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Atlas Copco VSD Air Compressors
Air Compressors

A Beginners Guide to Air Compressor Sizes


Figuring out what compressor to get can be overwhelming and many don’t know where to start. Over the next few articles, we will walk you through the some of the first few steps to finding the right air compressor for you and your business.

This week we are addressing how to know what size compressor you need. Knowing the correct size compressor that you need is one of the biggest challenges when purchasing a new air compressor. With technology constantly improving, today’s air compressors are much more efficient than their predecessors.

With increased efficiency, it is essential to understand not only the application, but also the usage details to size a compressor correctly. Choosing the wrong size could lead to a problem with production of increased costs due to wasted energy.

The key to sizing your compressor system properly is knowing the flow (CFM) and pressure (PSI) requirements for your facility. Pressure can be measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), or bar (metric measure of pressure). To break it down, pressure refers to the amount of force needed to perform a certain amount of work at any given point in time.

An air compressor needs to provide enough pressure to perform a given task, anything less than that will not accomplish the task. That is why it is important to understand what pressure is needed for your application in order to size the compressor properly. Otherwise, you either waste energy or run into performance problems.

That brings us to flow. Flow is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), liters per second (l/s) or cubic meters per hours (m3/h) depending on where you are located. Flow is the ability of the compressor to continue performing a task within an acceptable time frame or the amount of flow that is required to complete a given task in a certain length of time.

The easiest way to determine what the total flow needed is to have a Compressed Air Audit performed.

To summarize, pressure is determined by the job being performed. Flow requires the understanding of how frequently the job must be done, or how many jobs are being performed at once. If the compressor is undersized it will result in pressure drops and the inability to complete a task. Oversizing not only wastes energy and increases costs but can lead to future mechanical problem and potential compressor failure.

Read part 2 - a Beginners Guide to Air Compressor Types.

Read part 3 - A Beginners Guide to Oil-injected vs. Oil-free Compressors. 

If you still have questions about how to properly size your air compressor, please contact an expert today.

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