Air Compressor Types – Why Would You Pick One Over the Other?

I don’t know about you but working on air compressor  building projects with the correct tools makes all the difference. Especially the time saved. One of the best tools to have available in your tool kit is a good quality air compressor. Like most things, picking the correct one is important not only for performance but also your safety. Be sure to understand the following points before you buy.

Rotary and Reciprocating air compressors

The most common compressors are reciprocating compressors. A simple piston driven design makes them easy to manufacture which means savings for you. A piston is used to raise the pressure within a cylinder and store it in a holding tank.

Rotary compressors a more complex and work in a completely different way. Pressure is generated using two helical screws spinning within a sealed chamber. Rotary compressors are more efficient the larger they are so. if size is a controlling factor for your situation, go with a reciprocating air compressor.

Duty Cycle
If you need the compressor to run continuously, such as spray painting, then go with rotary air compressor. Reciprocal air compressors are great for air tools where you are using the pressure less often and in short bursts. Rotary compressors will show a 100% duty cycle and reciprocal will usually show 50% meaning it needs to rest and build new pressure 50% of the time.

Power type
The most common types of power choices are diesel or electricity. Deciding on which is better suited for your situation is determined mainly by the environment your air compressor needs to operate in.

Diesel compressors are good at running for long extended periods of time. Even though their output is large they are also portable making them favorites in the construction industry. Although diesel fuel is readily available, even in remote locations, adequate ventilation is required which limits their use to external

Electric powered air compressors on the other hand can be located indoors and more suited to permanent installations. Although there are larger models the majority are smaller units for powering hand tools and other personal applications. Light and very portable they are however, restricted by availability of electrical power outlets.


Basically, the bigger the air compressor the bigger the noise. Because reciprocal air compressors are usually smaller and operate on a 50% duty cycle these portable units shouldn’t present much of a problem. However, larger diesel powered units on construction site will need to be assessed for environmental noise pollution during the course of construction. Permanently installed units will need a dedicated plant room with some locations requiring acoustic controls.

Obviously, the smaller reciprocal units can be easily thrown in the back of your vehicle. Larger diesel powered units will be fitted with their towing rig however, they are heavy units to tow. Your vehicle choice is critical here. Be sure to check your vehicles maximum towing load.


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