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. Lots of information to help you choose is right here on this page.

But first, some general information about bigger versus smaller air compressors.

About Little & Big Air Compressors

Rotary Vane Reciprocating - Small 12 volt air compressor

Mini – 12 VDC electric air compressor

Just what are the differences between the miniature 12 VDC mini-piston reciprocating type air compressor, one of which you see in the image, and a 40 HP rotary screw compressor?

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.

The Important Difference between the above and other compressors?

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.

Small air compressor

Hitachi air compressor

Compressor Types

There are many compressor types. Some are listed below:

  • Reciprocating Piston
  • Portable (Can be any style but typically reciprocating
  • Air Brush (Typically small reciprocating or diaphragm)
  • Diaphragm
  • Rotary Screw
  • Rotary Vane
  • Home Made

A Bit More on Rotary Vane Reciprocating Air Compressor Capacity

All air compressors do essentially the same thing. They gather in free air, and compress it.

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.

Reciprocating Air Compressors

Reciprocating (piston) air compressors are the work-horse compressors with which you may likely be most familiar.

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.

There is a full page of information on the reciprocating type air compressor linked from the sitemap page.

Vane Air Compressors

Vane compressors use air-tool type technology to compress air. These compressors are used in a variety of applications. See information on vane compressors linked from the sitemap page.

Rotary Screw Compressors

The Rotary Screw compressor manufacturers state that their technology is the right choice for many industrial applications. Get more information on Rotary Screw Compressors linked from the sitemap page.

Portable Air Compressors

Many times you will need compressed air at a site where there are no air supplied, and where the in-plant electrical supply is not available to run the compressor to generate compressed air. That being the case, you will want to look at details about portable air compressors

Air Brush Compressors

Hobbyists or professional air-brush artists, there is a page on these compressors linked from the sitemap page.

Home Made Compressors

For the adventurous do-it-yourselfer,. Yup, even a page about home made compressors linked from the sitemap page.

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