Losing power from inefficient or faulty piping is an expensive accident. Before you install a new compressed air system ask yourself this question: “What is the best air compressor pipe for my system?”
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 air without any leakage so you can use it in your machines, air tools, etc. But it’s very important to buy the right kind and size of pipe to save money.
There are so many different kinds of compressed air pipes on the market today. It can be a bit confusing to decide which one is best for your use. 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. How do you pick the right one?
Air Compressor Piping Options
Highly Recommended for Clean Air Applications
The latest technology is push-to-connect aluminum piping systems for compressed air lines (such as Parker Transair). Aluminum is light-weight, making it easy to work with compared to other piping. Also, it 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 leaks in your system by using aluminum piping may be the best option for you.
Recommended for Compressed Air Systems
Black pipe is the most commonly used pipe recommended for compressed air systems. It is easy to get your hands on, it is strong and durable, and most people are familiar with how to install it. However, it will produce rust contamination that damages pneumatic tooling.
The pipe is uncoated which leads to rusting. The installation of black pipe systems requires a large amount of time. Even more, you will need to plan carefully. Changes to the system will require de-pressurizing while new drops or additional loops are added.
Stainless steel pipe has long been used to prevent corrosion. It combines all of the strength and durability benefits of black pipe 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 freeze up which causes great difficulty during disassembly and for general maintenance.
Recommended for Clean Air
Copper pipe is commonly recommended for clean air. Mostly because it works very well and it is of high quality. 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 pneumatic tools is clean and free of particulates.
Not Recommended for Compressed Air
Galvanized piping is commonly used for water distribution and for general plumbing. However, it is 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.
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
Pipe made from metal is always the best choice. If you need clean air for your facility, use copper or aluminum piping.
Aluminum, Stainless Steel, and Copper piping all are corrosion-resistant. Aluminum piping also reduces leaks.