An air compressor is mechanical device which utilizes energy to compress air. It is a device where compressed air is stored for later use.

The page will provide you with all the relevant information about air compressors and the different types!

Table of Contents

What Is An Air Compressor?

An compressor converts diesel or electric power to potential power (pressurized air). The compressor has an intake valve that allows ambient air to enter it’s system and undergo compression.

The compressor typically shuts off when the compressed air in the storage tank reaches the upper pressure limit (cut-off) and then kicks back on when the air pressure reaches the lower pressure limit (cut-in) to add more air into the tank.

What Is An Air Compressor Used For?

Air compressors are easily found within three different types of marker, allowing their uses to be so diverse and varied. These three are:

  1. Air compressors at home
  2. Air compressors in small businesses
  3. Air compressors in industry

Let’s take a look at these in greater detail!

Air Compressors at Home

Air compressors in are often used at home for small DIY projects for fun or profit. People who invest in a compressor for home mostly have a DIY attitude or a willingness to learn. Some of the uses you achieve from having a compressor in your home include:

  • Adding pressure to tires
  • Cleaning items using the air pressure
  • Inflating balloons and balls
  • Painting cars and items
  • Using pneumatic tools

Air Compressors in Small Businesses

Many small businesses around the world are using pneumatic tools rather than electric ones as they’re lighter and safer to operate. Unlike electric tools, pneumatic ones do not generate a lot of heat and therefore are safer to use for longer periods.

Some of the most common uses of air compressors across small businesses include:

  • Car auto shops for painting
  • Carpenters for sanding and other applications
  • Construction sites for pneumatic drills and hammers
  • Dental and medical services
  • Small manufacturing firms
  • Ski hills to make snow

Air Compressors in Industry

Air compressors are found in many industries for a whole host of reasons. These compressors tend to be massive in size and therefore have a greater capacity, their applications include:

  • Cooling and freezing food and beverages in the food industry
  • Cement manufacturing plants
  • Cutting and welding machinery
  • Dairy farmers use them to power their machines
  • Operating automated machinery in manufacturing plants
  • Operating pneumatic material equipment
  • Spraying crops in farms

Types of Air Compressors

Air compressors are typically either positive displacement or dynamic displacement compressors.

Positive Displacement Air Compressors

Positive displacement air compressors force the air into a chamber. The volume of this storage chamber decreases due to the incoming compressed air. An outlet valve is then opened and releases the are. Piston (reciprocating), rotary and valve compresses are a few positive displacement compressors.

Reciprocating air compressors

Reciprocating air compressors are positive displacement piston type air compressors that suck in air into a chamber and compress it. Read more about reciprocating air compressors here.

Rotary Screw air compressors

Rotary screw air compressors work by generating compression continuously at the rotary screw drive air end of the compressor. Air enters the unit at the inlet port of one of the two large screws rotating against one another, also known as the rotors or rotary screws. This air then moves down the length of the screws and compresses the air towards the outlet due to the air gaps in the rotors getting smaller and smaller. Read more about rotary screw air compressors here.

Rotary Vane air compressors

Typically an electric motor that rotates the rotary vane shaft, the vanes to draw in free air, and compress it as they rotate, generating compressed air power. Read more about rotary vane air compressors here.

Dynamic Displacement Air Compressors

Dynamic compressors use an impeller which uses centrifugal force to accelerate air and decelerate the captured air before pressurizing it. These compressors use kinetic energy and the two main types are axial flow or centrifugal air compressors.

Axial Flow air compressors

Axial compressors are typically made up of many alternating rows of rotating (rotors) and stationary (stators) blades. The blades are similar to that of an aircraft wing as they have small airfoil cross-sections. Jet engines are actually extremely large examples of axial flow air compressors – in their case using the compression to generate thrust. A bit more than your commercial variety axial flow air compressor!

Read more about axial flow air compressors here.

Centrifugal air compressors

Centrifugal compressors draw air into the centre of their rotating impeller using its radial blades. The blades essentially produce a pressure variation very similar to an airfoil of a spinning propeller on an aircraft or wind turbine. The centrifugal compressors are built in stages, and each stage has a part to play in the overall pressure increase of the system. Read more about centrifugal air compressors here.

Why Use An Air Compressor?

First of all and air compressor is so versatile and can be used for countless jobs. It is compatible with many household and industrial equipment making DIY very easy and fun. They allow you to handle lots of small jobs around your home without the need of calling an expert.

The mightiest reason of all? Air is free!! Air is one of the free tools around and yet few people really appreciate how an air compressor pressurizes your air for use.


If you have any questions regarding what air compressors are, please leave a comment below with a photo if applicable so that someone can help you!