Multi-Stage Compressors

NFPAReciprocating/piston compressors use a cylinder to force air into a chamber, where it is compressed. The simplest compressor designs feature a single cylinder/chamber arrangement. While straightforward, this setup is limited in its efficiency and capacity for delivering high volumes of pressurized air.

That’s where multi-stage compressors come in. By increasing the number of cylinder stages, these machines work more effectively and can handle more tools at once.

How Multi-stage Compressors Work

Multi-stage compressors feature a series of cylinders, each of a different diameter. Between each compression stage, the air passes through a heat exchanger, where it is cooled. Cooling the air reduces the amount of work necessary to compress it further.

In a two-stage compressor, air is then forced into an additional chamber where it is pressurized to the required extent. In a three-stage compressor, an additional cycle of compression and cooling occurs before this.

Benefits of Multi-stage Compression

Both single and multi-stage compressors have their benefits. The right one for your application will depend on a number of factors. Specific advantages of a three- or two-stage compressor design include:

  • Improved efficiency. Two-stage compressors perform less work to compress air to a given pressure, which means your operating costs are lower.
  • Better reliability. The intercooling stage of two-stage compression creates less chance of overheating, which in turn means more uptime and better productivity.
  • Less moisture buildup. Cooler air has a lower moisture content. Moisture in compressed air can lead to equipment failure and premature wear. Using a two- or three-stage compressor can potentially save you from having to purchase a separate air dryer.
  • Smaller footprint. For heavy-duty applications, multi-stage compressors deliver greater air pressure (PSI) at higher capacities (CFM) than single-stage machines of a comparable size.
  • Few maintenance requirements. Thanks to smaller components and cooler temperatures, wearable components don’t wear out as quickly. As a result, recommended service intervals are longer.


Clearly there are benefits to selecting a multi-stage machine; however, their higher cost means they are not necessarily the right choice for every application. Generally speaking, single-stage compressors are best for light-duty, intermittent use applications, in which pressure requirements don’t exceed 100 PSIG. Two- or three-stage compressors, on the other hand, offer better value and reliability for continuous use applications, such as auto repair and manufacturing.

Multi-stage Machines From Quincy Compressor

Quincy Compressor has been a leading compressor manufacturer for nearly 100 years. We carry a complete range of products, including two- and three-stage air compressors designed for heavy-duty industrial use. Our products incorporate advanced technology to improve efficiency, reduce noise and keep maintenance requirements to a minimum. The best warranty programs in the business back all of our products, and we offer extended coverage on certain components for 10 years or more.

Our flagship product, the QR-25, is available in a 5 HP, 2-stage air compressor configuration. We also sell rotary screw and three-stage reciprocating machines. To learn more, check out our Resources page for more background on the technology and how it works.

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