Aluminum piping assortment.

What Type of Pipe Should I Use for my Air Compressor?

The piping in your system can make or break the profitability

Lost power through inefficient or faulty piping can wipe out your profit margin and give your competitors an advantage. An essential first question when planning a new compressed air system is “What type of pipe should I use for my air compressor?”

Compressed air flows from your compressor to the end-users (pneumatic machines, work stations, etc.) through your compressed air piping. Big deal, a pipe is a pipe, right?! Yes and no. Of course a pipe is just a pipe. Its purpose is to transport the air without any leakage so you can use it at your machines, air tools, etc. But it’s very important to buy the right kind and size of pipe to maximize efficiency and save money.

There are so many different kinds of compressed air pipes on the market these days. It can be a bit confusing. There are steel pipes, plastic pipes, stainless steel pipes and many other materials available online.Then there are a thousand different makes and types of piping and couplings. Which one is good for you?  Let John Henry Foster help!

PIPING OPTIONS

ALUMINUM PIPE

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR CLEAN AIR APPLICATIONS

The latest technology are push-to-connect aluminum piping systems for compressed air lines (such as Parker Transair). Aluminum is light-weight, making it easy to handle compared to schedule 40 or 80 pipe, and is highly recommended for clean air applications. It is non-corrosive, and remains leak free unlike black pipe systems. Considering the high cost of producing compressed air, reducing compressed air consumption by eliminating leaks over the life of the system is a major benefit of using aluminum pipe. Skilled labor is not required to install this type of pipe.


BLACK PIPE

RECOMMENDED FOR COMPRESSED AIR SYSTEMS

Black pipe is the most commonly used pipe recommended for compressed air systems. It is readily available, it is strong and durable and most people are familiar with how to install it. With all of the advantages black pipe provides, however, it will produce rust contamination that damages pneumatic tooling. The pipe is uncoated, and the presence of moisture will initiate rusting which will increase over time. The installation of black pipe systems requires significant amount of time. Plan carefully, changes to the system will require de-pressurizing the system while new drops or additional loops are added.


STAINLESS STEEL

RECOMMENDED

The recommended use of stainless steel to minimize corrosion has a long and successful history. It combines all of the strength and durability benefits of black pipe, but without the problem of rusting. As with black pipe, most people are familiar with how to install the fittings and pipe, but the installation is a lengthy process. Stainless Steel pipe threads also have a tendency to gall and freeze up which can cause great difficulty during disassembly, and for general maintenance.


COPPER PIPE

RECOMMENDED FOR CLEAN AIR

Copper pipe is commonly recommended for clean air, it works very well, and it is expensive. Copper pipe makes for an aesthetically pleasing installation, but the soldering of joints is time consuming and requires skill. Since the combination of copper and water does not create any corrosion or rusting, the air delivered to the pneumatic tools is clean and free of particulates.


GALVANIZED PIPE

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR COMPRESSED AIR

Galvanized piping is commonly used for water distribution and for general plumbing but not recommended for use with compressed air. Galvanized coating resists moisture in compressed air but pieces of the coating will flake off and end up in your tools. The debris will cause severe damage to cylinders, pneumatic tools, and other components. Even more importantly, when exiting a blow gun, little flakes can cause serious bodily harm.


PVC PIPE

NOT RECOMMENDED

The use of PVC pipe is common but not recommended for use with compressed air. It is often used because it is readily available, inexpensive, and easy to install. However, as with many plastics, PVC gets brittle over time and can crack, break, or even shatter. The presence of air compressor oils in the line and heat from the compressed air accelerates the degradation of PVC. These failures, combined with air under pressure, are potentially fatal due to the airborne, razor-sharp shrapnel.

FAQ’s and Recap

What is the most recommended pipe for my compressor system?

Any piping made from metal will be the most recommended for you compressor system. If you find it necessary to provide clean air within your facilities, you may have better luck with copper and aluminum piping.

What piping should I use to minimize corrosion?

Aluminum, Stainless Steel, and Copper piping all are corrosion-resistant. Aluminum piping also has the added benefit of reducing leaks as previously mentioned.