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Air Compressor Piping Diagrams and Tips From Experts

Published Categorized as Compressed Air Plumbing No Comments on Air Compressor Piping Diagrams and Tips From Experts

Are you having trouble with your air compressor pressure excessively dropping? Are you struggling to create your piping diagram at home? Or are you generally interested in how to successfully layout your compressed air pipes? Well, look no further.

This article aims to provide you with all the necessary information, tips, and guides to producing the most efficiently designed piping system possible. This will save energy, costs and certainly reduce the wear and tear on your compressor.

Table of Contents

About Air Compressor Piping Systems

Air compressor distribution systems consist of series of pipes that convey the compressed air from the compressor air tank, to its distribution point. You’ll find that it is very common for the majority of air compressors to have multiple drops along with their piping systems. These drops provide support for different tools, processes, or even production lines.

If your air compressor efficiently conveys air from the compressor to the systems endpoint with very little pressure drop, it is considered well designed. Little pressure, drop is when the pressure at the end of the line is close to the pressure that enters the system.

You do not want a poorly designed air compressor piping system. This can cause difficulty in delivering the required pressure at the end of the line. Not only this, but it can reduce the life of your air compressor, and may cost you a lot of extra money.

General Rules of Air Compressor Piping Diagrams

Piping is a very important component when it comes to designing and developing a successful air compressor system. As compressed air faces a risk of losing pressure across the system (pressure drop), or even contamination along its path. The following general rules will help minimize any chances of you have a poorly pressurized air compressor:

  • The discharge pipe should be the same size as the compressor outlet
  • The inlet and discharge outlet must be designed so that they allow smooth flow of air over the entire system
  • The first airdrop should be about 50 ft away from the compressor for optimal performance. Multiple air users should not be connected to the same drop, each drop should be used for a single air user.
  • Shut-off valves must be installed to allow air to stop along the way for filter maintenance when required
  • The main lines should slope at least 100mm away from the air compressor to allow the air to cool at room temperature before traveling through the pipes
  • Consider installing an extra receiver at the end of the line to take care of peak air demands
  • Incorporate drain valves, they help the system dispose of any contaminates that build up especially during heavy use. Ensure to drain the system daily and increase the intervals as the need arises
  • Ensure to read and understand piping requirements before installation. Use an expert’s advice if required

Types of Pipes

Most people are quick to forget, that you must make a decision on the type of pipe required for your air compressor piping system. There are 2 kinds, plastic and metallic.

With the key interest being to reduce corrosion of the pipes, plastic pipes tend to have the upper hand as they don’t corrode. They’re extremely lightweight, portable, and easier to cut through. High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) are common plastics to be used for an air compressor piping system as they can withstand high pressures.

Many people choose metal pipes for their air compressor systems as the appearance and characteristics guarantee longevity and strength attributes. Stainless steel, black steel, galvanized steel, copper, and aluminum are the most common.

Please visit our page on types of compressed air pipe materials for more information.

Tips for an Efficient Compressed Air Piping System Layout

Implementing a couple of best practices into the design of your air compressor piping system layout will go a great distance. This will reduce the pressure drop issue in the system and hopefully extend its life. The following tips can help improve the efficiency of your air compressor piping system.

The Material Used

The materials used in the piping system will play a significant role in the quality of your pressurized air. As mentioned, pipes come in a variety of materials, with a variety of advantages and disadvantages. It is very important, if not essential, to recognize that using an unsuitable material in an air compressor piping diagram can lead to mechanical failure, damages, or even severe injury and potential deaths.


The diameter of the pipes is an important parameter to consider as this can significantly affect the pressure of the air. If the pipes are too small, the pressure may increase beyond the desired amount. Having an overworked system can cause premature wear and very costly maintenance.

This can also be dependent on the size of the air compressor.


The distance between the piping system and the point of use must not be too far, as the pressure could then drop below the desired amount.

Considering the Layout

In regard to piping layouts, it is possible to either have straight piping or looped ones. In most cases loop type distribution systems are more beneficial. They allow the air to flow in any direction to get to the demand in the path of least resistance. Square plants may suit loop-style piping, whilst longer and narrower plants may suit straight piping. It’s important to consult an expert to ensure you avoid unnecessary pressure drop in your system.

Avoiding Sharp Angles

It’s important to reduce the number of elbows/sharp angles in your piping diagram. They reduce the speed of airflow and therefore cause pressure drop. The most efficient pathway is a straight one. This avoids energy being wasted as air ricochets around the pipe after a sharp angle.

Regulating Moisture Levels

Moisture has adverse effects on piping as it tends to destroy pipes through the resulting rust. Not only this, but it can cause significant obstructions in the system, and even clog the nozzle while contaminating parts. Moisture will cause the internal face of the pipe to rust and corrode which is something we cannot see. This results in roughness, which will then reduce the pressure of the air traveling through.

One technique would be changing the supply inlet from the bottom to the top of the compressor, to help reduce the moisture. Another would be using an aftercooler, they can remove above 50% of the liquid in an air compressor piping diagram.

It must be noted, that it is impossible to keep any air compressor system free of moisture. So it is imperative that you try to reduce this as much as possible, to avoid damaging the piping and certainly improve the air compressor’s overall efficiency.

Keeping Obstructions Under Control

Obstructions clog the piping system, which will decrease the pressure of the air severely. It can be easy to spot obstructions in your piping systems as you may notice very high pressure just before where the obstruction is, and very low pressure after it.

Effective air filters can help to remove specific particles that clog up your air compressor piping systems, keeping them under control.


The quality of the air can be affected by temperature fluctuations in the working area, this may be due to pipes not being houses in the same room. Pipes passing through varying rooms or even underground can expose them to varying temperature levels.

Extreme amounts of heat can cause pipes to wear and become dangerous to their users. Extreme low temperatures, on the contrary, can cause condensation within the system. It is therefore very important to understand the temperature fluctuations around your system and take appropriate measures.

Maintenance Requirements

A bypass pipe should be put in place to continue the transportation of compressed air when maintenance needs to be completed. It is important to plan for future maintenance, and be ahead of yourself when planning your air compressor piping diagram. The bypass pipe should also have a valve on it to cut the air supply when the maintenance is completed.

Future Expansion

Do you think you will need to expand your piping network at a later date due to additional demand? If so, it is highly recommended and far more cost-effective to plan for expansion now. Upgrading the piping diagram at a later date can be very expensive.

Hopefully, this page has provided you with enough tips and rules so that you’re able to successfully complete your own air compressor piping diagram.

Adhere to these tips to ensure the safety of your air compressor system. By following the correct guidance when designing an air compressor piping system, you will be able to utilize its true potential.

If you’re wondering what size air compressor you need to begin with, please visit our page on this topic.

If you have any questions regarding piping diagrams, please leave a comment below, with a photo if applicable, so that someone can help you!

By Aidan Weeks

A passionate Mechanical Engineer with endless enthusiasm for fluid power - building off the back of over 18 years of high quality contribution and discussion stimulated by Bill Wade here at About Air Compressors. With both practical and theoretical experience in pneumatics and hydraulics, I'm putting my knowledge to work - and working my grey-matter through my research, assistance and publishing work here at About Air Compressors. Feel free to reach out any time! P.S. A HUGE shout out to Doug who really offers such great value to all visitors to About Air Compressors - once again, feeling like I'm standing on the shoulders of GIANTS by getting to work alongside such a great community

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