So, let’s look at the issues that can be caused by water in your air compressor.

To start, water causes corrosion. In iron or ferrous metals, this shows up as rust, but it can also impact copper and brass tools as well, showing up as that turquoise-toned crud on pipes. In either form, as copper oxide or iron oxide, it can cause a lot of problems. It can bind up your tools and prevent them from having the full range of motion that they need to be able to perform their job properly.

But corrosion also causes other issues that are harder to see in your tank, metal lines and metal fittings. As that water sits in your system, day after day, week after week, month after month, it not only builds up water that will reduce your capacity, but it also erodes small amounts of the metal while creating weak spots in your system. These weak spots get worse over time, and can eventually create a serious situation, as the pressure that builds up in your air compressor system can eventually lead to a blowout at the weak point, sending rusty metallic shrapnel flying across your facility.

Suddenly that little bit of water in your air compressor is a much bigger issue. Though adding oil to your tools daily can provide some protection at that end, it won’t protect your lines, tanks and fittings. This can cause serious problems for your company, problems that should be addressed ASAP.

How to get water out of your air compressor

So now we know that water in your air compressor is bad, but you’ve already seen a few drips coming out of your lines. What do you do next? The best place to start is by draining your tank. Find the valve located on the body of the tank and rotate that part of your tank to the bottom position if it’s not already there. Depressurize your tank, then open the valve and allow the water to drain out. Make sure to check the water that is draining – if it’s got a lot of rust in it, or even small flakes of metal, you may want to consider replacing the tank or having it pressure tested to ensure that it will continue to operate safely. 

Once the tank is empty, close the valve. Yes, it makes perfect sense, but you’d be surprised how often it’s missed. If you’re wondering whether you should just leave it open to prevent more water from building up before the next use, consider that insects and dirt can then get into your tank, adding contamination to your line and wear to your tools. You can also drain it again before you use it next, which provide you with a little extra security. If you’ve got a larger tank or one that has the drain in an awkward position, you could consider adding a drain extension or automate using an automatic tank drain system. This type of system automatically opens the drain on a particular cycle, such as every time it’s turned off or even after every discharge of air from the system.

If you’re concerned about air in your lines getting into your tools, you can add an inline air filter to begin removing that fluid, while you take the steps listed below to reduce how much moisture enters your system in the first place. To do this, you’ll simply need to add an inline air filter into the fittings directly before the tool, which will allow it to remove the excess moisture and finish cleaning out your air compressor system over time.

How to prevent water from getting into your air compressor

Now that you’ve drained your air compressor system, how do you reduce or eliminate the amount of water that can get into your air compressor in the first place? There are a few options available to help you reduce or eliminate water in your air compressor, depending on how advanced you need to go to protect your system.

The first is an air filter. A simple device, it can be placed on your air intake to remove any debris over a particular size while also removing some amount of moisture from the air. This makes it easy to use, because it only requires regular changing, but this also limits its effectiveness, especially in an industrial situation or damp environment where it won’t keep up with demand. There’s also the ongoing cost of replacing the air filter media, which will stretch on indefinitely into the future. 

The better option to consider for industrial equipment is incorporating refrigerated air dryers into your overall system. These devices use electricity to cool the air as much as possible. Because cool air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air, the moisture condenses out of the air and is drained away, while the cold air is cycled into your industrial air compressor system. Refrigerated air dryers remove much more moisture from the air because of their active process, which delivers much better results than a simple air filter. The cost to purchase and operate refrigerated air dryers tend to be higher than air filters, but they deliver significantly better results for the investment.

By understanding how water gets into your air compressor system and how to fix the problem, you can ensure that you’re getting the best possible performance from your system by taking care of it. If you’re concerned about water in your air compressor system and need help fixing the problem, the experienced professionals at Advanced Air are here to help. Please feel free to contact us today with any questions, to get advice on what will help your air compressor system operate better or to request a quote on some of our wide selection of products and services.

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2022 Industrial Air Compressor Buyer’s Guide

When you’re considering getting into an industrial air compressor, there are a lot of questions you may have about exactly what you need and which options are best for your setup. Fortunately, with the extensive knowledge we have of the industry, we can help you through the process. We’ve developed this guide to make it much easier for you to determine exactly what you need and what features may benefit your situation. 

There may be several reasons why you’re considering an industrial air compressor. Perhaps your shop or job site keeps burning through consumer-grade air compressors. You could be starting a business where you know you’ll need a commercial air compressor but aren’t quite sure exactly what you need from that point. Whatever the reason, we’ll go over all the necessary details most business owners need to know about commercial air compressors so that you can make a smart choice for your business.

What is an Industrial Air Compressor?

Let’s start with a basic description of what an air compressor is. An air compressor combines a pump with a strong tank, into which is pumped air under pressure. This pressurized air can be used for many residential, commercial and industrial applications. You may have even used one to air up a low or flat tire on your vehicle, but the applications go far beyond that point to power what are known as pneumatic, or air-powered, tools. These include grinders, ratchet drivers, spray rigs, power washers, drills, metal shears, grease guns and many more tools that are used on a daily basis.

So, what makes an air compressor an industrial air compressor? Consider the difference between, as an example, a push lawn mower and a large zero-radius mower. When you just need a little power, a push mower may work fine, but if you’ve got multiple acres to mow, a zero-radius mower is what you’re going to want. It’s the same with industrial air compressors, where you’ll need an air compressor that is tougher, rated to higher pressures and able to take the daily work and abuse that the environment may throw at it. An industrial air compressor will work harder, longer and faster to achieve the results needed in a more efficient manner, without breaking down.

Air Compressor Sizing

different-types-of-industrial-air-compressors

There is a wide range of air compressor sizes, from tiny one- or two-gallon pancake air compressors for homeowners to use on occasion up to several hundred gallons of holding capacity. The gallon size refers to the volume of air your air compressor tank can hold. Just like a ten-gallon fish tank can hold ten gallons of water, a ten-gallon air compressor can hold ten gallons of compressed air.

Generally speaking, you’re going to base the size of the air compressor you need on the type of work that you’re doing. Take a solid look at the tools you’re going to use with your air compressor and see what kind of demand they’ll create. As an example, a paint spraying rig may work best using an air compressor that has a minimum capacity of 20 gallons but may still be able to work with an air compressor that has a capacity of 10 gallons. However, at the lower end, you’ll notice that you’re getting inconsistent pressure and that your air compressor is cycling, or turning on and off repeatedly, to try to keep up with the workload.

You’ll also want to take into consideration that you may have multiple tools running at the same time. In doing so, you’re creating a larger overall draw on your air compressor that may need to be considered when selecting the size of your compressor. Think about how much air you’ll need to supply to different tools in your setup if they were all running at the same time, then add a little buffer to ensure your air compressor can keep up with demand.

Air Compressor Types

Rotary Screw

A rotary screw air compressor will last longer, provide more consistent airflow, can be used with or without a storage tank for the compressed air, and can have a 100% duty cycle, drastically reducing downtime. Its construction allows it to move a higher quantity of air per horsepower than other types of air compressors, while its quieter operation and higher energy efficiency levels make it a great option for most commercial air compressor needs.

Reciprocating (Piston)

However, there are some situations in which a reciprocating air compressor may be a better option for your needs. In this type of commercial air compressor, a piston is used to compress air into a storage tank, from which it is released at a metered rate into the tools that are being used with it. Generally, it’s going to be able to reach higher pressures than a rotary screw air compressor, have simple maintenance and will be less expensive to purchase. However, the trade-off is that it will require more maintenance time and will fail earlier in the lifespan.

Air Compressor Performance

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When your air compressor is working well, there are specific ways to keep it operating efficiently for longer periods of time. Though you may expect this from well-serviced machines, there are a couple of other factors you should also consider when selecting your industrial air compressor to ensure you’re getting the right machinery for your needs.

Tank Size and Performance

One of the biggest concerns is tank size. Tank size can promote or reduce short cycling, which is what happens when a machine cycles on and then off again frequently. These short cycles can cause a lot of wear and tear on the machine and are usually a sign that you have a tank that is too small for your needs. By starting out erring on the side of caution with a larger tank, you can ensure that you’ll be able to get the kind of performance you need without a lot of headaches in the process.

Ambient Conditions

The ambient conditions around your air compressor can have a big impact on its performance. If you’re working in marine environments, hot climates or areas with extreme outdoor conditions, you’ll want to talk to the company you’re purchasing from to ensure that they’re looking for the best option for your needs. Using a standard commercial air compressor in harsh environments can have a large impact on reliability.

Elevation

Elevation can also have a big impact on the performance of your air compressor. As an example, if you travel through the mountains, you may notice that pre-packaged bags of chips swell up because the pressure on the outside of the bag is no longer the same as the pressure on the inside of the bag. In this same way, taking the same air compressor that worked for your operation at sea level to the mountains will have a big impact on performance, because it must run much longer to build up the same amount of pressure in the low-pressure environment.

Service Programs

One of the biggest impactors of performance in industrial air compressor systems is having an effective service program in place. Whether you’re taking care of servicing your commercial air compressor or you’re hiring out the work, it’s a vital part of preserving your air compressor’s efficiency. It’s estimated that lack of maintenance can result in a 7% increase in energy use, because the equipment is no longer able to operate as smoothly and efficiently. Make sure to take the time to have your industrial air compressor serviced regularly.

Additional Tools & Accessories

industrial-pneumatic-air-system

Now that you’ve decided on an air compressor, have you thought about the different accessories, lines and tools you’ll need to keep it operating effectively and efficiently? Let’s look at some of the biggest add-ons that can impact your commercial air compressor performance and reliability.

Pipe Sizing

Having sufficient pipe size is vital to keeping your equipment operating effectively. It’s very easy to get caught up in simply laying out piping that will provide you with a minimum level of support, but when you need to really add demand to your equipment, you’ll quickly run into issues with low pressure and variation in pressure providing inconsistent results.

Air Filters

Air filters remove dust from the air as it enters your air compressor, preventing it from showing up further down the line. Dust and debris can also cause a lot of wear and tear on the moving parts of your air compressor, so removing it before it enters the system is a vital part of ensuring the longevity of your commercial air compressor.

Air Dryers

By comparison, air dryers remove moisture from the air before it is passed onto the internal parts of your industrial air compressor, so that it doesn’t cause corrosion on the inside of your equipment. Though you may not notice the humidity, the shear amount of air that is compressed into your equipment can cause the moisture to build up quickly, causing rust, freeze-ups and other issues with your equipment.

Finding the right industrial air compressor for your needs is more complex than simply driving down to the local store and tossing one in the back end. It takes careful consideration of your environment, needs and expectations. If you need help finding the perfect commercial air compressor for your company’s needs, the experienced professionals at Advanced Air & Vacuum would be happy to work with you to find the perfect solution. Please feel free to reach out today with any questions or for more information.

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Oil Vs. Oil-Free Industrial Air Compressors

Choosing between an oil flooded industrial air compressors and an oil-free one isn’t as easy as it used to be. Things that need to be considered before choosing is what is best for the application and what the overall life cycle costs are in comparison, maintenance and repair costs are considerably different, and both types have their own pros and cons.

Maintenance

Oil-flooded air compressors not only need to have their oil levels properly checked and maintained, but they also need to have oil and filter changes on a regular basis – much like cars. This means that you must ensure that someone does these interventions. If you don’t have a dedicated maintenance person, you may want to consider doing this yourself or scheduling a routine service. It is very easy to forget to check and/or change the oil and filters as often as is required.

If these maintenance tasks are forgotten about or neglected, it will surely decrease the efficiency of the air compressor and compromise the reliability. As with cars, a compressor that runs without sufficient quantity or quality of oil and filtration will lead to very costly air compressor services, and likely, major repairs.

Oil-free air compressors do not need this same level of attention to the oil, because some don’t need any oil or the fluid that is used is less depended on. This is done with friction-producing parts that are coated in Teflon or made of self-lubricating materials or using water for cooling. Other methods of oil-free lubrication may also be used.

Air Contamination Concerns

One of the biggest issues with oil air compressors is that the oil will end up in the air. Whether this will be a problem for you depends on whether this oil will damage the equipment that is being powered by that air, if oil contamination will harm a product or process.

Products like foods and medicines are especially sensitive and must have no contamination at all. Meanwhile, applications like auto shop or metal fabrication are usually very tolerant to contamination, not only from compressor oil but other contaminants, like water or dust. Because of these differences, it is important to think of your application’s requirements when deciding which type of industrial air compressor to buy and utilize.

It is important to note that while water-cooled air compressors won’t have oil contamination in their air, they often release water into it instead. If you need the output air to have nothing in it but air itself, go for a machine with Teflon-coated or other self-lubricating parts that do not require any fluids at all and make sure to implement the necessary external dryers and filtration.

Durability

While oil-free air compressors have become much more durable than they used to be, durability is still a concern. In an oil-lubricated air compressor, the oil is changed when, or before, it wears out. If the maintenance is done on the right schedule, then the parts that the oil protects will be fine.

Meanwhile, the protective coatings on the internal parts of oil-free air compressors do eventually wear out, and there is no way to restore the protection. This means that eventually, an oil-free air compressor will need to be replaced. Typically, multiple oil-free air compressor parts will wear out and fail at roughly the same time, making it so that air compressor repair is not cost-effective when this happens.

Loudness

Oil-lubricated air compressors are often quieter than their oil-free counterparts. This is because oil is generally a better lubricant than the alternatives, making it so there is less friction between the parts inside the machines. If noise level is a concern to you, go for the oiled version if your application can accept some oil contamination in the air.

Cost

Oil free compressors typically cost more to purchase up front but can produce less maintenance costs going forward due to less fluid changes and requiring no oil removing filtration.

Size

Size is another factor that influences which type of air compressor to buy. Usually it’s easier to find oil flooded models of air compressors and smaller oil-free ones. However, if your company’s budget allows and the application justifies the requirement of oil free air, you can get large, heavy duty oil-free air compressors. These big oil-free models are often used by large production facilities in the food, pharmaceutical, medical and electronics industries.

Call Advanced for Industrial Air Compressor Advice

At Advanced, we offer advice to help you navigate through the spectrum of options that are available when it comes to air compressors. Just tell us about your intended application for the equipment, and we can advise not only on whether to choose oiled or oil-free compressors, but on which size, compressed air treatment, and compressed air piping configuration will be best for your facility.

If you already have an air compressor, you’ll be glad to know that you can also get air compressor service from our experts. We have specialists in both air compressor, vacuum pumps, fluid pumps and electric motor repair to serve you. Our repair services can often be done on site, or we can take your compressor, pump or motor to our massive repair facility.

Our air compressor parts department can handle all your DIY and installation needs, too. We offer aluminum air piping system components as well as every other part you’ll need for in-house installation and servicing. Contact us today for all your air compressor needs.