Top 6 Compressed Air Plumbing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

When installing a compressed air driven device, there is almost nothing more important than proper plumbing.  Inadequate compressed air supply can cause performance issues which lead to rejected product or machine slowdown.  In each of these cases, the end result is a loss in productivity and profitability.

At EXAIR, we understand the ins and outs of proper compressed air plumbing.  Over time, I’ve made a list of the most common plumbing mistakes and how to avoid them.

  1. Quick disconnects:  While tempting and lighting fast, these fittings can limit the amount of compressed air delivered through the orifice of the fitting.  If you have performance concerns, check for pressure drops across a quick disconnect fitting.
  2. Inadequate line size:  Think of the compressed air line as a water hose.  If the hose gets too long or is restricted or too small, there won’t be enough force and flow to do any work.  Many compressed air installations use schedule 40 pipe, and the ID and OD dimensions of this pipe are not always what you would think.  Engineering Toolbox is a favorite site of mine and they have a handy chart about Schedule 40 pipe here.  Always make sure the compressed air line can flow enough air volume for the application.
  3. Pressure drops:  Both of the above mentioned problems are essentially pressure drop related issues, but often there are oversights such as the distance of the compressed air line.  As the length of the line increases, the pressure drop will increase.  Imagine trying to blow air through a 1 ft section of garden hose.  Not too hard, right.  Now imagine trying to blow through 50 ft of garden hose.  No matter how hard you try, all the energy will be lost along the length of the hose.  Double check your line lengths and corresponding pressure drops.
  4. No gauges:  If you’re operating a compressed air device and you depend on that unit for proper production, it is imperative to know the operating pressure at the unit.  This is why EXAIR includes pressure gauges with any kit containing a pressure regulator.  There may be 110 PSIG available at the main line, but a gauge at the device will register pressure to the device, which will generally be slightly lower. (This is also helpful to locate any of the aforementioned pressure drops)
  5. Excessive piping bends:  Each bend in a compressed air line (especially 90° bends) removes energy from the compressed air.  Make sure the line to the point of use is as direct and free as possible.
  6. PSI vs. SCFM:  When sizing a compressed air device or system, it’s important to size based on the SCFM and PSI ratings of the compressor.  A compressor that produces 100 PSI cannot necessarily operate any device that requires 100 PSI.  Be sure your compressor has adequate PSI and SCFM ratings for the needs of the application.

As a general rule, we always advise to consult with an EXAIR Application Engineer regarding application specific questions.  Whether product orientation or plumbing, we are always available to answer your questions.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer
leeevans@exair.com
@EXAIR_LE

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