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Compressed air piping | Air Compressor Guide
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Compressed air piping

Avoid pressure loss and problems with our clear information on compressed air piping.

Compressed air flows from your air compressor to the end-users (pneumatic machines, work stations, etc) through your compressed air piping.

Big deal, a pipe is a pipe, right?! Yes and no.

Of course a pipe is just a pipe. Its purpose is to transport the air without any leakages so you can use it at your machines, air tools, etc. But it's very important to buy the right kind and size of pipe.

The bigger your compressor and air-demand, the bigger the pipe should be, of course.

But how big is big enough? I know lot of difficult formulas and calculations (that can all be found on the internet).

Don't worry, it's all very simple to calculate. Just use your common sense and same basic rules.

What else is important besides size? Your pipes should be strong enough to withstand the pressure. Don't use a 7-bar pipe for a 30 bar systems, obviously.

Second, your pipes should be durable, be suitable for the compressed air (oil free, with oil, maximum temperature, etc).

Also, the layout and installation of the piping is important. There are a few things to keep in mind when installing compressed air piping, like water, rust problems, where to place valves, where to place connections and filters, and many more.

Pressure drop and pipe size

The compressed air piping in your building will always generate some pressure drop.

What does this mean?

It means that your air users (like air-grinders, pneumatic machines, etc) don't get the same pressure that is available at your compressor.

The air always has some difficulty to pass through the pipes. The longer and smaller the pipes, the harder it is for the air to pass through it.

For this reason, it's important to install big enough piping. Can't decide between two sizes? Get the bigger one!

The more air you use, the bigger the pressure drop is. If you don't use any air at all (after working hours) there won't be any pressure drop.

Pressure drops are only created when the air flows through the piping.

Too small piping is a common problem in factories and workshops which have been expanded over time. They may install a new machine, add extra air tools, etc.

Over time, the original piping which was fine at first became too small! Just like a fast growing city with lots of traffic jams, because the roads are still too small.

Want to know the correct pipe size for your installation? Check out our compressed air pipe sizing page.

Different kinds of compressed air pipe

There are so many different kinds of compressed air pipes on the market these days. It can be a bit confusing.

There are steel pipes, plastic pipes, stainless steel pipes and many other materials available in the shops.

Then there are a thousand different makes and types of piping and couplings.

Which one is good for you?

There are a few things to consider when buying your compressed air piping. Depending on the compressor type and plant size, one might choose a steel or a plastic pipe.

Steel compressed air pipe

Steel pipes have the advantage that they are strong and can withstand high temperatures and pressures. But they are heavy, relatively expensive and have problems with rust.

Plastic compressed air pipe

Plastic pipes are light and rust-free, but cannot withstand high temperatures. Also, some people are afraid they break too quickly or scatter in small pieces (which is dangerous of course).

This has happened in the past with older types of plastic piping. With new high-tech plastic materials this is said to be no longer a problem.

Want to know the right kind of piping for your installation? Check out our compressed air pipes page.

System layout

A good system layout is important for a robust and 'healthy' system. For small systems (1 compressor and a few consumers) this could be very easy.. just 1 pipe.

For bigger systems (more compressors, many air-users at lots of different places) it's important to choose a good system layout.

What's that?

Compare the system layout to the road map of your area. If you want to drive from A to B, there are most likely a few possible routes. You might experience problems if there are too few roads, and
those roads are always very busy.

The same is true for your compressed air piping system layout. You could just make 1 long pipe ('road') and connect all machines and tools on it one after the other. You could also make 1 big main pipe ('highway') with a few sub-systems, each delivering air to a few air consumers.

What's also possible, and usually the best solution is to make a big main ring pipe (just like a highway around a big city), this way the air can always flow to 1 point through two pipes.

On the big main pipe, the smaller sub-networks or consumers are installed.