Air compressors employ different upgraded technologies and features to improve functionality and retain uniqueness, but certain fundamental parts have been around for generations. For instance, every air compressor will have a motor, a pump, a storage tank etc. These vary in size and capacity, allowing you to understand whether the unit is capable of the role you want it to play.
That’s why it is necessary to know about the components of an air compressor and their respected responsibilities. In this article, we will introduce you to these basic components along with their functions so that shopping for the machine becomes a breeze for you, especially when you’re purchasing it for the first time.
Basic Components of an Air Compressor & their Functions
No matter what the air compressor type is, some parts are common to all. These are: electric motor, pump, storage tank, pressure switch, filters, and gauges. Knowing about their functions can help a person decide which type of unit will serve him best. Not to mention how to maintain the machine.
The motor is the power hub of an air compressor. It supplies power to the compressor’s pump and allows the machine to run. The motor houses belts and a pulley that helps it generate power and transfer it to the pump’s pistons. This transfer of power takes place through a crankshaft and a flywheel. The flywheel is also responsible for keeping the compressor’s pump cool.
You must have noticed the term “Horsepower (HP)”. It highlights the power and size of the motor, which helps you decode its intended application. For instance, horsepower ranging between 1hp to 6.5hp is compatible with low-duty to medium-sized applications. Higher HP is for heavy-duty business and commercial use.
The pump is responsible for pressurizing the air and pouring it into the storage tank/receiver. The pump can either be single-stage or two-stage.
Single-Stage: It has only one cylinder. The air is compressed with a single stroke of the piston at around 120psi and discharged towards a storage tank.
Two-Stage: It contains two pump cylinders. The air compression occurs in two rounds with a pressure ranging between 145 – 175 psi. Air is compressed first at low pressure and sent to a large cylinder with the downward motion of the piston. On the upstroke of the piston, the air is compressed at about 50psi and moved to the smaller cylinder through an intercooler tube. A flywheel cools the air as it passes through the intercooler and enters the smaller cylinder. There the air is compressed for the final time using higher pressure. The upward movement of the piston compresses the air and then releases it into the receiver/storage tank via a check valve.
These dual-stage compressors are suitable for high-powered equipment.
As the name suggests, this part acts as a warehouse for compressed air. It stores pressurized air till the time of use. The size of the tank depends on the magnitude of application. For example, a small tank is for low-duty applications, including inflating small tires or using nail guns. On the other hand, high-capacity tanks are for high-consumption tools and prolonged use.
The pressure switch controls the start/stop action of the motor. It automatically shuts the motor down when the air pressure inside the tank reaches the factory preset limit. As you start using the compressed air and the pressure level inside the tank starts dropping, the switch kick-starts the motor to let the compressor resume pumping air.
Again, the name gives a clear idea of what the component is supposed to do. It allows you to flush out residual water from the tank and prevents moisture build-up.
It filters the air. It blocks dirt, debris and other foreign particles from entering with the sucked air to allow clean airflow for compression. This inlet air filter should be replaced or cleaned periodically to prevent clogging. Otherwise, the compressor will suffer a loss of performance.
This filter acts as a cleanser for compressed air. It separates the contaminated air from the pressurized air to offer the purest compressed air for pumping. Once again, it needs regular inspection and servicing if you want to retain the efficiency of the compressor.
How will you know the present pressure of the air in the tank? Guesses aren’t going to cut it for you. Pressure gauges are installed for this purpose. They measure the pressure of compressed air inside the tank and that of the air flowing through the air hose. This helps you decide whether the pressure is at a satisfactory level or there’s a dearth of it that needs immediate attention.
Hopefully, now you know in detail about the main components of an air compressor and their intended purpose. They work in unison to allow the compressor to present its best performance for a variety of applications. So, knowing about each part and its function will give you a better idea about the selection of the unit. With that knowledge in hand, you can take good care of certain parts to let the unit offer services for an extended period.