A Complete Guide to Compressed Air Piping System

A Complete Guide to Compressed Air Piping System

You can learn how air compressor piping systems function, the different types of pipes you can use, and how to improve the efficiency of your system by reading our helpful guide.

When creating the ideal piping layout structure for you, it can be difficult to know where to start. Although the compressor is a crucial component of your facility, the piping will make or break the system.

We’ve compiled some useful data on compressed air piping systems to help you with the decision-making process.

We have introduced other compressed air energy storage products:

About Compressed Air Piping

The concept behind compressed air systems is simple in theory. We’re referring to moving air from one area of your workshop to another, where a machine can make use of the energy your compressor produces. You’ll need high-quality compressed air piping to connect everything together in order to accomplish this.

Why is a Compressed Air Piping System So Important?

Large manufacturers and factories rely on imported machinery and equipment for their operations. Compressed air will be used by this crucial machinery, such as the equipment for packaging food.

Only a compressed air piping system designed specifically to meet the requirements of the factory will be able to distribute the appropriate amount of compressed air to the various components of a large factory and the equipment.

The most efficient compressed air transfer to your machinery and equipment will be provided by a compressed air piping system that is properly laid out. Well-compressed air piping will also increase the energy efficiency of your air supply, which will increase productivity, and reduce downtime and maintenance costs.

A Complete Guide to Compressed Air Piping System

An efficient piping system can have a positive impact on your bottom line and lead to big power savings.

How Do Air Compressor Piping Systems Work?

The purpose of compressed air piping systems is simple: to deliver compressed air to where it is needed. To power the components that require compressed air, the compressed air must be delivered with enough volume, good enough quality, and pressure.

As a result, designing a compressed air system is trickier than you might think. Poor compressed air piping design can increase energy costs, cause equipment to break down, reduce production efficiencies, and necessitate more maintenance.

What Type of Piping Material is Best for Compressed Air?

An essential first question when planning a new compressed air system is, “How should I construct the pipes for my air compressor?” You have two primary options: plastic and metal. In the sections that follow, we’ll go into more detail about each option’s benefits and drawbacks as well as dispel some common misconceptions.

Plastic Pipes

Plastic pipes offer many benefits over metal, which include:

  • Resistance to corrosion: So, you won’t need to be concerned about rusty particles getting into the airflow from your pipes. This, in turn, reduces the risk of obstructions.
  • Smooth, interior surface: Laminar flow is promoted by the fact that a plastic pipe’s interior never degrades.
  • Lightweight: Lightweight plastic piping is easy to transport and install.
  • Easy to cut: Plastic pipe cutting is simple and only needs a few simple tools.
  • Easy to connect: Gluing together plastic pipes is less expensive and faster than joining metal pipes, which require welding.
A Complete Guide to Compressed Air Piping System

However, you cannot distribute compressed air using any plastic pipe. These days, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) are the two most widely used types of plastic piping.

These are frequently used in plumbing applications, and since they are simple to install, reasonably priced, and easily accessible, you might be tempted to use them. However, they cannot withstand the high pressure necessary for a compressed air system. The following three plastic materials, however, are all suitable choices for piping compressed air:

  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS): ABS is a material that is used in a wide range of goods, including toy bricks under the LEGO┬« brand and car fenders.
  • Polyethylene (PE): This type of piping is made specifically for compressed air systems.
  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE): This is yet another suitable plastic for compressed air pipes.

Metal Pipes

Traditionalists prefer metal pipes when it comes to piping compressed air distribution systems because they have been around for much longer than their plastic counterparts. A metal pipe has a more substantial feel than a plastic one and appears to be stronger just by appearance.

No matter how technologically advanced plastic piping becomes, some people will always feel safer using metal piping. There are also many benefits of metal pipes when used for air compressor piping systems. These include:

  • More well-known: Because metal is more conventional, more technicians are skilled at installing pipes.
  • Longer safety track record: Metal piping has a long history of use, demonstrating its durability against fractures, splits, and blowouts.
  • They’re guaranteed not to change shape: While some plastic materials are very strong, metal won’t warp because of its innate rigidity.
  • Impervious to degradation: Metal pipes won’t deteriorate under the influence of compressor lubricants.
A Complete Guide to Compressed Air Piping System

Of course, there are many kinds of metal materials that you can use, and each offers certain pros and cons when used to pipe air compressor systems:

  • Black Steel

The material we most strongly advise is black steel, which has been used traditionally in compressed air systems. It is easily accessible, and strong, and many fitters are capable of installing it. But keep in mind that because black steel isn’t coated, it’s known to produce rust contamination, which could harm pneumatic tooling. With a dryer or aftercooler, you can partially control moisture, but not completely get rid of it.

Suspended pipes need strong anchoring because of how heavy they are. The installation will take a long time because black steel pipes can be difficult to cut and join. Additionally, threaded connectors have a tendency to leak and slip. Although the pipe itself is unlikely to leak, welded joints frequently fail.

  • Galvanized

Galvanized steel pipes are widely used in compressed air systems in addition to general plumbing and water distribution. Even though the galvanizing coating eventually flakes off, galvanized steel is less likely to corrode.

When released into the compressed air stream, these loose flakes may damage equipment and cause blockages. The debris released can severely damage pneumatic tools, cylinders, and other parts. This debris can also seriously injure people when it comes out of a blowgun.

Additionally difficult to work with and prone to failure are galvanized steel pipes with welded or threaded joints. Additionally, they are heavy, necessitating stronger suspension and fixing techniques. Galvanized steel pipes are not advised for compressed air systems due to the aforementioned reasons.

A Complete Guide to Compressed Air Piping System
  • Stainless Steel

You can press or weld stainless steel. Similarly to galvanized and black steel, welded or threaded connections frequently fail. Although stainless steel won’t corrode or degrade, its weight makes installation difficult. If you plan to suspend it from supporting structures, another disadvantage is the strength requirements. Because it is more expensive, stainless steel is less frequently used in real-world compressed air applications.

  • Aluminum

Aluminum won’t age or corrode, just like stainless steel. However, it weighs much less than stainless, so it’s easy to transport, install and suspend. Push-together connectors make fitting aluminum even simpler, but it still requires similar skills to install steel pipes. However, it can be considered expensive.

  • Copper

Additionally, lightweight, copper pipes resist corrosion. They are simple to suspend, cut, and weld. Due to the widespread use of copper pipes in plumbing, a wide variety of fittings are available, and many technicians are skilled at installing them. In addition to being visually appealing, the color and sheen of copper also lend it a sophisticated appearance.

Additionally, because copper and water do not corrode or rust, copper pipes deliver clean air to tools without any impurities. Copper tends to cost more, though, just like aluminum and stainless steel.

  • Black Iron

Don’t use this pipe material. Black iron is certain to corrode, both internally and externally, despite once being, along with copper, the preferred material for compressed air installations. For the quality of your compressed air and pressure drop, the corrosion inside the pipe is especially bad.

In compressed air systems, some moisture is inevitable, so newer pipes from aluminum, copper, and stainless steel have become more common than black or galvanized steel pipes. However, many new installations continue to use these older types. They are less expensive, and many installation technicians recommend the materials with which they are most familiar.

A Complete Guide to Compressed Air Piping System

Piping Layout Considerations

Prior to designing your compressed air piping system, it’s crucial that facility managers center the design around the connectors for the compressed air system. After all, leaks within your connectors are likely to happen and, if not properly fixed, could pose the biggest threat to your facility.

Other factors to consider that can have a significant impact on your piping system’s pressure efficiency and leakage are:

  1. Sharp Angles
  2. Water
  3. Obstructions and Blockage

Sharp Angles

Your piping system’s piping could have a lot of sharp angles that would seriously slow the flow rate and cause a drop in pressure. Frequently turbulent airflow occurs as it exits a bend. This is the opposite of the “laminar flow” you are looking for and results in wasted energy.

Did you know that pressure loss from turbulence at a 90-degree bend ranges from 3 to 5 PSID?

The managers of the facility should make sure the airflow follows a straight path. Major pressure drops and a reduction in your piping system’s pressure efficiency can both result from excessive turbulence.


In most piping systems, water will corrode some types of pipes, causing rust to flake into the air stream of the pipe. As soon as ambient air is introduced to the compressor, water begins to transpire as a result of the compression.

Rust starts at your end-use equipment and can:

  • Clog nozzles
  • Contaminate the material used for the compressed air to deliver or apply
  • Create a rough surface from the corroded interior of the rusted pipe
A Complete Guide to Compressed Air Piping System

Moisture accumulating is inevitable, but you can control it. Changing the supply inlet source where the air is drawn in is one option. Water from the compression is normally heavier than the compressed air itself, causing it to fall toward the bottom of the compressor.

Because of this, it’s crucial that air drawn in by the compressor be distributed from the top. This will result in taking in less moisture and less buildup. Even more effectively reduce moisture in the air by drying it before it enters the compressor. You will have to do this by passing your airflow through dryers, which can lower pressure and slow down the airflow.

Removing moisture from your airflow early on allows your air to circulate in the piping more easily.

Many compressor installers will insist that you use an aftercooler to simplify this task. Most of the moisture will be removed before it enters the piping because the aftercooler cools the air as it leaves the compressor.

The air feeds into a filter with a drain to remove the liquid from the system after entering the piping. You will notice less moisture in your airflow as soon as it exits the compressor when the air passes through the aftercooler’s filters.


Additionally, in many piping systems’ infrastructures, corrosion can be a major issue. If corrosion in your piping system is present, it may break off and cause obstructions throughout your system. Many obstructions occur in your piping:

  • Valves
  • Connectors
  • Dryers
  • Sensors In The Circuit

If any obstructions occur in these elements, it causes a reduction in the pipe diameter. As a result, airflow is decreased and a bottleneck is formed. When air moves downstream, the available pressure is reduced, and when air moves upstream, the available pressure is increased.

Using and routinely replacing air filters is one way to handle air particles accumulating in your system. The compressor must have air filters in order to be able to remove potentially dangerous particles from the piping. This stops equipment like valves and end-use nozzles from clogging.

Compressed Air Piping Experts

Consult the experts for advice on commercial and industrial piping. Your energy costs will go up and your compressor’s breakdown frequency could increase if you have a great compressor but poor piping.

While it can be tempting to cut costs and set up your compressed air piping system yourself, getting the help of experienced professionals can save you a lot of time and money.


You could lose efficiency, time, and ultimately money if your compressed air piping system is not planned.

While the air piping system and layout you select will depend on the size and shape of your factory and the equipment you will be using, it always helps to use a reliable product.


What Kind of Pipe is Used for Compressed Air?

Ideal plastic pipes for piping compressed air are made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Polyethylene (PE) piping and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) piping are also good choices for compressed air applications. PVC is not advised and is an OSHA violation if used.

Can a PVC Pipe Hold Compressed Air?

The use of PVC pipe is common but not recommended for use with compressed air. It is frequently used because it is easily accessible, affordable, and simple to install. But PVC can crack, break, or even shatter over time because, like many plastics, it becomes brittle.

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