Compressed Air The Complete Guide

compressed air complete guide
(Last Updated On: August 25, 2020)

Air Compressors and Compressed Air Flow

Over the years one of the common questions has been “is my compressor big enough to do x thing”? Understanding about compressors and air flow will help answer that question.

To make understanding about compressors and air flow easier, I’ve listed the pages on this site that detail specific issues relating to this topic.

About Compressors And Air Flow

  1. What is CFM?
  2. CFM versus PSI!
  3. What is this compressor good for?
  4. I don’t have enough air pressure?

If you don’t see your issue raised in the menu above, please add a comment below with your compressor and air flow question, and I expect a kind visitor will provide a response.

How To Reduce Compressed Air Use

It’s just good business for every company using compressed air to use it as economically as possible since compressed air is one of the most expensive energy sources.

I found this interesting proposition from a company in the U.S. that sells compressors and compressed air management systems and, they claim, you can pay for the system to reduce compressed air use out of the energy cost reductions that their system will generate.

I’m long past believing in the “free lunch” or the “tooth fairy”, but if I were in business today, what with the economy and all, I’d be looking at ways to try to maintain production and lower costs, even if the promise seemed too good to be true.

If their system works, and I presume that they’ll have evidence of that, then it was me, I’d be asking for details about the Pay as you Save compressed air reduction system; a fully automated air compressor control system.

Oh, and I don’t know these guys from Adam. Just seems like the time is right for a product like this, wherever you decide to get it.


Compressed Air  Wastage and Recycling

With some “experts” suggesting that up to 50% of compressed air generated may be wasted, along with the dollars spent to generate that compressed air, technology to recycle or reclaim compressed air has to be hot.

compressed air recycling

Just came across this quotation today… “Half of the compressed air produced in industrial systems is typically wasted through leakage, artificial demand and inappropriate use. An audit can identify this waste. Eliminating the waste can reduce the number of compressors required, freeing the existing unused compressors to provide backup.” This from

I have always used the “rule of thumb” that about 10% of compressed air generated was wasted. But 50%??? Imagine knocking 50% off the electric cost to run your air compressor. Time for an air leak audit, folks.

Plumbing Compressed Air

An earlier blog commented on how I wouldn’t use plastic pipe (except for P.E. (polyethylene) and urethane tube). That blog got lots of attention.

Even though the pressure rating for smaller diameter PVC, CPVC and PVDF may appear to suit the pressure requirements for compressed air, they are not approved for that use.

If a plastic pipe fails, it may shatter, with catastrophic results.

If you are using plastic to plumb your air, or if you are considering doing so, may I suggest that you contact the pipe manufacturer and ask them if they will sanction the use of their pipe for plumbing compressed air? And keep a copy of the documentation, just in case.


Compressed Air Blow Off

One of the most expensive uses of compressed air is air drying or debris cleaning. Traditionally an air knife connected to a solenoid valve will provide this service.

compresseed air blow off

Paxton offers an air knife system that they claim will significantly reduce energy costs, in some cases up to 80% less than if using compressed air for the same application.


Compressed Air Fittings

Some manufacturers of air fittings mark their metric and imperial fittings well. Some don’t.

The problem is, the tube apertures and the thread sizes on some metric fittings closely correspond to the NPT fitting of the same size.

Imperial sized tubing won’t work in metric fitting, and vice versa.

Worse, metric threads and imperial threads appear identical. It’s the thread geometry that’s different. Trying to screw an NPT fitting into a metric boss might destroy the threads on both. A costly error.

Store your metric and imperial fittings in separate locations.
Campbell Hausfeld 26 Gallon Air Compressor and HVLP Spray Gun Kit
Campbell Hausfeld 26 Gallon Air Compressor and HVLP Spray Gun Ki

Adjustable Air Pressure

In the event that you have an application for compressed air that requires that the pressure to that application to change, you can regulate the air pressure manually by turning the knob on the air pressure regulator.

The typical DIY home compressor will usually be equipped with a regulator that controls the air pressure leaving the compressor to the application. It should also have an air gauge on it, that shows you what the pressure will be downstream from that regulator.

The compressor tank will also have a pressure gauge to show you what the air pressure is upstream from the regulator.

Remember, you cannot dial-up a pressure higher than that which is in the tank.


How To Monitor Compressed Air Use Wirelessly

This is an interesting article proving that monitoring a compressed air system will, over time, allow rapid response to compressed air system changes, and save the operation a great deal of money.

They suggest that most industrial compressed air systems run at 30-50% efficiency, with corresponding much higher energy costs to generate the wasted compressed than necessary.


How To Get Your Air Cylinder To Cycle Faster

The distance from the air cylinder to it’s power valve affect the cylinder speed. Not only does the power air have to travel the distance from the valve to the cylinder, but the exhaust air also has to do the same, in reverse.

Consider a quick exhaust, installed in the cylinder port(s), to speed up cylinder cycle time.


What Size Air Cylinder Should I Get?

You need a certain size cylinder to provide enough force to overcome the tooling load that you are trying to move.

Additional force is required to overcome part-to-part friction inside the air cylinder.

Piston seals and bearing seals will consume some of the strength available in a particular cylinder, so I tend to allow about 10% oversize when I’m selecting an air cylinder for a job, to ensure that I’ve got enough force to exceed the internal friction, and to do the job for which that cylinder was selected.


Venturi Compressed Air Driven Vacuum

Besides pulling a vacuum for almost any application, a venturi vacuum device also has the ability to pass material through itself. Since there’s no moving parts, and the only thing flowing through the wide mouth of the unit is air, if material small enough to fit through the device becomes entrained in the air flow, it passes through the vacuum device with no problem.

One of the leading companies manufacturing such devices (among many others) is Exair.
EXAIR 6083 1-1/2″ Aluminum Line Vac, Aluminum

Compressed Air and Fire Fighting Foam


  1. Is there fire equipment ( to see compressed air foaming system) conventions in california or las vegas???
  2. Any information on compressed air forming fire equipment system ???

3. Do yo know any manf. or distributors that handle this equipment?




Hey Mike:

Thank you for the questions. I’m sorry, but I have no knowledge of using compressed air for fire fighting or about the regulations.

What I will do is post your question to my blog in the hopes that a reader will have information on the subject, and post it for you here.



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