How to Calculate and Avoid Compressed Air Pressure Drop in Systems

EXAIR has been manufacturing Intelligent Compressed Air Products since 1983.  They are engineered with the highest of quality, efficiency, safety, and effectiveness in mind.  Since compressed air is the source for operation, the limitations can be defined by its supply.  With EXAIR products and pneumatic equipment, you will need a way to transfer the compressed air from the air compressor.  There are three main ways; pipes, hoses and tubes.  In this blog, I will compare the difference between compressed air hoses and compressed air tubes.

The basic difference between a compressed air hose and a compressed air tube is the way the diameter is defined.    A hose is measured by the inner diameter while a tube is measured by the outer diameter.  As an example, a 3/8” compressed air hose has an inner diameter of 3/8”.  While a 3/8” compressed air tube has an outer diameter that measures 3/8”.  Thus, for the same dimensional reference, the inner diameter for the tube will be smaller than the hose.

Why do I bring this up?  Pressure drop…  Pressure Drop is a waste of energy, and it reduces the ability of your compressed air system to do work.  To reduce waste, we need to reduce pressure drop.  If we look at the equation for pressure drop, DP, we can find the factors that play an important role.  Equation 1 shows a reference equation for pressure drop.

Equation 1:

DP = Sx * f * Q1.85 * L / (ID5 * P)

DP – Pressure Drop

Sx – Scalar value

f – friction factor

Q – Flow at standard conditions

L – Length of pipe

ID – Inside Diameter

P – Absolute Pressure


From Equation 1, differential pressure is controlled by the friction of the wall surface, the flow of compressed air, the length of the pipe, the diameter of the pipe, and the inlet pressure.  As you can see, the pressure drop, DP, is inversely affected by the inner diameter to the fifth power.  So, if the inner diameter of the pipe is twice as small, the pressure drop will increase by 25, or 32 times.

Let’s revisit the 3/8” hose and 3/8” tube.  The 3/8” hose has an inner diameter of 0.375”, and the 3/8” tube has an inner diameter of 0.25”.  In keeping the same variables except for the diameter, we can make a pressure drop comparison.  In Equation 2, I will use DPt and DPh for the pressure drop within the tube and hose respectively.

Equation 2:

DPt / DPh = (Dh)5 / (Dt)5

DPt – Pressure drop of tube

DPh – Pressure Drop of hose

Dh – Inner Diameter of hose

Dt – Inner Diameter of tube

Thus, DPt / DPh = (0.375”)5 / (0.25”)5 = 7.6

As you can see, by using a 3/8” tube in the process instead of the 3/8” hose, the pressure drop will be 7.6 times higher.

Diameters: 3/8″ Pipe vs. 3/8″ tube

At EXAIR, we want to make sure that our customers are able to get the most from our products.  To do this, we need to properly size the compressed air lines.  Within our installation sheets for our Super Air Knives, we recommend the infeed pipe sizes for each air knife at different lengths.

There is also an excerpt about replacing schedule 40 pipe with a compressed air hose.  We state; “If compressed air hose is used, always go one size larger than the recommended pipe size due to the smaller I.D. of hose”.  Here is the reason.  The 1/4” NPT Schedule 40 pipe has an inner diameter of 0.364” (9.2mm).  Since the 3/8” compressed air hose has an inner diameter of 0.375” (9.5mm), the diameter will not create any additional pressure drop.  Some industrial facilities like to use compressed air tubing instead of hoses.  This is fine as long as the inner diameters match appropriately with the recommended pipe in the installation sheets.  Then you can reduce any waste from pressure drop and get the most from the EXAIR products.

With the diameter being such a significant role in creating pressure drop, it is very important to understand the type of connections to your pneumatic devices; i.e. hoses, pipes, or tubes.  In most cases, this is the reason for pneumatic products to underperform, as well as wasting energy within your compressed air system.  If you would like to discuss further the ways to save energy and reduce pressure drop, an Application Engineer at EXAIR will be happy to assist you.


John Ball
Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Receiver Tank Calculations

Receiver Tank

My colleague, Lee Evans, wrote a blog about calculating the size of receiver tanks within a compressor air system.  (You can read it here: Receiver Tank Principle and Calculations).  But, what if you want to use them in remote areas or in emergency cases?  During these situations, the air compressor is not putting any additional compressed air into the tank.  But, we still have potential energy stored inside the tanks similar to a capacitor that has stored voltage in an electrical system.  In this blog, I will show how you can calculate the size of receiver tanks for applications that are remote or for emergency systems.

From Lee Evans’ blog, Equation 1 can be adjusted to remove the input capacity from an air compressor.  This value is Cap below.  During air compressor shutdowns or after being filled and removed, this value becomes zero.

Receiver tank capacity formula (Equation 1)

V = T * (C – Cap) * (Pa) / (P1-P2)

V – Volume of receiver tank (cubic feet)

T – Time interval (minutes)

C – Air requirement of demand (cubic feet per minute)

Cap – Compressor capacity (cubic feet per minute)

Pa – Absolute atmospheric pressure (PSIA)

P1 – Tank pressure (PSIG)

P2 = minimum tank pressure (PSIG)


Making Cap = 0, the new equation for this type of receiver tank now becomes Equation 2.

Receiver tank capacity formula (Equation 2)

V = T * C * (Pa) / (P1-P2)

With Equation 2, we can calculate the required volume of a receiver tank after it has been pre-charged.  For example, EXAIR created a special Air Amplifier to remove toxic fumes from an oven.  The Air Amplifier was positioned in the exhaust stack and would only operate during power failures.  In this situation, product was being baked in an oven.  The material had toxic chemicals that had to cross-link to harden.  If the power would go out, then the product in the oven would be discarded, but the toxic fumes had to be removed.  What also doesn’t work during power outages is the air compressor.  So, they needed to have a receiver tank with enough volume to store compressed air.  From the volume of the oven, we calculated that they need the special Air Amplifier to operate for 6 minutes.  The compressed air system was operating at 110 PSIG, and the Air Amplifier required an average air flow of 10 cubic feet per minute from the range of 110 PSIG to 0 PSIG.  We are able to calculate the required receiver volume to ensure that the toxic fumes are evacuated from the oven in Equation 2.

Receiver tank capacity formula (Equation 2)

V = T * C * Pa / (P1 – P2)

V = 6 minutes * 10 cubic feet per minute * 14.7 PSIA / (110 PSIG – 0 PSIG)

V = 8 cubic feet.

Receiver tanks are more commonly sized in gallons.  In converting 8 cubic feet to gallons, we get a 60-Gallon Receiver Tank.  EXAIR recommended the model 9500-60 to be used near the oven to operate the special Air Amplifier during power outage.

Another way to look at Equation 2 is to create a timing equation.  If the volume of the tank is known, we can calculate how long a system will last.  In this example for scuba diving, we can use this information to configure the amount of time that a tank will last.  The diver has a 0.39 cubic feet tank at a pressure of 3,000 PSIG.  I will use a standard Surface Consumption Rate, SCR, at 0.8 cubic feet per minute.  If we stop the test when the tank reaches a pressure of 1,000 PSIG, we can calculate the time by using Equation 3.

Receiver tank timing formula (Equation 3):

T = V * (P1 – P2) / (C * Pa)

T – Time interval (minutes)

V – Volume of receiver tank (cubic feet)

C – Air demand (cubic feet per minute)

Pa – Absolute atmospheric pressure (PSIA)

P1 – Initial tank pressure (PSIG)

P2 – Ending tank pressure (PSIG)

By placing the values in the Equation 3, we can calculate the time to go from 3,000 PSIG to 1,000 PSIG by breathing normal at the surface.

T = 0.39 cubic feet * (3,000 PSIG – 1,000 PSIG) / (0.8 cubic feet per minute * 14.7 PSIA)

T = 66 minutes.

What happens if the diver goes into deeper water?  The atmospheric pressure, Pa, changes.  If the diver goes to 100 feet below the surface, this is roughly 3 atmospheres or (3 * 14.7) = 44.1 PSIA.  If we use the same conditions above except at 100 feet below, the time will change by a third, or in looking at Equation 3:

T = 0.39 cubic feet * (3,000 PSIG – 1,000 PSIG) / (0.8 cubic feet per minute * 44.1 PSIA)

T = 22 minutes. 

If you have any questions about using a receiver tank in your application, you can contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.  We will be happy to solve for the proper volume or time needed for your application.


John Ball
Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Receiver Tank Principle and Calculations


Visualization of the receiver tank concept

A receiver tank is a form of dry compressed air storage in a compressed air system.  Normally installed after drying and filtration, and before end use devices, receiver tanks help to store compressed air.  The compressed air is created by the supply side, stored by the receiver tank, and released as needed to the demand side of the system.

But how does this work?

The principle behind this concept is rooted in pressure differentials.  Just as we increase pressure when reducing volume of a gas, we can increase volume when reducing pressure.  So, if we have a given volume of compressed air at a certain pressure (P1), we will have a different volume of compressed air when converting this same air to a different pressure (P2).

This is the idea behind a receiver tank.  We store the compressed air at a higher pressure than what is needed by the system, creating a favorable pressure differential to release compressed air when it is needed.  And, in order to properly use a receiver tank, we must be able to properly calculate the required size/volume of the tank.  To do so, we must familiarize ourselves with the receiver tank capacity formula.

An EXAIR 60 gallon receiver tank

Receiver tank capacity formula

V = ( T(C-Cap)(Pa)/(P1-P2) )



V = Volume of receiver tank in cubic feet

T = Time interval in minutes during which compressed air demand will occur

C = Air requirement of demand in cubic feet per minute

Cap = Compressor capacity in cubic feet per minute

Pa = Absolute atmospheric pressure, given in PSIA

P1 = Initial tank pressure (Compressor discharge pressure)

P2 = minimum tank pressure (Pressure required at output of tank to operate compressed air devices)

An example:

Let’s consider an application with an intermittent demand spike of 50 SCFM of compressed air at 80 PSIG.  The system is operating from a 10HP compressor which produces 40 SCFM at 110 PSIG, and the compressed air devices need to operate for (5) minutes at this volume.

We can use a receiver tank and the pressure differential between the output of the compressor and the demand of the system to create a reservoir of compressed air.  This stored air will release into the system to maintain pressure while demand is high and rebuild when the excess demand is gone.

In this application, the values are as follows:

V = ?

T = 5 minutes

C = 50 CFM

Cap = 40 SCFM

Pa = 14.5 PSI

P1 = 110 PSIG

P2 = 80 PSIG

Running these numbers out we end up with:

This means we will need a receiver tank with a volume of 24.2 ft.³ (24.2 cubic feet equates to approximately 180 gallons – most receiver tanks have capacities rated in gallons) to store the required volume of compressed air needed in this system.  Doing so will result in a constant supply of 80 PSIG, even at a demand volume which exceeds the ability of the compressor.  By installing a properly sized receiver tank with proper pressure differential, the reliability of the system can be improved.

This improvement in system reliability translates to a more repeatable result from the compressed air driven devices connected to the system.  If you have questions about improving the reliability of your compressed air system, exactly how it can be improved, or what an engineered solution could provide, contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.  We’re here to help.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer

Compressed Air Calculations, Optimization, and Tips

EXAIR uses our blog platform to communicate everything from new product announcements to personal interests to safe and efficient use of compressed air. We have recently passed our 5 year anniversary of posting blogs (hard for us to believe) and I thought it appropriate to share a few of the entries which explain some more of the technical aspects of compressed air.

Here is a good blog explaining EXAIR’s 6 steps to optimization, a useful process for improving your compressed air efficiency:

One of the Above 6 steps is to provide secondary storage, a receiver tank, to eliminate pressure drops from high use intermittent applications. This blog entry addresses how to size a receiver tank properly:

Here are 5 things everyone should know about compressed air, including how to calculate the cost of compressed air:

These next few entries address a common issue we regularly assist customers with, compressed air plumbing:

In a recent blog post we discuss how to improve the efficiency of your point of use applications:

Thanks for supporting our blog over the past 5 years, we appreciate it. If you need any support with your sustainability or safety initiatives, or with your compressed air applications please contact us.  

Have a great day,
Kirk Edwards