Compressed Air

Plumbing compressed air has been a topic that a lot of folks have posted questions on.

So much so, that I think it useful to have pages specifically about that topic, as the how-to of plumbing compressed air seems to be of interest to the DIY (Do It Yourselfer) and the industrial mechanic.

Some fundamentals about compressed air are in order.


Compressing air generates water. The larger the compressor and the more frequently it runs, the more water will be generated. There is lots of information about compressor generated water here so I will not go into it further on this page.

Since there are not too many plumbing applications for compressed air where water spraying out along with the air is a good thing you will need to attack the water problem at the source. That is part of good plumbing of compressed air

Plumbing In A Filter

The primary water removal device is the compressed air filter. Water generated by compressing of air is a problem for compressed air users. When you are plumbing your compressed air, you will want to install compressed air filters in a number of locations.

I have not seen one of the lower cost compressors (under $250.00) come equipped with a compressed air filter

If you do not have a filter installed upstream from the air regulator on your home compressor, and if you are using your compressor for longer than a couple of minutes at a stretch, and since most of your compressed air-using applications do not like water flowing through them, I recommend you install a compressed air filter first where the air exits the tank and before the regulator.

Here are complete details on compressed air filters; well worth reading now.

Plumbing In A Regulator

The big box store compressors usually come equipped with a regulator to allow you to control the air pressure to your tools or other compressed air using applications.

You want to dial down the air pressure coming from your compressor to the lowest pressure setting at which your air tools will work properly. This saves compressor cycling, energy, and extends the life of your air driven equipment.

Dialing down the air pressure close to the equipment minimum operating pressure applies to both DIY home compressor users, and industrial compressed air applications.

Here is a broad range of information about compressed air regulators, and well worth reading now.

That is enough for fundamentals. Now we will get to the plumbing compressed air information. I have broken the plumbing of compressed air into sections; portable and industrial installations.

Plumbing Portable Compressors

The fact that an air compressor is portable leaves out, normally, the potential for installing it in one place permanently, and that, normally leaves out hard pipe plumbing.

Often DIY portable air compressors come with a sort of plumbing kit, including package of connectors, couplers, maybe a blow gun, an air chuck for filling tires, and often a low cost, poor quality, PVC hose.

These PVC hoses are hard, get really harder when it is cool, the fittings are suspect quality, and all in all I was not very happy with using mine.

So, I finally broke down and got rid of the low cost PVC hose that came with my small portable shop compressor, and sprung for a larger inner diameter rubber hose with much greater flexibility, and a better quality coupler. If you find the PVC hose that came with the compressor hard to work with, consider doing the same. You will be glad you did in terms of easier use of compressed air.

That Is Pretty Much It

Depending on what you are doing with your home portable compressor, that is really all you have to do when plumbing it.

The air compressor will come with a discharge coupler downstream from the regulator, and you plug the connector on your air hose into that coupler to get air flowing into the air line.

Some folks find that when they do plug in the air connector, they do not get air in the hose. Here are the things you can check if you have that problem.

Tool Lubricator

If your air compressor use is primarily air tools, they do need regular lubrication.

When I am using my air tools, just before use, I put three drops of air tool lube oil into the in air-port of the tool. After using that tool, just before I put the tool away, , I put three more drops into it and give it a 1/2 second blast of air to distribute the oil. That's all the lube I use, and my tools stand up well.

Mind you, I only use them for a couple of minutes, put them down, do something else, and then use them again for a couple of minutes. It is not continuous use at all.

If you are using your air tools constantly, you may want to consider an in line oiler. Here is lots of information on air line lubricators.

Please do use the ASK page if you have any questions about plumbing portable air compressors.

Fixed Compressors Installation

Folks with a home shop might opt for, or the industrial compressor users almost always have, a fixed compressor installation.

Here is information on this type of compressed air plumbing.