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When to Repair and When to Replace an Air Compressor


Editor's Note: This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated for accuracy, comprehensiveness, and new information.

If compressed air is an essential part of your day to day business operations, and downtime would cost you considerably in lost production, then the question of whether to repair or replace a broken compressor is a particularly important one for you. But while opting to repair your compressor might seem to be a more cost-efficient option than purchasing a new compressor, it may not be the most cost-effective choice in the long term.

Prior to making your decision, let’s look at a few factors. Cost is the primary consideration, both immediate and over time. While a new compressor can be expensive, it’s worth noting that when you take the cost of ownership over a ten-year life span into account, the actual purchase price of the new compressor is only around 10% of the overall cost. In fact, the cost of actually running the compressor – your electricity bill! – is by far the major expense (around 75%).

Other factors that will influence your decision on whether you should repair or replace your compressor include the age of the compressor; its energy efficiency compared with newer models; and its former repair history and overall reliability.

Repair versus Replacement

Before choosing to do away with your existing compressor, it’s a wise move to first check the system over thoroughly, just in case the breakdown is due to something that can be easily fixed. Your compressor may have broken down for any number of reasons, and not all of them indicate irreparable damage or repair issues! This is something your local compressed air Service Technician can certainly assist with.

Some factors that weigh more for repairing your compressor include:

  • It is relatively new and has not yet done many operational hours.
  • It has not yet been superseded to any great extent by newer technology.
  • It is a model that spare parts are readily available for.
  • It is generally reliable and the repair is not indicative of bigger problems to come.

On the other hand, replacing your compressor may be the most viable solution in circumstances like:

  • If it has broken down once, then it is more likely it will happen again.
  • Compressors are becoming more energy efficient all the time, so the cost of a new unit could soon pay for itself in electricity savings.
  • If your compressor is an older model, finding parts for it may be more difficult, time consuming and expensive.
  • Your old compressor may be too small for your company’s current needs, so replacing it with a larger unit could be an ideal opportunity to future-proof your business.

New Compressors are Expensive – Right?

Yes, new air compressors may seem to carry a hefty price tag at first. But when factoring in energy savings, possible energy credits from your electricity provider, increased reliability, and decreased maintenance costs, the payback time is often shorter than you think. Initial cost also doesn’t take into account the potential devastating costs down the road that are associated with downtime due to compressor shutdowns.

Calculating the life cycle cost of the air compressor prior to purchasing new equipment is a smart way to analyze the total investment. Plus, a life cycle cost evaluation can also be used as a comparison tool when vetting other products and systems; to help define other important requirements for the installation and help assess potential environmental, energy-saving and increased production quality demands; and to reveal areas where energy efficiency can be improved.

So What Should I Do?

We get it - making the choice between repairing and replacing a compressor is tough. That's why our compressed air experts are always ready to walk you through the pros and cons of repairing or replacing your current compressor system. Give us a shout! www.atlascopco.com/air-usa 

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