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The concept of an air compressor is simple. It, typically, works by cooling air and reducing its volume. The machine can be used in a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, mechanical, agriculture, hospitality, and construction. Industrial air compressors are actually very similar to the small compressor you might use at home. The only real differences are that an industrial air compressor has a larger storage tank and a bigger motor, allowing it to be used for more demanding jobs. No matter how you plan to use an industrial air compressor for your business, there are a few things you need to know before making a purchase. This buying guide outlines the major factors to keep in mind while shopping for a new compressor and provides an overview of how much your initial purchase might cost.
Major Types of Industrial Air Compressors
Whether you need an industrial air compressor to power machines, clean, paint, paint, fill scuba tanks, or for one of its myriad other uses, it's important that you understand the difference between the three major types of air compressors.
- Reciprocating air compressors: This type of air compressor, also called a piston and cylinder compressor or a piston-driving compressor, creates a vacuum that compresses air and forces it into a storage tank. The technology used in a reciprocating air compressor has been around for a long time, making this type of machine a very reliable and affordable option.
- Rotary screw air compressors: A rotary screw air compressor utilizes two rotors to force air up into a casing where it becomes more pressurized. These machines are compact, powerful, and tend to output air more smoothly than reciprocating compressors. Some rotary screw air compressors use oil to cool and compress air, while others are oil-free for applications such as spray-painting.
- Centrifugal air compressors: Centrifugal compressors use rotating blades—much like a turbine engine—to create highly pressurized air for discharge. These machines tend to be very powerful and are intended for continuous use, making them very pricey and generally useful only for large-scale operations such as moving oil and natural gas through pipelines and snow-making at ski resorts.
Choosing an Industrial Air Compressor by Application
You will need to purchase an air compressor that is up to the task it is intended for. The following terminology is key for determining which machine is right for you:
- Air Pressure: This is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). The tool or machine you are powering with an air compressor will typically list the minimum amount of PSI it requires.
- Air Flow: Air flow is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM) and just like PSI, you need to make sure that the compressor you buy can supply the proper amount of CFM to the tool(s) and/or machine(s) you're using it with. An authorized air compressor seller can help you better understand your PSI and CFM requirements.
- Storage tank: You'll also need to consider the capacity of an air compressor, which is measured in gallons. The larger the tank is on a compressor, the more CFM the machine can deliver. A large tank size does not necessarily mean more PSI, however.
- Power: Like your vehicle, an air compressor's power is rated in horsepower (HP). An industrial air compressors runs off of electricity (outlet or battery) or gasoline (including diesel).
Industrial Air Compressor Sample Costs
Just as the output capability of industrial air compressors can vary significantly from machine to machine, so too can the prices. The following figures, however, should give you a general idea of how much an industrial air compressor costs.
- A 5 HP reciprocating industrial air compressor might cost approximately $1,000 to $2,500; while a 5 HP rotary air compressor costs roughly $2,500 to $5,000.
- The cost for a 10 HP air compressor is approximately $3,500 to $7,000.
- A 25 HP reciprocating industrial air compressor costs around $8,000 to $12,000, while a 25 HP rotary air compressor costs around $7,500 to $10,000.
- A 50 HP rotary air compressor might cost around $12,000 to $18,000 or more.
- A 100 HP industrial air compressor costs roughly $20,000 to $35,000.
- The cost of a 200 HP air compressor is approximately $40,000 to $70,000.
- Actual prices paid by nationwide customers for industrial air compressors range from around $2,000 to $2,500 for a reciprocating machine to $3,000 to $30,000 for a rotary machine to around $5,000 to $7,500 for used air compressors.