An air compressor generates power in the form of air pressure, and for an air compressor to work efficiently it requires a certain unit. This unit is the piping, glue that holds this intricate system together.
Unfortunately, setting-up seems rather easier said, than done. Various aspects need to be taken under consideration while creating an air compressor piping diagram.
Like for instance moisture, or any snag, layout, etc. In my perspective piping is the deal-breaker, as it can either make your business or break it.
A fault in the pipeline means loss of power, which in other words means more unnecessary expenses. So it is of utmost importance that you always keep an eye on your air compressor piping system, its installation and all so that you won’t have to suffer any avoidable losses.
In this article, we shall discuss some important factors that play a key role in laying out your compressor’s piping.
So let’s get started.
Air Compressor Piping System.
Remember, the theory is quite different from practical.
Even though the brochure will tell you that the basics involved in this pipework are easy, just connect an air tool with the compressor, while using a pipe.
Well, the reality can be disappointing sometimes, because when you make use of those steps from the brochure, you will find that it is a little trickier than expected.
How you might ask?
Well let’s consider a paint-spraying machine, this heavy air-purifying tool requires ventilation and seclusion. For these reasons, you would have to keep it near an exterior wall.
Other such end-use devices have similar requirements as a paint spraying machine.
When the majority of your air tools require an outside wall, it creates a challenge for you, because now you have to cover a ridiculously long distance to get compressed air.
But before you start working on easing your supply lines, you might want to consider working on some other important issues first. Like.
By that, we mean moisture, the archenemy and the unavoidable nuisance of an air compressor.
A trace amount of humidity is always present in the outdoor air, and when that air enters the air compressor it gets compressed, and the water vapor gets condensed from its gaseous state into a liquid state.
In the long run, this water corrodes the pipes and rust is formed.
This rust gets caught up in the air stream and will find itself in the end-user device, thus blocking and contaminating the compressed air delivering material.
There is one easy solution for this, just change the inlet supply source.
Here’s the thing, as you know water is heavier than air, so logically it will reside at the bottom of the tank.
So if you use the top portion of the compressor to draw air out then you won’t have to deal with the moisture.
This no doubt is an effective method, although some prefer to dehumidify the air before it gets compressed.
For this reason, an after cooler is highly recommended, as the compressed air leaves the tank this cooler cools the air down, and moisture gets weeded out.
Have a filter and a drain attached to it so that the water can be drained easily.
Don’t neglect the importance of coolers, filters, dryers, etc. Just because you can’t escape the moisture doesn’t mean you have to accept it.
A piping system with sharp angles will burn through your profit margins. Sounds exaggerated? Let me explain.
Imagine you are on a bike riding through a beautiful path and suddenly, you find a sharp turn. What will you do? Obviously, you will hit the brakes.
That’s exactly what the compressed air will do when it encounters any sharp angles on its way out, it will get slowed down, which in return reduces the pressure.
Since the air can’t navigate itself on its own, it will bounce off the inside of the pipe due to the redirection of the bend leading to the wastage of energy.
Such a directionless air movement is known as Laminar.
Avoid the use of 90-degree elbow bends as much as possible, these bends will reduce the pressure and create turbulence.
The preferable ones are the 30 & 45-degree bends.
Connectors, valves and other compressor assisting devices like sensors in the circuits, the filters are the prime locations for any obstructions.
Among others it’s the rust who causes the most headache, accumulation of these substances decreases the diameter of the pipe, thus reducing the airflow.
As a result, the downstream pressure is affected, while the negative upstream pressure increases.
Hence the use of air filter is a must to avoid any dust or debris particle from entering the compressor tank.
Figuring out a blockage is very easy, just follow the pressure, normally in blockage, there is intense pressure before the snag, and a lot less after it.
Most of the obstruction is due to corrosion, choosing a non-corrosive pipe would eliminate this possibility entirely.
Speaking about pipes, let’s talk about them.
Most people don’t realize this, but the actual question one needs to ponder on is regarding the pipe.
There are 2 kinds, one is plastic another being metallic. I am sure you realize which ones corrosive and which ones aren’t.
After all, corrosion is the reason why we have to think about the pipes before buying them.
A plastic pipe has the upper hand over metallic ones for many reasons like they don’t corrode, their interior structure always remains smooth.
They are portable for being lightweight since they are plastic it is much easier to cut through them with nothing but basic cutting tools.
You don’t need welding to attach these pipes with each other, hence cost-effective and time-saving.
Here’s the thing, you cannot just use any plastic pipe like PVC or CPVC. Sure they are the most commonly used ones but they just can’t survive the pressure of compressed air.
For an air compressor, you would require piping that can withstand the pressure, one such material is HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene).
Polyethylene is created especially for the air compressor piping system.
Another suitable material is ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), a commonly available material in various other products.
Note: Make sure the pipe you are buying is OSHA-tested.
Conservationists will always go for metal pipes for their compressor system. For them, the appearance and the vibe of metallic pipes guarantee its longevity and resilience.
Devoid of technological advancement, the plastic pipe will never reach the level of satisfaction, as the metallic pipes have.
Not to forget the advantages they have over plastic ones like:
- Given their service history, we know for sure how well they stand against any fractures, cracks, and blowouts.
- Their rigid nature is a proof that they don’t get warped.
- Any lubrication of the compressor won’t be able to degrade them.
- The fact that they have been around for so long means that you won’t be having a hard time finding a technician.
Metal pipes are further classified into 5 types.
- Stainless Steel pipe
- Black Steel Pipe
- Galvanized Steel pipe
- Copper Pipe
- Aluminum pipe.
Stainless Steel Pipe.
Completely free from corrosion and degradation of any kind on either side of the pipes. It can also be welded easily.
Here’s the problem with stainless steel, they are heavy, which makes it rather tedious to fit them. Speaking of attachment, their connector (threading) with time becomes faulty.
Financially speaking, they are quite costly.
Black Steel Pipe.
This one has been in use for a long time, it is most sought after and trusted material for air compressor piping.
The exterior is quite robust and strong, with plenty of technicians to help you in case of need.
But (yes, there’s always a but) this steel is corrosive, which is a bummer. Furthermore, it has the same threading problem as the stainless one does.
Then there’s the weight issue, which requires some strong suspension to keep them In place.
Galvanized Steel Pipe.
Yet another commonly used piping material that is less prone to corrosion. But it has its own issues to deal with.
With time the galvanized coating gets chipped off, causing obstructions/blockages after getting caught up in the air stream.
Just like others, it has the same threading slip-up problem, also requires extra effort to move the pipes due to its weight.
LOT’S of advantages over other pipes.
Easy to cut-weld, corrosion-free, light-weighted. Easy availability of fittings, plenty of technicians at your disposal due to its wide use.
Just one drawback, it is costly.
With the same non-corrosive aspect like stainless steel, aluminum boasts one advantage which stainless lack, being a lightweight.
Installing and maneuvering are easy, and the connectors are very reliable.
Just like copper, the only issue is the cost.
Note: When it comes to dealing with moisture, aluminum, stainless-steel, and copper are most preferable.
I’m sure some of you have been waiting for this segment. Probably wondering why I haven’t included this in the beginning.
Even though leaks are an issue, but these are not THE issues that compromise the compressor’s efficiency.
Hence it is advised to deal with them first.
Adhere to these points to secure your and the air compressor’s safety, by following the right protocols your compressor will be able to utilize its true potential.
Always remember, work safely and efficiently.