Friction Loss – Pressure Drops – Fitting Restrictions – Why Compressed Air Plumbing Matters

Over the weekend I was working on a car in my driveway and I needed a large volume of air at the far end of the car to try and unplug a clogged sunroof drain line.  Rather than trying to move the car while it was mostly taken apart, I just hooked up another air line extension and started to go to the drain.   Even knowing what I know as an EXAIR Application Engineer about lengths of tubing, air restriction, and fitting restrictions, I went ahead with the quick and easy “fix”.

An example of pressure drop from a compressed air quick disconnect.

I grabbed another 30′ – 3/8″ i.d. air line with 1/4″ quick disconnects (see why this is wrong with this blog) on both end, rather than getting out the 50′ long 1/2″ i.d. air line that I have with proper fittings that then reduce down to a 1/4″NPT at the end to tie into most of my air tools. By doing so I ended up hooking up a Safety Air Gun which then gave a very light puff of air into the tube and the clog in the line went nowhere.  As a matter of fact, it was almost like it laughed because the tubing vibrated as if the clog said, “Pfft I am going nowhere.”

I then, stepped back and evaluated what I had done in a rush to try and get a job done rather than taking the extra five minutes to get the proper air line to do the job.   I then spent 10 minutes putting that hose up and getting out the correct hose.  Then, with a whoosh and a thud the clog was launched into my yard from the clogged drain port and I finished the repairs.

If only I had watched Russ Bowman’s spectacular video on Proper Compressed Air Supply Plumbing the day before. Rather than wasting time with the quick “fix” that cost me more time and didn’t fix anything I should have taken a little more time up front to verify I had properly sized my lines for the job at hand.

If you would like to discuss compressed air plumbing, appropriate line sizes, or insufficient flow on your compressed air system, please contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

Not All Quick Disconnects Are Equal

Quick disconnect pneumatic fittings have been a staple in any manufacturing facility I have ever visited in my 10+ years as part of the manufacturing world.   The fact is, they have been around for a lot longer than 10 years.   The style we see most often is the 1/4″ Quick Disconnect Fitting, and we are typically troubleshooting a lack of air volume problem because they are not sized properly for the application.  These can be found in any industrial supply companies catalog, your local hardware stores, and even auto parts stores.   Quick Disconnects are even sold with certain EXAIR Industrial Housekeeping products, the key being they are properly sized.

Properly sizing the quick disconnect is a critical step in the process of deciding how to lay out your piping system as well as how to ensure products operate at optimal performance.  As you can see in the picture above, the two quick disconnects on the left are both larger quick disconnects as well as larger NPT thread sizes.   The two on the right are smaller and probably a bit more common to see.  Also notice the thread sizes on each, these are also manufactured in many other NPT thread options.   The through hole on the quick disconnects is decided by the size of the QD, not the thread size on the other end.   The example I am illustrating is comparing the 3/8 NPT and 1/4 NPT quick disconnects: Even though you can have 3/8 NPT threads, your throat diameter of the QD is still restricted to .195″ I.D., the same as the 1/4 NPT.  This can be a large restriction on a product with a 3/8 NPT thread size.

The Inner Diameters of the Quick Disconnects

Also to be noted is that all QD’s of the same size are not made equally, tests have shown that you can lose as much as 20 psi through a quick disconnect and up to 40 psi when not properly matched with the female QD.   This leads to the next step which is to ensure that you are not purchasing a QD on appearance.  MAke sure to choose the QD designed to permit the amount of air you need to operate your point of use product without a volume or pressure loss.

These two points are reasons why quick disconnects can diminish your point of use compressed air product performance.  If you have questions on which size to use with your EXAIR product or need help determining why your point of use product is not performing how you would like, contact us.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer Manager
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF