Plumbing Compressed Air

It seems a lot of folks need help plumbing compressed air. At least, that topic surfaces almost every day in questions folks send in to this website.

So much so that I have created a forum page specifically about that plumbing compressed, a topic that seems to be of interest to many DIY (Do It Yourselfer) and the industrial plant-air mechanic.

First, a few fundamentals about compressed air are in order.

Plumbing Compressed Air Fundamentals

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 on this website so I will not go into it further on this page.

Since there are not too many air applications where water spraying out along with the compressed 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 and is covered in the pages on this site.

Plumbing In A Compressed
          Air Filter

An important water removal device is the compressed air filter. Free water generated by compressing of air is a problem. installing compressed air filters in a number of locations throughout the plant will remove free water from the air lines.

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 I recommend you install a compressed air filter right before the air regulator on the discharge line from your compressor.

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

Plumbing An Air Regulator

The big box store compressors usually come equipped with a regulator. It is installed upstream from the discharge coupling on the compressor.

This regulator controls the air pressure level flowing to your tools or other compressed air using applications. You set the regulator to the downstream air pressure your equipment needs.

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 removes the need for installing it in one place permanently, and that normally leaves out hard pipe plumbing. That is typical, though I have seen some pretty fine portable compressor installations that have been hard piped into the garage or workshop.

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 PVC hose.

The PVC hoses included are hard, and get really harder when it is cold, making them somewhat difficult to use.

The included fittings are of suspect quality as well. All in all I was not very happy with using the install kit that came with all of my home-workshop compressors.

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 rubber hose. It has much greater flexibility. If you find the PVC hose that came with your air compressor hard to work with, consider doing the same. You will be glad you did in terms of easier use of compressed air.

The Basic Compressor Plumbing

Depending on what how you use your home portable compressor, all you really have to do is plug the power cord into the wall socket.

The air compressor will have a discharge coupler downstream from the regulator. You plug the connector on your air hose into that coupler to get air flowing into the air line and insert your air tool into the coupler at the other end of the air hose. Simple as that!

Yet some folks find that when they do plug in the air connector, they do not get air in the hose. Here's a page on this site where you find the solution to the no-air-out-of-hose situation.

Air Tool Lubricator

If you use air tools, they do need regular lubrication.

Rather than a continuous tool lubricator, when I start to use a particular air tool, 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 use the ASK page on this site if you have any questions about plumbing portable air compressors.

Fixed Compressors Installation

Folks with a home workshop or the industrial compressor users often have a fixed compressor installation. Here is information on a fixed-installation of compressed air plumbing.