Compressor basics for the automotive industry

Compressed air piping

Piping material and size plays an important role in your compressed air system. It is common for shops to invest in new compressed air equipment only to send clean, dry air through old, dirty pipe. 

Piping selection directly affects the three key elements of every compressed air system: flow, pressure and air quality. Poor choices in pipe materials, diameter, and layout cause flow restrictions, often resulting in significant pressure drop. Pressure drop is a main cause of increased energy consumption and under-performing air driven tools and equipment. 

Choices in piping also directly impact installation costs. Heavier materials increase fatigue and slow work, especially in overhead installations. Also consider the types of fittings to be used. Some connection types cause pressure drop, need special tools, and take more time to install.

Here are some common air piping materials with their advantages and disadvantages:

Material Advantages Disadvantages
Black Iron
  • Moderate material costs
  • Available in multiple sizes
  • Labor intensive installation
  • May rust and leak
  • Rough inside promotes contaminant build-up and creates pressure drop
Galvanized Iron
  • Moderate material costs
  • Available in multiple sizes
  • Some rust protection
  • Often only exterior is coated
  • Labor intensive installation
  • Rough inside promotes contaminant build-up and creates pressure drop
  • May rust at joints and leak
Copper
  • No rust; good air quality
  • Smooth interior — low pressure drop
  • Requires quality brazing to prevent leaks
  • Susceptible to thermal cycling
  • Installation requires open flame
Stainless Steel
  • No rust, good air quality
  • Smooth interior - low pressure drop
  • Labor intensive installation
  • Expensive materials
PVC
  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive
  • Lower safety
  • In certain areas, not compliant with some codes
  • Carries static charge
  • Subject to bursting
  • Adhesives not compatible with compressor oils
Aluminum
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to install
  • Lower cost of ownership
  • Limited pressure ratings
  • Material costs

Want more information?

Complete the form below for a complimentary download of our Compressed Air Piping Mini-Guide that gives 7 tips for installing your compressed air pipe and what to consider when selecting the right pipe for your system.

On the right are some additional resources to help you with your compressed air system. 

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Compressed air piping mini-guide

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