Knowing more about rotary - vane - reciprocating and screw air compressors will help you understand how each stacks up as the possible right air compressor of choice, depending on what you want to be doing with compressed air, and what your budget is.
But first, some general information about bigger versus smaller air compressors.
Well, the 12 Volt air compressor, plugged into the power outlet in your automobile, would not be the air compressor of choice to provide air to your air grinder, to your air drill, or to your plant air supply.
A 40 HP air compressor will over deliver compressed air if all you need a compressor for is to blow up a basketball, a bicycle tire, or perhaps an air mattress.
Other than the obvious differences in appearance and size, the really important difference to the compressed air user - and one that is immaterial to whether the compressor is rotary - vane - reciprocating, diaphragm or screw - is the capacity of each compressor to deliver the volume of compressed air needed. The capacity of the compressor is the air compressors ability to deliver compressed air at the needed flow rate (CFM) and at the right air pressure (PSI) to power your compressed air using tool.
Both the 12 VDC unit plugged into your cars power supply and the 40 HP compressor can typically deliver compressed air at 120 PSI or at a higher pressure, depending on the brand specifications. The difference is in the flow of that compressed air - the amount the compressor can deliver - at that 120 PSI.
If you use too small an air compressor for a high air demand applications the compressor will never catch up (compressed air outflow would always exceed the compressors ability to compress it) and the compressor would never stop. Since many small air compressors have a limited duty cycle the compressor would run at full speed all the time until it finally self-destructed.
The image below is of a small pancake-tank style reciprocating piston air compressor. This brand is Hitachi. Many different brands have the same general appearance as the air compressor in the photo.
There are many compressor types. Some are listed below:
When choosing your air compressor, the type you choose will be important for many valid reasons including the compressors ability to deliver the flow of compressed air at the right pressure. This is critical to your compressor selection.
Now, back to the pages on this website that provide information about rotary - vane - reciprocating, screw and diaphragm compressors.
You will see them at the corner garage, on the shelves at the hardware stores, in residential garages, many home basements, darn near everywhere, and their uses are numerous too. Careful though. While reciprocating compressors often have the lowest up-front cost, they may also have the highest operating cost! If you are planning on using a lot of air in your shop or in your home, a different style of compressor may give you better value over the long haul. Do check this out.
Here is more information on the reciprocating type air compressors.
Did you know that...
"While there are many different types of compressors, all compressor types theoretically operate more efficiently if they are designed to include multiple stages."
Source: Compressed Air Systems Fact Sheet 11, Office of Industrial Technologies, Department of Energy