How to Choose the Right Air Compressor for Auto Repair

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compressed airAccording to audits conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy, more than half of compressed air systems in small to medium-sized facilities have low-cost opportunities for energy conservation. For example, keeping your compressed air piping layout free of leaks can dramatically lower energy costs in the long run, since your air compressor doesn’t have to work as hard to keep up with demand.

Energy efficiency may not be the first thing you think about when you have to buy a brand new compressed air system, though. There are many other questions you have to consider when you buy a new air compressor, and making the right choice can be quite a challenge.

To help you with that, the following tips should tell you some of what you need to look out for. Keep these in mind as you choose the right size of air compressor for your garage.

Determine Your Compressed Air Demand

The first question you must ask is how much compressed air you need to do your work. Compressed air volume delivery can’t usually be defined precisely, but you can estimate the amount you need while allowing for fluctuations as your shop expands.

Compressed air delivery gets measured in SCFM, or standard cubic feet per minute. Every air compressor system has a specific SCFM output, and every pneumatic tool has a specific SCFM range it’s built for. To determine the air requirement for your entire workshop, you must simply add up the SCFM requirements of each tool that you may have to use simultaneously in your garage. If you can’t find these numbers printed on the tools themselves, you should be able to find them on their respective manufacturers’ websites.

Define Your Needed Air Pressure

Besides knowing about how much air volume you need, you also need to know what your necessary air pressure is. This is measured in PSI, or pounds per square inch, and the amount of pressure you need is referred to as working pressure.

To determine your working pressure, you need to find out what the operating pressure needed to run your most pressure-intensive tools. Find your air tool with the highest needed operating pressure, and make sure the air compressor you purchase will supply that. You shouldn’t have to worry about having a lower air pressure for your less pressure-heavy tools, because those should have regulators installed on them so they can function normally in high-pressure systems.

Check Your Electrical System

Finally, before you buy a new air compressor, you’ve got to verify that it’s compatible with your electrical setup. Larger air compressors demand more power to run — in fact, your compressor is probably the biggest energy-consumer in your shop. But the size of air compressor you can accommodate will depend on your available energy source.

To find out what kind of power your facility offers, consult an electrician who can tell you what your maximum electrical service is. They should be able to tell you whether you have three phase or single phase power, as well as the voltage and amp level available in your garage. Then compare these numbers to air compressors you consider buying to make sure they’ll work in your shop.

And there you have it: from checking your power source to defining your necessary compressed air volume, these are some basic tips for choosing the right compressed air system for your garage.