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A Quick Guide to Air Compressors

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Air compressors can seem like complicated machinery, and they are in some regards. Shopping for one can be daunting if you are unfamiliar with them and the different types you can choose from. However, they are not as complicated as many people think, and shopping for one becomes much easier once you understand them.

How do Air Compressors Work?

An air compressor takes in the surrounding air and compresses it in various ways depending on the type of compressor. Compressed air pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), and when the required pressure is reached, the compressor is said to have completed a duty cycle.

A Quick Guide to Air Compressors

It is also important to understand there is a difference between the pressure of the air (PSI) and the volume of air that the compressor can generate. The air volume generated is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM) and is a critical consideration when choosing and shopping for one. 

Types of Air Compressors

Air compressors are used to power different tools and in different ways depending on the use case. For this reason, there are different types to consider.

Reciprocating Compressors

These are the most common type of compressors, and they function similarly to how combustion engines do. They use a piston that moves back and forth. Consider a compressor with a vertical piston. As it moves down, it creates a vacuum above it that sucks in the air while also compressing the air below it that is pushed into a tank. 

As it moves up, the air at the top travels to below the piston, where a vacuum now exists because the air that previously occupied this area was pushed into the tank. The process continues until the compressor reaches the required pressure.

There are different reciprocating compressor types, including lubricated, oil-less, and oil-free compressors, which you can learn more about at this site: https://cbeuptime.com/compressor-central/reciprocating-compressors/

Rotary Screw Compressors

These are perfect for heavy-duty applications requiring high power over extended periods. They use a sealed chamber and two helically opposed rotating screws. The screws reduce the volume of air that enters the chamber as they turn, and this process compresses the air before it is pushed into a cylinder. 

Rotary screw compressor parts do not touch and are oil sealed, which means less friction. This, in addition to the fewer moving parts, means these compressors do not require too much maintenance.

Centrifugal Compressors

In addition to the two above, we also have centrifugal compressors. Centrifugal compressors compress and cool air as it travels through them. An impeller draws air into the machine and then accelerates it. A diffuser then slows the air down, which makes it lose most of its energy and cool down. Air is compressed as the kinetic energy it had is turned into potential energy.

Is Higher CFM Better?

Typically, yes. However, a higher CFM means a more powerful compressor, but that does not mean it is a better one. There are numerous other factors to consider, such as friction and heat, noise, air quality required, and maintenance.

Air compressors are used in different types of industries, typically to power tools. Understanding how they work, and the different types of compressors available, makes it easier once you are in the market for one.

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