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Design Tips for a Compressed Air System for Your Auto Shop

For the modern auto repair shop, compressed air systems are critical, valuable tools. Compressed air setups are employed daily for high-pressure cleaning, powering pneumatic equipment, inflation, and pressure washing.

Auto shops need a compressed air system to perform a multitude of fundamental tasks properly. However, selecting and configuring a compressed air system is not always simple. In the following content, we explore design tips for compressed air systems, helping you prepare the best shop air compressor setup for your shop’s success.

Select the Right Compressor: Where Should You Start?

As with most tools used in the automotive shop, not all air compressors are created equal! There are many different types of shop air compressors with varying applications, features, and specifications. Understanding your air compressor needs will help narrow down the type of system you should purchase.

There are a number of different shop air compressor setups and configurations. The best setup for your shop will depend on the type of work you do, what features or applications you want to use, and how much money you have to spend.

A few additional considerations include capacity, piping configuration, mounting location, and noise levels. We’ll dive into each of these factors below!

1. Air Compressor Capacity

Consider the capacity requirements of your compressor with these questions:

  • What will the compressor power?
  • How will the compressor itself receive power?
  • How many technicians will be utilizing the compressor at the same time?

Small reciprocating units and oil-flooded rotary screw compressors are two of the most common systems found in automotive shops, each suited for varying capacities.

Jarrett Affolter, a product specialist at Ingersoll Rand, suggests:

Generally, small reciprocating units are ideal for small service shops with intermittent tool use, but they can also power large equipment, such as a vehicle lift. Rotary screw compressors are designed for shops that use compressed air continuously and need more power than a reciprocating unit can support. A rotary screw compressor is ideal for larger shops with more than three service technicians and can support several tools and equipment running all at once.

As the name implies, small reciprocating units are best for most small service shops and have the capacity to post large equipment, if needed. However, if a multitude of tools needs to be powered simultaneously and continuously, the rotary screw compressor is the best option. Large, busy shops with significant capacity requirements often employ rotary compressors.

Determining Compressor Size

Once you’ve selected the best compressor model for your shop’s daily activities, you must choose the right size. For example, do you need a compressor with a 10 horsepower rating and a 100-gallon tank?

As a rule of thumb, add 10% to the amount of power needed to fuel your everyday demands. Purchasing just above your exact requirement ensures you always have enough power, even in emergent or unusual situations.

2. Piping Configuration

The compressed air system also needs a way to transport compressed air from the compressor to the individual tools. This is accomplished with piping. Whether you are expanding your shop and purchasing brand new compressed air systems or simply upgrading or rearranging your current setup, piping is one of the most important details.

Piping is often arranged based on how much pressure it’s designed for and whether or not any additional functions are desired. For example, some compressed air systems use a combination of pipes (or hoses) for compressed air and liquid coolant.

3. Air Compressor Mounting Location

Once you have selected the right air compressor system for your needs, select the best place to mount it.

Air compressors should be mounted in a convenient location for the compressed air to reach all areas of the facility. Some auto shops choose to install the compressor near an outside wall. If compressed air needs to run long distances, consider having parallel runs from the compressor to compressed air outlets.

Ultimately, the best mounting location will depend on the layout of your auto shop.

4. Air Compressor Noise Levels and Decibels

Most air compressors are designed to produce less than 70 decibels, which is below the threshold for hearing damage. However, at this noise level, communication near the compressor can be stunted, and older compressors can be even louder. These tips can help muffle the noise:

  • Build a soundproof enclosure around the compressor
  • Plumb the intake remotely
  • Move the compressor to a less populated area of the shop

Additional Air Compressor Safety Considerations

Beyond noise, a few additional safety concerns must be considered before installing your air compressor.

  • Compressed airlines should be routed away from any areas where there is the potential for a spark of flame
  • Plumbing must not come in contact with compressed air piping at any time during installation or operation, and fittings that connect compressed pipe to other types of pipes (such as water) need an enclosed connection system
  • Do not use compressed air piping for compressed gas lines
  • Compressed air systems require regular maintenance to keep them in the best operating condition possible, and should be serviced by a trained professional at least once every six months or as often as needed according to your site’s usage

How Much Do Air Compressors Cost?

The cost of an air compressor depends on many factors, such as size and type. There is also a tradeoff between initial purchase cost and energy efficiency. Often, larger machines are less efficient than smaller ones, because they require more power to operate.

In general, however, a small compressed air system for a typical workshop is less than $1,000. Larger systems may cost tens of thousands of dollars and require significant installation space.

SVI International: Compressed Air System Product Supplier

Once you’ve taken the time to purchase and design a compressed air system for your auto shop, maintaining that system is the next step.

Identifying a high-quality, reliable compressed air system product supplier is not as complicated as picking the best compressor for your shop – at SVI International, we are proud of our expansive, trusted compressed air system product supply. A team member would be happy to discuss how our products could meet the needs of your automotive shop. To get in touch, call (800) 321-8173 or complete our online contact form. We look forward to starting a conversation!

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