Install the right compressed air pipe, and avoid pressure loss, rust and other problems.
Choosing the right type and size compressed air pipe from the beginning is very important, as it can save you lots of headaches in the future. Which compressed air pipe is right for you? That depends on a few things.First, the air flow through your system. Look at the specifications of your compressor, it should tell you the capacity (in liters/minute for example).Second, it depends how far away your compressor is located from your equipment. If it’s just a few meters, you can use smaller pipes compared to when it’s a hundred meters.
Third, any other special requirements. For example, if there is oil in your air, you can’t use some types of plastic piping. On the other hand.. if your air is oil-free, you can get rust-problems with steel piping.
If you can’t decide between two sizes of pipe, always choose the bigger one. Yes, it will be more expensive. But you will have less pressure drop and less future problems, saving you money in the long run.
The topic of pipe-sizing and pressure drop is covered in detail on our compressed-air-pipe-sizing page.
In the old days, compressed air pipes where made of plain steel. Nowadays there are many different steel and non-steel types of piping.
For steel pipes, we have plain steel, stainless steel, copper and galvanized steel pipes that are often used. For plastic, there is a whole range of plastic types all with their own characteristics.
Steel pipes are heavier and more expensive compared to plastic pipes. But hey are stronger and safer. Plastic pipes on the other hand are light, easy to cut and install and generally cheaper.
So, what kind if piping should I buy?
It depends on a number of things.
First: the kind of compressor installed in your system. Is it oil-injected/lubricated or oil-free? If you have an oil-free compressor, it’s best to use non-corrosive materials like plastic or stainless
steel . With oil-injected machines, there will always be a little bit of oil in your compressed air. This oil protects your piping from corrosion.
Second: part of your system. A compressed air system is built up of several main parts. We have the compressor with the aftercooler, dryers and filters (all usually located in the compressor room), we have the main distribution lines and we have the point-of-use lines.
For all the piping in the compressor room it’s best to use stainless steel piping. Since the air leaving your compressor will be hot (without after-cooler about 80 degrees, with after-cooler about 35 degrees), plastic is not an option here.
Also, the air will be wet and oily as it didn’t pass the air dryer and filters yet. Wet air and plain steel piping is not a good combination because of rust. Also, plastic and oil isn’t a good
combination either (although with newer plastics this is less of a problem).
Stainless steel is both able to withstand oil and water and can also withstand the high temperature of the compressed air as it leaves the compressor.
For the big distribution lines, a lot more options are available. The air is clean and free of most air and oil (ideally). Still, plain steel piping is very sensitive to rust. Best to use galvanized steel,
stainless steel or plastic.
For the point-of-use lines the same is true as for the distribution lines. You could choose stainless or galvanized steel for the distribution lines and plastic for the point-of-use lines.
Plastic compressed air pipe
The big advantage of plastic pipes is that it is so easy to process. You don’t need any special tools, or know how to weld, to install the piping.
Many plastic pipes are part of a ‘system’. That is, you can buy matching bends, valves, quick-connects etc. It’s just a matter of plug-and-play. Usually you don’t even need glue, just cut the pipe and plug it in the quick-connect couplings.
This way you can create a compressed air system quickly and easily without specials tools, welding and cutting.