Buying tips—compressed air systems

What should you consider when buying a compressed air system?

Operating costs are big factor.
When buying a compressed air system, bear in mind that the unit’s purchase price is one of the smallest components of its lifecycle costs. Energy efficiency then becomes even more important in reducing the costs of running the machine.

Consider the service factor.
A compressor’s service factor is the measure of how much a motor can operate beyond maximum capacity without overload or damage. Compressors can be, and often are, run at loads higher than their stated ratings—a fact that contributes to increased energy usage.

Match operating pressures.
Compressor systems function best when the operating pressures of its component parts match.

Build in margins for error.
Buy a compressor that meets your peak load plus an extra 20 to 30 percent for growth.

Size affects reliability.
Two smaller compressors run in parallel may be able to handle the same load as a single, large compressor. What’s more, such a system will be less prone to failure (since compressors occasionally fail) and cost less to operate.

Consider electronic pressure controls.
Some compressed air systems feature electronic pressure controls that can automatically and accurately establish system pressure.

Choose the right cooling medium.
All compressed air systems require cooling, and different cooling methods consume different quantities of energy. Choose the medium that strikes the right balance between efficiency and effectiveness for your business. Air-cooled systems need large supplies of fresh clean air to function; water-cooled systems continuously intake large quantities of fresh water. Depending on resource costs in your area, one method may be more cost effective than the other.

Go low.
Buy a low-pressure system for tools that do not require as much pressure to operate.

Service the air dryer.
An efficient air dryer can significantly reduce energy load by drying only as much air as is needed.