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What is an Air Compressor?

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What is an Air Compressor

Typically, air compressors are essential mechanical equipment that brings a lot of usefulness to a wide range of homeowners and different industries. These industries range from commercial businesses, the refining industry to the manufacturing industry and the automotive industry.

For more than a century, air compressors are being utilized in different industries constantly. The device is a multifaceted device that is used to supply compressed air or power to a specific space or area. With that said, most people are eager to know how this wonderful utility device works. They go here and there to unearth the mechanism of air compressors.

Consequently, Air Tool Guy has taken the liberty on their shoulders to explain how air compressors work. So, stop scratching your head now and scroll down to learn how air compressors work!

What is an Air Compressor?

An air compressor is a versatile unit for supplying compressed air or power to a certain area or space. The device is used to provide air in an increased pressure i.e. air in a reduced volume. For homeowners, the device is very important and as stated earlier that it plays a major role for different industries as well.

We know that air compressors compress air, but it also works as an energy converter. Usually, the DIY type air compressor will take the electricity as a power source and it will then convert the electricity into compressed air energy.

Types of Air Compressor

There are various types of air compressors that can be found on the market. However, all of them can be categorized into three major air compressor types. These three air compressors are explained below –

Reciprocating (Piston) Air Compressor

The reciprocating air compressor utilizes the piston (s) for compressing air and store the compressed air in a storage tank. This type of air compressor comes in a different configuration like – single-stage or double-stage. The single-stage air compressor makes use of only one piston to compress air, but the double-stage air compressor has two air compressors, which compress the air intensely than the previous one.

Rotary Screw Air Compressor

Rotary Screw Air Compressor
Rotary Screw Air Compressor

The rotary screw air compressor has similar characteristics to the positive displacement-configuration of a reciprocating compressor. Two spinning helical screws or rotors are used to compress air whereas reciprocating air compressor uses the piston to compress air. When the screws mesh to the direction of each other, the air is then compressed and pushed into a storage tank.

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Centrifugal Air Compressor

The centrifugal air compressor is known as a dynamic compressor, which is used when the need for compressed air is high. Usually, a centrifugal air compressor has a high-speed rotating impeller that will enhance the velocity of air. After that, it is directed to the direction of a diffuser, which will convert the velocity of air into pressure. The centrifugal air compressors require more energy to operate than the previous two air compressors.

Air Compressor – How it works?

An air compressor has two significant parts – a compressing system and a power source. Now, the compressing mechanism can be formed by a piston or a rotating impeller and it depends on which type of air compressor you are using. Additionally, the power source is backed up by an electric motor or any type of energy sources.

The compressing mechanism will compress the atmospheric air while using the energy from the power source. The fundamental working principle of an air compressor is compressing the atmospheric air.

In the compressing process, the atmospheric air is drawn through an intake valve. In this valve, air is pulled mechanically within the limited space via piston impeller or vane. when the atmospheric air increases in the receiver or storage tank, the volume is then reduced and pressure is raised automatically. To put simply, the atmospheric air will be compressed when the volume is reduced while, at the same time, the pressure will increase as well.

According to the demand of the operator, the pressure setting knob can be manipulated. When the pressure of the receiver or tank rises to the maximum level, the pressure switch will shut off. After that, the intake of the air compressor will stop. In contrast to this situation, as the compressed air is used, the pressure within the system will fall.

As a result, the pressure will drop to a low setting and the pressure switch will be turned on. It will allow the atmospheric air to enter the unit. In this way, the cycle of taking air within the device and removing the compressed air will continue in an air compressor.

Applications Of Air Compressors

Air compressors can be used for a variety of tasks, such as providing high-pressure, clean air to fill gas cylinders, moderate-pressure, clean air to a submerged surface supplied diver, and moderate-pressure, clean air to drive some pneumatic HVAC control system valves in office and educational buildings.

providing a significant quantity of moderately pressured air to fuel pneumatic equipment like jackhammers, fill HPA tanks, fill tires, and generate significant amounts of moderately pressured air for significant amounts of industrial operations (such as oxidation for petroleum coking or cement plant bag house purge systems).

The flushing medium, aerating muds in underbalanced drilling, and air pigging of pipelines are all common uses for air compressors in the oil and gas, mining, and drilling industries.

Most air compressors are either rotary vane, rotary screw, or reciprocating piston types. While reciprocating, rotary screw and scroll air compressors are preferred for small and medium-sized applications, centrifugal compressors are frequently used in very large applications.


Compared to all other utility tool, the air compressor is definitely superior for its usefulness and perfect results. It can take the edge off a jobsite or home-repair project. Also, air compressor has a sheer power and superior speed that sets it apart from the rest.

So, when you are using an air compressor, just follow the above instructions. You will for sure have the nicest experience of working with an air compressor!

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