5 Steps to Achieve Maximum Air Compressor Efficiency

5 Steps to Achieve Maximum Air Compressor Efficiency

The key to optimal air compressor efficiency is to maintain the integrity of your entire pneumatic system. This includes the air compressor, fittings, air hose, and tools. An efficient pneumatic system will ensure that you’re getting the air you need, when you need it. An inefficient one will cost you time and money. Follow the steps below to make sure your pneumatic system keeps operating the way it was intended to.

  1. Use 3/8″ air hose whenever possible. All hoses cause some degree of frictional loss. While 1/4″ air hose is lighter and generally easier to work with, the smaller diameter restricts air flow more than a 3/8″ diameter hose would. If the CFM requirements of the tool(s) being operated is close to the air compressor’s limits, every bit of pressure counts. To ensure you’re getting the maximum amount of pressure to the tool, opt for a larger diameter hose. To get an idea of how air hose diameter affects working pressure, check out this handy Air Flow Calculator
  2. Use shorter lengths of air hose. The idea here is similar to #1. The farther the air has to travel, the more pressure you lose. We completely understand that situations will arise when you are forced to use long runs of small diameter hose. When that happens, refer to the next step.
  3. Use an auxiliary tank. Adding an auxiliary tank in between two lengths of hose allows the user(s) to maximize distance from the compressor while minimizing frictional loss. For example, if you were to use two 3/8″ x 100′ air hoses, you’d be able to work 200′ from the compressor, but only lose pressure over the length of one 100′ section. The icing on the cake is the fact that the AIRKEG can go where the compressor can’t, like on a pitched roof.
  4. Lubricate your pneumatic tools regularly. Just be careful what you put in them. The wrong type of lubricant can cause more harm than good by damaging o-rings and other internal components. The correct type of oil will be labeled as a tool lubricant and will contain special additives to promote long life for pneumatic tools. Of course, the obvious question is “How often?” That depends on the type of tool and how hard it’s being used, but for tools that get used daily, applying 4-5 drops at the start of each shift is a good rule of thumb.
  5. Check the system for leaks. This includes the entire air compressor, all fittings, air hoses and tools. Simply allow the compressor to build to top pressure with the air hose and all other tools and components hooked up. Once the compressor has stopped pumping, watch the tank pressure gauge and listen closely. If the needle stays put, you’ve got a leak-free system. If the needle starts to drop continuously (a slight drop is normal as the air cools) or you hear a hiss of air, you’ve got a leak. Excessive leaks in the system can cause your compressor to run more often than necessary, which leads to premature wear. If you have a difficult time locating the leak, we recommend spraying a soap and water solution on the hose and all fittings. A leak will cause the solution to bubble.

Like anything else in the trades, a little bit of planning and preparation up front will pay dividends in the end. If you plan out your pneumatic system prior to each job and add steps 4 and 5 to your preventative maintenance plan, you’ll avoid a few headaches and maximize the lifespan of your equipment. If you feel like your pneumatic system is not performing like it should, give us a call and one of our service reps will help you troubleshoot the issue.



18 thoughts on “5 Steps to Achieve Maximum Air Compressor Efficiency

  1. I love having a long hose when working with my air compressor. I don’t have to worry about making sure my compressor is close to where I am working which means less noise and not having to trip over it. However, you do make a good point about longer hoses meaning less pressure. I think I will just get an auxiliary tank so that I can keep the pressure up without moving my air compressor. Any suggestions for how big the auxiliary tank should be?

    • Sorry for the delayed response! For some reason I didn’t get a notification that there was a comment posted. In answer to your question, 10 gallons is a pretty good volume. That’s how big our AIRKEG is. That seems to give most people enough reserve air and is still convenient to carry around and store.

  2. Thanks for the great post Mr. Author. It really helped me a lot to achieve the maximum efficiency. But I have a doubt. Is it necessary to use an Auxillary Tank? If so could you please guide me on which one to choose?
    Many thanks in advance.

    • Thanks for reading and for your comment!

      It’s not necessary to use an auxiliary tank in all situations, but there are plenty of situations when one will come in handy. If you find that your air compressor is having to cycle frequently to keep up with you, an auxiliary tank could help. If you’re running on long lengths of small diameter hoses, an auxiliary tank can help minimize frictional loss.

    • You’re absolutely right. Anything you can do to minimize the potential for air loss will ensure that the compressor isn’t running more than it has to.

  3. I’ve never seen an airflow calculator before — thanks for sharing. Do you think that it’s an advantage to have shorter hoses to combad air loss? Is it worth swapping a 100′ hose for a 50′ hose if you’re only working 40 or so feet from the compressor? Thanks.

    • It’s definitely worth using a shorter hose whenever possible, especially if your CFM requirements are close to what the compressor puts out. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Thanks for the information. I’ve been a Rolair fan ever since purchasing the most quiet small compressor on the market at the time. It still runs great and is SUPER quiet compared with the competition. I realize many competitors now offer similar DBA restrictors, but Rolair is still at the top of my list. Thanks again for this information and great products.

  5. Reduction in inlet air temperature by 1 deg C will improve compressor efficiency by about 1%. This is especially useful for industries in tropical regions. So plant more trees around compressor area to keep inlet air at low temperature and good ventilation in compressor room.

  6. Hi,

    Thanks for your well-informed, well-written article. Being part of an Air Compressor Repair company, I often find it difficult to find any light reading to send to customers, so will definitely be considering this in future.

    Keep up the good work!

  7. I like that you mentioned that the larger a diameter of the hose is for air-powered tools, the more pressure and efficiency you will get. My friend loves to do home improvement projects. I think that learning about how hose diameter affects the power of a tool could help her complete projects more quickly.

  8. Thank you for sharing tips on how to make use of air compressors efficiently, based on the size and length of air hose. I like the idea that you provided in #2 about using shorter runs of air hoses to easily fill in the air pressure of an object, let’s say a tire. This quickly inflates the tire in no time, with no amount of air getting wasted. I am actually looking to get one so I can regularly maintain the swiss ball I use for work out. I will shop around and pick my options from there. Good read!

  9. Thanks for the tips on ways you can improve the efficiency of your air compressor. I never knew that lubricating your air compressor and tools was so important, or that there were specific lubricants for it. My brother is looking at getting his first compressor soon and he wants to make sure he takes good care of it. I will be sure to share this with him.

  10. Thanks for the tips on how to improve the efficiency of our air compressor. I didn’t know that you had to lubricate the pneumatic tools and that using the wrong lubricant can damage the o-rings. My husband was thinking about doing maintenance to the air compressor but after reading this, I think it would be better to call a professional to do it.

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