Detailed Guide: How to Choose an Air Compressor

We’ve already explained about the service and support that you get when you choose an air compressor system from ABAC. You can be confident that our trusted distributors are on-hand to help you through this list of important questions.

  1. Will your air compressor be used in high running production?
  2. Do you have the right electrics for your system?
  3. Where should you install your compressor? Do noise-levels matter?
  4. Does air quality matter to air compressors?
  5. Can you site a system away from where the compressed air is used? Yes, with AIRnet
  6. Sizing Guide: How much Air am I using?
  7. Typical Compressed Air Tool Usage for Pneumatic Tools
1. Will your air compressor be used in high running production?
It might seem obvious but it’s easy to think that a cheaper system will “be ok” for the job. Our honest advice is that you should buy the best system you can afford for your situation. We aren’t trying to up-sell. You will get a compressor system that is “up to the job”, provided you choose the right one. If you pick a system that isn’t quite big enough, it will be working at its limits and that will increase the wear on components. If you aren’t quite sure what you need, just ask our LiveChat team for advice.
2. Do you have the right electrics for your system?
When you are choosing an air compressor you will need to make note of the power you have available. If your workplace requires heavy loads of power, you will probably have three-phase (400 V) power available. Sometimes, you will only have single-phase (230 V) power so you need to check as it makes a difference to the compressor you choose. Single phase power supply will only run a motor of up to 3hp (2.2KW). You can get different types of motor in this range and you can run some of them on a 13 amp plug but you will need to get the others hard wired. For example, ABAC’s A29B pumps run on a 13 amp plug, but the A39B pumps need to be hardwired.Three phase power supply allows you to run a much larger output air compressor, provided there is sufficient amperage available. (You need to consult an electrical engineer before you choose an air compressor because you don’t want to get the wrong one). Many air compressors also need to be installed with a ‘D’ type breaker, motor rated. If you are wondering if your compressor will need a ‘D’ type breaker, a good rule of thumb is that you will need one if your system runs on three phase power or isn’t on a 13 amp plug. You should always consult a registered electrician for all installation work as this is such an important part of making sure your air compressor system runs safely.

3. Where should you install your compressor? Do noise-levels matter?
When you are choosing an air compressor, you need to think about size and where you site it. There are a number of things to consider, particularly noise and air quality.
You might find that piston compressors are too noisy for your workplace because they are not silenced. Also, the larger the output of the compressor, the noisier it will be. If you choose a piston compressor, you may want to site it outside in a suitable enclosure. You will need an enclosure that protects your compressor from the weather and is well ventilated for effective cooling. It is very important that there is also enough space around the machine for routine checks and servicing.If you need to site the machine inside, and the noise level need to be low, we have a selection of silenced piston compressors in our range. Our experienced team is on hand if you need any more information. Just use the Live Chat or give us a call.
If you need an alternative to a piston compressor, we suggest a rotary screw compressor. If your business wants a quieter compressor which is still powerful, this is the best option for you. Rotary screw compressors are quieter as they use different technology and they are in an enclosed cabinet. They also offer continuous pulse-free air, which is of a higher quality. Rotary screw compressors create a smoother system by using rotors which make the air pulse-free. Rotary screw compressors are particularly popular in medium to large vehicle workshops. If you need higher volumes of compressed air, this is the type of compressor you should choose. Rotary screw compressors are ideal for bodyshops or other businesses that spray paint. That’s why they are the first choice for people who are repainting large areas and multiple body panels.
4. Does air quality matter to air compressors?
The short answer is “yes”! Compressors suck in the surrounding air. We all know that water and oil need to be clean to keep our equipment running smoothly. The same is true for the air your compressor uses. Dust and dirt will cause problems. Poor quality compressed air can harm your equipment and can also impact on your finish. Better quality compressed air will help reduce breakdowns and maintenance. You need to make sure that you use the correct equipment e.g. air dryers, oil filters and water traps, to get the right degree of quality air for your compressor system.When you put systems in place to improve the air quality, it can create an extra cost in running and maintaining the equipment. You might also notice the pressure drop (increase energy consumption) of using the equipment. On the other hand, you will cut the risk of damage to your compressor and you will cut the cost of rework. That has to be better for your business!
5. Can I site my compressor system away from the place where I use the compressed air? Yes, with AIRnet
The best place to put your compressor is right next to where you use use compressed air. Sometimes this isn’t possible because of the space you have available onsite. In these situations you will need to install a ring main to efficiently distribute your compressed air around your site. ABAC has a system called AIRnet. This efficient, aluminium compressed air piping system delivers air exactly where you need it, from your compressor to point of use.

  • FAST – AIRnet saves you 70% on installation time vs. traditional piping systems.
  • EASY – 3 simple steps: CUT to length and deburr, INSERT in the fitting on the marked depth, SECURE and tighten correctly.
  • RELIABLE – All AIRnet products come with a 10-year warranty on all fittings and pipes, against any damages resulting from material defect.

6. Sizing Guide: How much Air am I using?
You will need to choose the right sized air compressor system for your equipment. If you aren’t sure what you need, you can use our online chat or contact your local distributor direct. We are always happy to help.

7. Typical Compressed Air Tool Usage for Pneumatic Tools
The amount of air you use will depend on the tools you are running with that air. It sounds obvious but it’s easy to overlook this point. We have created detailed charts for Automotive, click the link to take a look.

How heavily do you use your tools? You will only use some tools, like drills, medical suction lines, impact tools, and ratchet wrenches, intermittently. If you use air grinders and sanders you will require a higher amount of compressed air and you will probably need a three-phase (400 volt industrial electrics) machine to run these.

Also, when you are assessing the size of an air compressor to operate air tools and equipment it’s important to use the actual compressor output figure, known as FAD (free air delivered). It sounds a bit technical but it is important to check this. It will give you the right sized system for the job. You should ignore the air displacement figure. Our Chat Team can help you with this if you aren’t sure what you need.

Once you’ve chosen your system, remember to take a look at our 10-step guide on How to Install an Air Compressor.