When you think of an air compressor, chances are that a piston compressor (also called a reciprocating compressor) is the one that springs to mind. The oldest and most common of all industrial compressors, piston compressors can be configured in a variety of ways, including one-stage and two-stage, oil-free and oil-injected, and splash lubricated and pressure lubricated.
If you’re on the market for a new air compressor and believe that a piston compressor could be for you, here are 3 questions to consider before making your purchase:
Does an electric or gas piston compressor fit my application best?
For applications where the compressor will be stationary and located indoors, an electric piston compressor will be a good fit! They are also a good choice when noise and/or ventilation is a concern, as they do not produce emissions and aren’t as noisy as their gas-powered counterparts. Electric piston compressors are common in auto-body shops and repair/maintenance applications.
If your application requires mobility, then a gas-powered piston compressor will be a better fit, given that these don’t require a source of electricity. These are typically the portable compressors you see at construction sites & attached to the back of work trucks.
Is an oil-free or oil-injected piston compressor more suitable for my work environment?
This depends on the purity level of the air that your application requires. If high-quality air is required, including any applications where contact with oil would result in spoilage or contamination of the end-product, then an oil-free compressor is likely the optimal choice. For those applications where trace oil in the delivered air isn’t an issue, an oil-injected piston compressor will be suitable.
Oil-free compressors are typically used in paint shops, breweries, and dental labs, while oil-injected compressors are found in woodworking and metalworking shops, auto shops, and industrial/manufacturing shops.
What size of piston compressor should I purchase?
Location and space considerations, stationary or portable needs, and overall required CFM output are all factors that go into sizing a piston compressor for your application. However, the key item to keep in mind is that if your air compressor is undersized as compared to the application’s needs, then oil leaks, overheating, and pump failure can be the result.
However, if you size your compressor appropriately, then it will be able to fill the air demand without issue, as well as cycle and cool down before having to cycle back on.