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Understanding Pressure Drop | Air Compressor Guide
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Understanding Pressure Drop

Pressure drop is a critical concept in the realm of compressed air systems. It refers to the loss of pressure as air moves through a system. Understanding and managing pressure drop is essential for maintaining system efficiency and ensuring the effective operation of air-powered tools and processes.

Basic Concept of Pressure Drop

At its core, pressure drop is the reduction in air pressure from the compressor outlet to the point of use. This decrease occurs as compressed air travels through hoses, pipes, filters, dryers, and fittings. Even in well-designed systems, some degree of pressure drop is inevitable due to friction and resistance.

Causes of Pressure Drop

The reasons behind pressure drop can vary:

Piping Layout and Diameter: Constricted or lengthy piping can contribute significantly to pressure drop. The diameter of the pipes plays a crucial role – narrower pipes often result in higher pressure losses.

Air Compressor and System Design: The overall design of the air compressor and the system affects how efficiently air flows through it. Poor design can lead to unnecessary pressure drops.

Blockages, Leaks, or Improper Maintenance: Any obstruction in the airflow, leaks in the system, or lack of regular maintenance can cause a significant increase in pressure drop.

Impacts of Pressure Drop

The main effect of pressure drop is reduced system efficiency, or in other words: increased energy consumption.

Since we do require a certain pressure at the point of use, we need to set the pressure setpoint of the compressed higher than we would without the pressure loss.

This higher setpoint has a direct correlation to higher energy consumption.

How much this costs extra per year (in money) depends on the size of your compressor. It can be from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars per year. Wasted on pressure drop!

Preventing and Reducing Pressure Drop

To mitigate pressure drop:

Regular Maintenance and Inspections: Ensure that the air compressor and its components are regularly checked and maintained. This includes checking for leaks, blockages, and ensuring all parts are in good working condition.

Proper System Design and Component Selection: Design the system with minimal bends and restrictions. Choose the right pipe diameter and layout to facilitate smooth airflow.

Minimizing Bends and Restrictions in Piping: Avoid sharp bends and use sweep elbows where necessary. Keep the piping as straight and short as possible to reduce resistance.


Managing pressure drop is crucial for the efficiency and longevity of compressed air systems. Regular maintenance, thoughtful system design, and understanding the causes of pressure drop can significantly improve the performance of your compressed air system.

To learn more about how to optimize your compressed air system and save thousands of dollars on yearly running costs, check out my book "Compressed Air System Optimization"