If your air compressor is the heartbeat of your operation, then your compressed air piping is certainly its veins and arteries! Your piping system is essential in transporting your compressed air to its intended end-use applications, and its not only the system design that impacts this efficiency; it’s the piping materials itself.
What Piping Material is Needed for My Compressed Air System?
Black iron, copper, and aluminum are some of the most common compressed air piping materials, but these are certainly not made equal! The low cost and ready availability of black iron and copper pipes make these appealing to many facilities; however, black iron pipes are extremely heavy and, making installation both time consuming and labor intensive. It tends to have high leakage, due to threaded joints (hello, high energy costs!). The rough interior also makes black iron have a build-up of contaminants, not to mention the tendency to rust right from the start!
Copper, on the other hand, is relatively inexpensive, promotes good air quality, and is easily available. Installation of copper pipes is a bit tricky, given that it requires an open flame. This also means that as facilities grow and shift, adjustments to a copper piping system become more difficult than adjustments with other piping materials. Copper is also susceptible to thermal cycling, and you need to have quality brazing to prevent leaks.
Though aluminum piping has a higher upfront cost, it’s very lightweight, making it extremely easy to install. Line losses are reduced because of its smooth interior, and it is corrosion-resistant; this means that aluminum far outpaces black iron piping regarding the piping system’s starting and long-term efficiency, meaning that the lifetime cost of ownership is lower than with other materials. An additional advantage is the simplicity in reconfiguring the piping system, should the facility grow or move.