Air compressors wired for 3-phase power will not work if you try to plug them into a single-phase system. Three-phase plugs have a different design. Even if they did fit, single-phase power would be insufficient to turn on your equipment. If you have a three-phase compressor and you only have access to single-phase power, we’ll help you wire it so you can keep using your machine.

What Is Three-Phase Power?

In the U.S., most of the electrical outlets you encounter use single-phase power. These outlets have a power (phase) wire and a neutral (ground) wire. In most cases, these systems branch off from a three-phase input that feeds into the property that is scaled-down using transformers.

Three-phase power is how the power plant sends electricity out to the community. This delivery system can handle heavier loads. Three-phase is also popular in the business and industrial sectors for powering heavy equipment and machinery. Compared to the properties of single-phase power, three-phase is more consistent, produces fewer vibrations and is more efficient.

The Requirements for Wiring Three-Phase Power

If your air compressor requires three-phase power and you only have single-phase outlets available, you can wire your machine to work — but you must meet a few basic requirements. Before you take anything apart, check your:

  • Compressor motor: The motor should have a label that tells you whether or not your compressor uses three-phase power. In most cases, three-phase air compressors operate off 230 volts.
  • Electrical panel: Your main electrical panel should also have an information label. If the label says you have 120/240 volts and 125 amps, you have single-phase power.

Three-Phase Air Compressor Wiring Systems

It is impossible to take three-phase air compressor wiring and connect it directly to a single-phase panel — they are incompatible. Instead, you can take three-phase wiring and run it through a secondary system that converts your 120/240 system into the appropriate voltage. Several options are available, with the most popular being:

  • Static converters: A static converter takes your house power and uses it to supply a series of capacitors contained within the circuit. The capacitors fill with stored energy until they have enough charge to start your compressor motor. Once the capacitors release their load, the converter powers the motor at two-thirds capacity using two single-phase power lines.
  • Rotary phase converters: Another option to connect three-phase air compressor wiring to single-phase power is to use a rotary phase converter. Rotary converters transform 120/240 volt power into three-phase with the same accuracy you get from an installed system, and sometimes better. These converters stay powered to help balance the load during operation.
  • Variable frequency drives: A variable frequency drive (VFD) uses simple technology to generate three-phase power using a single-phase input. These devices produce reliable three-phase power, and you can change their frequency to get more or less output from your compressor motor. VFDs are often the most expensive option but offer the highest number of advantages.

Find the Right Compressor

At Quincy Compressor, we produce an extensive selection of compressors compatible with single- and three-phase power. If you are in the market for a new air compressor and want to upgrade to one that matches your current electrical setup, we can help you. Contact us online today to get expert assistance.

What's wrong with my reciprocating air compressor

The air compressor is a powerful machine that, in today’s high-tech world, is used by everyone from auto mechanics to furniture makers, in addition to manufacturers large and small. While compressed air is relied upon for heavy-duty tasks that would otherwise require tremendous manpower, a compressor will sometimes require regular maintenance to ensure proper operation.

However, any piece of equipment may fail from time to time, leaving you wondering, “What’s wrong with my air compressor?” Whether there’s a problem with the motor, lubricant supply or pressure, the issue needs to be remedied before it spirals into a costly repair. The following air compressor troubleshooting tips can help solve some of the most common problems that are known to occur with air compressors.


Most Common Air Compressor Problems

Air Compressor Won’t Operate

Compressor leaks air

If a compressor fails to operate, it’s usually caused by a basic problem or simple oversight. Fortunately, operational issues are among the easiest problems to diagnose and remedy on air compressors. The most common problems can be remedied as follows:

  • No power — If the compressor lacks electrical power, check the power button and activate the reset switch if needed. Breakers should also be checked.
  • Lack of oil — Users sometimes forget to check or change the fluids, and the consequences are often grievous. If your compressor is failing to work properly, it could simply be from a nearly empty oil tank.
  • Power switch failure — When the compressor fails to power on, it could be due to a lack of contact between the pressure switch and inner circuitry. This can possibly be remedied with adjustments to the pressure switch.
  • Pressure disparity — If the tank pressure is too low in relation to the cut-in pressure, replace the pressure switch for one with reduced cut-in.

When you’re used to a machine working and one day it fails to power on, the experience can be quite shocking. In most cases, however, the failure could be simply caused by oversights like an unturned switch, a lack of fluid or an unplugged cord. With compressors, operation failure could stem from one of the other issues covered in this air compressor troubleshooting guide.

Air Compressor Troubleshooting Chart

Compressor Leaks Air

If you shut down the compressor when the tank is filled with air and then find that the pressure gauge is showing a drop in pressure, you know that the compressor is leaking air. If you plug in the compressor, the pressure switch response to the air leak and dropping compressor pressure will be to start the compressor again. To try and find the leak, do the following.

  • Listen for the leak —If the air leak is bad enough, you will be able to hear a hiss where the air is escaping.
  • Feel for the leak — You may be able to feel the air leak with your fingers by running them along the hoses and other components.

If you cannot pinpoint the leak visually or by listening for it, try soaping the compressor’s connections. First, pull the hose away from the compressor coupler. Then, take a solution of dish soap and room temperature water and brush it onto each compressor and the coupler end. You will be able to identify a leak by bubbles forming at the point of leakage.

Excessive Noise From the Compressor

When a reciprocating type air compressor makes loud noises that seem obnoxious and out of character, it’s likely due to one of the following, easily corrected issues:

  • Loose parts — Noise is often the result of loose internal parts. Check for looseness in the pulleys, cooler, flywheel, clamps, belt, accessories, etc. and perform tightening as needed.
  • Troubled crankcase — Another common noise culprit is the defective or oil-deficient crankcase. Check to see whether the crankcase needs new oil or bearings, or if it needs to be replaced outright.
  • Problem pistons — Noise also occurs when the piston hits the valve plate. Take out the cylinder head and check for dirt on the piston, then replace the gasket and reattach the head.
  • Improper mounting — A further cause of noise is when the compressor is mounted loosely. Refasten the bolts on the compressor and check to see whether the vibration pads need to be installed or replaced.

If compressor noise gets out of hand, it can make the machine quite difficult to work around. In most cases, obnoxious sounds are an indicator that something is indeed wrong with the unit internally. While the problem might not indicate an immediate need for major repairs, it could lead to such if action isn’t taken now to stem the problem with simpler adjustments.

Compressor only hums

Compressor Only Hums

A compressor that only hums is in danger of rapid overheating and subsequent motor damage. To find the source of this issue, try inspecting the following.

  • Power supply — Your power supply needs to be clean and take the shortest route possible. Using an extension cord or power bar can cause significant issues, so try plugging the cord into a wall socket with minimal other devices and see if the compression cycle starts.
  • Intake filter — Remove the intake filter and start the air compressor again without it. If the compressor starts without the intake filter, replace the filter and see if that fixes the problem.
  • Unloader valve — One of the potential valve issues is air becoming trapped above the pistons. The extra load can sometimes stall the motor.

Oil Doesn’t Last Long Enough

A compressor needs oil to run properly, pure and simple. That said, few aspects of compressor operation are more annoying than periods where the oil expires too quickly. If a compressor’s oil supply is in constant need of replacement, it’s likely down to one of the following four factors:

  • Intake obstructions — A sign of neglect is when blockage forms at the air intake. If this happens, the filter needs urgent cleaning, and in some cases a replacement.
  • Oil leaks — Leaks of oil can usually be stopped by tightening the bolts of relevant machine parts or by replacing the oil gasket.
  • Worn piston rings — When piston rings appear visibly worn, the time to replace them is now, not later.
  • Improper oil viscosity — If the oil viscosity is off, it’s time to drain and refill with a different oil and with the right viscosity.

Oil can also be lost if the compressor constantly tilts, but this can be fixed by placing the compressor on a different surface with the addition of vibration pads. Furthermore, if you find the cylinder is scored, it needs to be replaced.

Excessive Oil in Compressor Discharge Air

When excess amounts of oil become aerosolized by the compressor’s discharge, it can be damaging to pneumatic tools and accessories. Even worse, oily discharge poses ill effects on applications, sometimes to the point where projects must be scrapped and reworked entirely. Luckily, the problem is usually easy to identify and remedy, since oily discharge is typically down to one of the following issues:

  • Restricted intake — Oily discharge is often caused by restrictions on the compressor’s air intake. In cases such as these, the air filters either need to be cleaned or replaced altogether.
  • Expired piston rings — Just as with oil leaks, oily discharge can stem from worn piston rings, which need to be replaced on a periodic basis.
  • Overfilled oil tank — If the compressor has too much oil, some of that excess can seep into the discharge. The oil level needs to be lowered to the “full” mark displayed on the gauge.
  • Wrong oil viscosity — If the viscosity doesn’t match the requirements of your compressor, empty the oil tank and refill with a different oil of the proper viscosity.
  • Inverted piston rings — A further possible cause of oily discharge is upside-down piston rings, which could mean that it’s time to replace the crankshaft.

If you use compressed air for the purpose of spray painting, sanding or the application of finishes, proper air treatment is essential as you cannot allow aerosolized oil to enter the airstream. With preventative maintenance, you’ll greatly reduce the risk of having projects ruined by the interference of oil particulates in paint jobs and finishes.

Constant Vibration of the Compressor

Vibrations from any piece of machinery can be troublesome. In the case of an air compressor, vibration could be the result of looseness in any number of areas. The following parts should be inspected for looseness or alignment problems and tightened or adjusted accordingly if tremors/vibrations persist.

  • Mounting bolts — If the bolts are loose, they need tightening.
  • Crankshaft — If bent, it’s time for a new crankshaft.
  • Belts — If loose, the belts need tightening. Inspect for wear and tear. It could be time for replacement.
  • Pulley and flywheel — If either is misaligned, this must be repaired immediately.

Vibrations could also persist if the compressor isn’t mounted correctly, in which case you’d need to check the underside to make sure all four legs of the unit are firmly flat on the ground. Even with all the aforementioned parts tightened, tremors/vibrations could still be an issue unless all legs are sufficiently touching the floor.

Compressor will not build pressure


Compressor Will Not Build Pressure

In some cases, a compressor will run as though it is functioning properly when, in reality, there is a problem with compressor pressure. There may be some buildup of air in the compressor, or it may not have any air at all. Alternatively, the pressure might plateau at a particular psi and fail to build further than that. The possible sources of this issue could be:

  • Intake valve failure
  • Pressure valve failure
  • Gasket failure
  • Piston seal failure
  • Compromised tank check valve

Inspecting these components and replacing ones that are worn or damaged usually solves this problem.

Inadequate Pressure at the Tool Tip

If there’s not enough pressure at the point of use, the problem is likely due to air restrictions, leaks or problems with the hose or compressor belts. The following issues are common and easy to remedy:

  • Pressure blocks/leaks — Air can either get cut off or leak out at certain points along the way between the compressor and the tool. Inspect the hose or pipes for crimps or holes, then repair these problem areas by straightening the kinks or plugging the holes as needed.
  • Air intake restrictions — If air is getting blocked from the intake valve, the filter is likely due for a cleaning, if not an outright replacement.
  • Loose belts — When belts come loose, a retightening will usually fix the problem unless they’re too old, in which case they probably need to be replaced altogether.
  • Undersized hose — You might discover that the hose is too narrow to supply the right air pressure, which would mean it’s time to upsize.

There could also be a problem with pressure at the point of use if the requirements of a tool exceed the capacity of the compressor. Before buying a new tool, check to see whether its cfm and psi requirements are within the range that your compressor can handle. Likewise, when buying a new compressor, make sure it has the capacity for every tool in your arsenal.

Extreme Stress on the Belts

When worn down excessively, there’s either a problem with the pulley or with the belts. Therefore, the solutions are relatively simple:

  • Misaligned pulley — Trouble with the belts is just as likely due to the pulley as the actual belts. In cases like these, the problem can easily be solved by readjusting the motor pulley.
  • Excessively tight or loose belts — Then again, it’s often just a matter of poor belt tension, in which case the belt(s) could be due for readjustment.

If the pulley or flywheel is unstable, inspect the crankshaft for any bend or signs of wear. Sometimes the problem could even be down to a nick or bump in the pulley groove, in which case the groove needs to be filed smooth.

Sluggish Buildup of Receiver Pressure

When the receiver pressure takes too long to build, the issue is most likely due to dirt accumulation or wear in any given one of the following compressor parts:

  • Filthy air filter — One of the most common culprits when it comes to lagging receiver pressure is dirt buildup on the air filter, which could either need to be cleaned or replaced.
  • Loose joints — Low pressure caused by air leaks can stem from joints that aren’t tight enough. Check to see if the joints need tightening.
  • Loosened belts — The belts might need to be tightened or replaced.
  • Worn head gasket — The cylinder head gasket could possibly be expired, in which case replacement is crucial.
  • Expired valves — If the intake or discharge valve plates are torn or worn, replace them with new ones.

Alternately, slow receiver buildup could be down to insufficient compressor speed for the applications in question. When starting a first-time application, check to see if your compressor is capable of meeting the challenges at hand.

air compressor troubleshooting guide

If you’re dealing with a reverse problem where the receiver pressure grows too rapidly, it’s likely caused by excess amounts of water in the receiver, which should be drained on a regular basis.

Extreme Air Heat at Discharge

If the compressed air comes out too hot, it can damage the items and surfaces being treated, as well as the tools and various internal mechanisms of the compressor. Excessive air heat often stems from the following problems:

  • Dirty internal surfaces — Check to see whether dirt has built up on the cylinder, discharge tube or intercooler and clean as needed.
  • Meager ventilation — If the compressor is set up in a hot or poorly ventilated area, move it someplace else where ambient air is cooler and flows more freely.
  • Expired head gasket — When the head gasket blows, heat is inevitable. Therefore, it could be time to replace the head gasket.
  • Run down valves — Hot compressed air is also an indicator that it’s time to replace the valve plate.
  • Limited air intake — Compressed air can overheat when dust and lint accumulate on the filter. If overheating reoccurs despite the above replacements, the filter probably needs to be cleaned at more frequent intervals.

what's wrong with my air compressor

Overly hot compressed air can be damaging in applications where the air itself is being applied to a given surface, such as when compressed air is used for the purpose of drying, cleaning and dusting. Thankfully, the problem is easy to remedy with inspections and maintenance of the valves, gasket, filter and internal surfaces.

Compressor Gets Bogged Down

When your compressor shows a tendency to work well for short durations but quickly and prematurely run out of steam, it’s often due to problems with the motor. Look for the following issues if constant bog-downs apply to your machine:

  • Divided power supply — The power supply to a compressor can also be diluted by the use of a power bar. Instead of splitting the resources of an A/C outlet between a compressor and other machines, give your compressor the full, undivided power of one outlet.
  • Overdrawn power circuit — An air compressor needs the undivided power of a 15-20 amp breaker at minimum. If other machines are also being powered on this same circuit, turn them off so the compressor can receive the full power source.
  • Unloader valve failure — Power lags also result from failed unloader valves. This problem can be diagnosed by manually enacting the valve function. Open the tank and drain out the air and water, then close and power back up. If the compressor bogs down once again, the valve needs to be replaced.

Compressed air applications rely on a steady supply of pressure at the point of use. If your compressor fails to deliver the needed power despite running from a sufficient and undivided power source, the problem could simply be that your compressor lacks the capacity to handle the tools and applications in question.

Milky Oil in the Reservoir

When compressor oil takes on a milky color, water has made its way into the reservoir via condensation. This would indicate that operating conditions have been too hot for the compressor. For an instant remedy, you have two options:

  • Colder air — Move the pipe air intake to an area where the ambient air is of a lower temperature.
  • Daily drainage — Regardless of whether condensation occurs slowly or rapidly inside the compressor, the tank should be drained after each day’s usage.

Oil is the lifeblood of any piece of machinery. As such, instances of off-color oil inside your compressor should be a major concern. After all, if the oil fails to do its job properly, internal moving parts could cause friction and corrode, which could ultimately lead to costly maintenance or a shorter life for the compressor. Therefore, if oil problems get out of hand, have your compressor serviced by trained professionals.

air compressor troubleshooting

In any case, the quality of oil can be better maintained with frequent oil changes. Be sure to consult your owner’s manual for the recommended frequency for oil changes.


Quincy Compressor: The World’s Leading Supplier of Air Compressors

When properly maintained, a high-quality air compressor can provide super performance on a vast range of applications for many years of use. Throughout the industries that use compressed air for operations, Quincy Compressor is among the most trusted providers of compressors and air tools.

For nearly 100 years, we’ve led the way in developing compressors that serve in industries like auto assembly, building construction and furniture making. To learn more about our vast offering of air compressors and accessories, visit our sales and service locator page today.


Contact Us     Learn More        Find a Dealer Near You   

Air compressors make tough jobs more manageable, continuously turning the surrounding air into a useable power source. Each year, we discover more uses for compressed air, and our air compressor technology has rapidly evolved to keep up with these constantly changing needs. An air compressor can have immediate impacts on your time and energy, saving you immensely when you know which air compressor to buy.

If you need to determine the best selection for your unique needs, our comprehensive air compressor buyer guide will inform you on what to look for in an air compressor. We’ll help you choose an air compressor that’s right for the job.

Types of Air Compressors

All compressors work by using a mechanical component to increase the air pressure and reduce the volume of trapped air. The duty cycle is complete in most models once the maximum air pressure is reached inside the tank.

When choosing an air compressor, it helps to know the basic mechanics of each available option so you can make a more informed purchase.

Rotary Screw

In a rotary screw compressor, the mechanical component used to reduce the volume is a pair of screws. These twin spiral screws are meshed together, turning continuously to maximize air intake and air payout. Rotary screw compressors use a positive displacement compression system — air fills the sealed chamber where it is squeezed between the two helically opposed rotating screws. The trapped air is compressed to a proper pressure level for use in various applications.

Rotary screw compressors were explicitly introduced for prolonged heavy-duty and high-precision situations. They are durable and reliable, with extremely high air flow rates, impressive horsepower and fewer moving parts. Most models are oil-flooded, but rotary screw units ensure safe operation even at extreme temperatures. Rotary screw air compressors require less maintenance over time and can undergo high-power applications for extended periods. The continuous airflow and pressurization are particularly valuable for the automobile industry.


Reciprocating air compressors are the most widely used positive-displacement compressor — popular for agricultural, automotive, gas processing, refrigeration, general manufacturing and many other applications.

They operate using a crankshaft-driven piston inside of a cylinder. The internal crankshaft drives the piston in a back-and-forth motion to reduce the volume of air. As the piston retracts, the surrounding air fills the cylinder’s upper portion. When the piston extends, compressed air is pushed into the tank. As the volume of trapped air decreases, the pressure builds to a proper level.

The air intake method remains the same whether the unit uses a single-stage or two-stage air compression process. Piston air compressors can produce high power at low energy levels. Its compact design makes the reciprocating air compressor easy to transport and less likely to need repairs.

Despite having fewer moving parts, the piston air compressor produces more heat and noise than other types when the internal components touch. Thankfully, most reciprocating air compressors are best used intermittently and don’t need to run continuously. Oil-less compressors can also reduce the overheating and noise associated with standard piston air compressors.


Scroll air compressors use two spiral-shaped circular scrolls to reduce the air volume. One scroll is fixed in place at the compressor’s center, while the other fits inside this stationary scroll and moves in a fast circular motion. Compared to different air compressors, a scroll unit has fewer moving parts and significantly reduced vibrations. The standard model was initially designed for longevity — a factor that’s still favored today.

Scroll compressors can operate at various intensity levels and cover a wide array of industrial air compression needs, including automotive, electronics manufacturing and refrigeration plants. They produce the cleanest air according to IOS industry standards. While some models may require lubrication, especially if they produce higher pressure, many standard scroll compressors feature an oil-free design. Oil-free scroll systems make less noise than other types and are ideal for the pharmaceutical, dental and food industries.

Portable vs. Stationary

Air compressors can either have a portable model designed for quick mobility or a stationary model intended for use in one location. Larger models are often fixed and can store a greater volume of air. Meanwhile, portable air compressors feature a smaller, lighter design that can keep tools powered from anywhere around the house or job site — even on a roof or in a crawl space.

Portability allows these air compressors to support various lifestyles. Models that feature a smaller storage tank are ideal for home and light industrial use since they can quickly move through the work area with ready-to-use compressed air. Portable compressors have handles or wheels that allow them to go exactly where they’re needed.

Most portable models have a single-stage piston design and electric motor. Common styles of portable air compressors include:

  • Pancake: Round, flat storage tanks are mounted on the bottom of the unit for added stability and space-saving design.
  • Hot-dog: This style features a horizontal design with a single, cylindrical tank.
  • Twin-stack: Two horizontal, cylindrical tanks are stacked for added air capacity without increasing the necessary floor space.
  • Wheelbarrow: These units have a wheel and handles to move the twin cylindrical tanks where they’re needed.

You can easily carry hot-dog and twin-stack compressors around the house for use in different areas. Truck-mounted and wheelbarrow designs are beneficial on construction sites. Choose from several styles of both portable and stationary air compressors to ensure you make a worthwhile investment.

Oil-Flooded vs. Oil-Free

Depending on the specific applications, it can be crucial to know how lubrication works in an air compressor. The two categories of oil pumps could significantly impact your buying decision:

  • Oil-flooded: These air compressors use oil to lubricate the walls and bearings with occasional splashes. Oil-lubricated systems typically have a more durable design, though they also tend to produce more heat and noise as a result.
  • Oil-free: The pump receives unique lasting lubrication to ensure oil can’t contaminate the compressed air. Due to their enclosures, oil-free reciprocating compressors also benefit from reduced overheating and exceptionally low noise.

The piston ring used in oil-flooded piston compressors helps form a seal inside the combustion chamber, minimizing the risk of oil contamination. Other prevention methods, like oil separators and air-line filters, can also keep oil from entering the tank. However, oil-flooded models will always risk oil seepage. Specific industries must ensure 100% oil-free air. Even small quantities of contamination can cause costly product losses and production downtime depending on the application.

Oil-free air compressors are designed for clean environments where it is essential to eliminate all oil contamination risks. Because oil-free air compressors are quiet and low maintenance, they can run all day without stopping or slowing down. Oil-free compressors are ideal for around-the-clock operations and applications in the following industries:

  • Food and beverage processing
  • Pharmaceuticals manufacturing
  • Fermentation
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Electronics manufacturing
  • Chemical and petrochemical processing
  • Textile production

Newer air compressor technology removes oil from the lubrication process entirely so you can ensure the air used in your process or product is 100% oil-free. Other technologies like variable speed drive (VSD), variable frequency drive (VFD_ and two-stage piston designs can help oil-flooded compressors have a quieter operation, too.

Two-Stage vs. Single-Stage

Reciprocating air compressors are the most widely used type of positive-displacement compressor. They rely on a piston inside a cylinder to compress air and use either a single piston and cylinder to operate or a two-stage process. Standard units for home use are typically single-stage models with one piston cylinder. Two-stage piston compressors maximize the strength of two cylinders instead.

Single-stage reciprocating compressors work by filling the cylinder with air and compressing it in a single piston stroke. These units are best for lower pressure applications since the air is generally compressed to a pressure of approximately 120 PSI. The most common air compressor models for home use are single-stage. They are best used to serve intermittent, light-duty jobs around the house, having limited efficiency and capacity for applications that require a higher pressure of air.

Two-stage piston compressors have two piston cylinders, each with a different diameter. They use the same air intake method as single-stage machines, but the air is compressed through two chambers instead of one. The second, smaller chamber ensures the air is pressurized to the required extent. Most two-stage units reach a higher pressure of approximately 175 PSI. The additional cylinder stage allows these compressors to work more effectively and run more air tools at once.

The higher cost of two-stage units may influence your air compressor choice. While they offer more reliability for demanding, continuous use applications, it is important to consider whether you will make effective use of the two-stage compressor’s higher pressure. Avoid overspending on features and capabilities you’re unable to utilize.

Air Compressor Power Sources

An air compressor typically consists of a power source, an inlet, a discharge valve, a pump and a storage tank. The inlet draws in surrounding air and the discharge valve releases pressurized air for use. Meanwhile, the pump helps compress the air. Air compressors are usually powered by either an electric or gas motor.

Electric-powered compressors are the most common designs for use in enclosed spaces. They work in any dry area with access to a stable electrical supply. Electric units are quieter and require less maintenance than other models. Portable electric compressors have limited mobility, however. Many consumer-grade air compressors can function on a 120-volt household current. Ensure your electrical supply can handle a specific model’s requirements before buying.

Gasoline-powered compressors are typically used for outdoor work areas where electricity is limited or unavailable. Gas fumes can make these models unacceptable for enclosed spaces, so it is vital to maintain good air quality while it’s in use. Air compressors powered with gas generally have more horsepower.

Air Compressor Specifications

Familiarize yourself with helpful air compressor terms to help ensure you get the best unit for your needs:

  • Horsepower and pounds per square inch: The horsepower (HP) rating indicates the power a motor produces. Higher horsepower means the air compressor can create greater air pressure, measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). For many single-stage compressors, the pressure limit is 125 PSI. Air compressors with a higher PSI can compress a larger air volume, allowing for longer use of air tools. The pressure switch goes off to complete the duty cycle when the maximum air pressure is reached in the tank.
  • Cubic feet per minute: Cubic feet per minute (CFM) describes the volume of air a machine compresses at specific PSI levels. CFM ratings increase as you lower PSI outputs. Determine the required CFM rating of your air tools and choose a compressor that exceeds this requirement. An added 50% to the required CFM is a reasonable margin of safety.
  • Average CFM: Air tools are often rated based on a 25% duty cycle for intermittent use known as average CFM. This rating can be challenging for tools used continuously. The average CFM is acceptable for occasional usage, but continuous use applications need extra calculations to determine the required CFM rating. If you want to use an air tool continuously, consider multiplying the average CFM by four to determine the continuous CFM rating.
  • Actual CFM: Air compressor manufacturers use actual cubic feet per minute (ACFM) to describe the actual volume of air compressed in one minute under standard conditions. Rated operating conditions for speed, temperature and pressures are considered in the calculation.
  • Tank size: Most manufacturers rate storage tank size in gallons. Smaller tanks typically store around four to six gallons, with larger tanks storing more pressurized air at higher volumes.


Air Compressor Features

Additional features allow homeowners and businesses to choose air compressor designs that can support any lifestyle or industry. Determine what features you might require to get work done safely and efficiently:

  • Oil-free pumps reduce maintenance and eliminate the risk of oil contaminating the compressed air.
  • Belt-driven systems generally have a longer life, provide quieter operation and limit heat transfer from the motor to the pump.
  • Low-oil shutdown prevents unnecessary downtime and costly repairs when oil levels are low.
  • Thermal protection stops the motor automatically when it senses an electrical problem like the overloads heating up.
  • Air-cooling systems ensure the pumping machinery remains cool throughout the process.
  • Adjustable exhaust ports allow the user to direct exhaust away from the work area.
  • Multiple couplers allow the unit to handle various tasks without needing to connect and disconnect tools.
  • A roll cage protects the air compressor from severe on-site damages and accidents.
  • Added accessories and tools like air hoses, inflation components and nail guns increase the value of your investment.
  • Auxiliary air tanks increase the storage capacity for compressed air.

Air compressors with constant speed operation run 100% of the time. Meanwhile, auto start/stop operation stops and starts the airflow at preset pressures or as needed. Your air compressor may utilize one method or dual control compressors that offer both.

When an air compressor is certified by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), it has met all the standards and manufacturing requirements. Look for an ASME certification label on the unit’s tank, which will indicate the use of high-quality materials and craftsmanship.

Uses for Air Compressors

When choosing a new air compressor, consider the various uses and types of air tools you’ll want to power. If inflating objects like tires, sports equipment and pool toys will be the primary use, a standard inflator or consumer-grade air compressor should provide suitable pressurized air.

Air compressors are used to power versatile air tools and machines, each with specific requirements for air pressure and volume. Standard air-powered tools include:

  • Nail and staple guns
  • Impact wrenches
  • Paint sprayers
  • Ratchets
  • Air hammers and chisels
  • Rotary tools and grinders
  • Sanders
  • Drills

You will need to determine the required CFM rating of each air tool you want to use before choosing an air compressor. Consider which air tools you’ll need to power and ensure your new air compressor has the necessary CFM and PSI rates.

Questions to Ask Before Buying an Air Compressor

The vast number of air compressor makes and models can be overwhelming for any buyer. When you fully consider its intended use, you make a more informed air compressor selection and significantly improve operations.

Start by answering three essential questions before delving into the finer details of your next compressor.

How Will You Use the Air Compressor?

Air compressors are used for a wide array of applications that can help determine the correct compressor type. Consider whether you need an air compressor for intermittent use or continuous use applications. Rotary screw models offer constant airflow and pressurization, while reciprocating air compressors work best when used intermittently.

What tools do you plan to use with your compressor? All air tools have an average CFM rating. Select an air compressor that can provide the power required for each tool you want to use. It is also crucial to determine how many devices will be used at once. Most single-stage models are intended to handle one-person operating tools. Two-stage piston compressors can efficiently power multiple tools simultaneously for intermittent use applications.

Where Will You Use the Air Compressor?

Decide how vital portability is to your daily operations. If you require a dependable unit that moves easily around the home or work area, you’ll want a mobile air compressor with wheels or handles for easy transport. Wheeled designs are beneficial when traveling to and from job sites. Larger, stationary models provide more outstanding performance and more power, so it may not be in the best interest of every industry to prioritize portability.

Do you have access to a stable electrical supply? This answer will determine which type of power source you require. Electric air compressors produce a more reliable source of power, while gas motors are more convenient for mobile air compressors and outdoor applications. Remember that you can utilize longer air hoses if the stationary electrical unit doesn’t reach your work area.

What Air Compressor Specifications Do You Need?

The most important metric — whether it’s air generation, storage capacity, workload or technology — could impact your final purchase. The maximum operating pressure, or PSI rating, will ensure air is compressed to the optimal pressure. Manufacturers measure the capacity of the tank in gallons, while the desired workload is based on the rated horsepower and air volume in CFM.

Air Compressor Applications

Compressed air has a multitude of uses both at home and in businesses. With new applications discovered every year, air compressors can help virtually anyone complete work efficiently and reliably.

Widen your knowledge about the various uses for air compressors and determine how to make the most of your investment. Different applications for homeowners, contractors and manufacturers call for different types of air compressors.

Air Compressors for Homeowners

Save on basic repairs and finish projects more efficiently when you know how to choose an air compressor for home use. Dramatically decrease project run times, whether you’re working with wood, precision painting, powering outdoor equipment or fixing a personal vehicle.

Air tools are versatile, safer and more powerful than traditional electric tools, making them an excellent investment for people looking to improve the value of their homes. Standard air tools like nail guns, drills and impact wrenches generally require 5 or less CFM at 70-90 PSI, while air sanders and large shears could require up to 10 or more CFM at 100-120 PSI.

Many homeowners want consumer-grade air compressors that handle all of the air tools they require. Most consumer-grade models can address needs below 7 CFM and 135 PSI, though it’s still crucial to ensure the compressor you purchase can drive the necessary air tools.

Inflators are the smallest air compressors, primarily due to the lack of a storage tank. For an inflator to supply compressed air, the motor must run continuously during the project. They are typically used for small household needs like inflating pool floats, tires and sports equipment. Most inflators have the power to drive staple guns or other air tools with small CFM and PSI rates.

The reciprocating air compressor is the most common type used in homes and workshops. The best air compressors for homeowners are typically smaller, portable models that can be hand-carried or wheeled quickly around the premises. They are more compact than stationary models, allowing homeowners to work in difficult-to-reach or tightly enclosed spaces. Larger single-stage piston compressors may work better for specific needs — the larger tank and increased power mean more capability for your home or workshop.

Consider upgrading to a professional-grade model if you want to complete advanced home-improvement projects on your own.

Air Compressors for Contractors

When it comes to contractor jobs, professional-grade air compressors provide more power and higher pressurized air for longer periods. These durable air compressors are designed to handle more demanding applications, using the pressurized air more efficiently than other models. Professional-grade units can withstand the rigors of any job site, saving you money with more capability to complete work at greater energy levels and longer run times.

For example, rotary screw compressors and two-stage reciprocating units can effectively run several air tools at once for regular, intermittent use applications. The most common application for contractors is to drive the necessary air-powered tools. Air compressors are often used in small and medium-sized businesses to power many different air tools and machines for various industries, including:

  • Numerous air tools for automotive repair
  • Paint sprayers for use in an auto body shop
  • Sanders in an auto body shop or woodworking
  • Pneumatic nail guns for roofing
  • Air drills and hammers on construction sites
  • Specialized machines for dental and medical services
  • Sandblasters in manufacturing facilities

The best type of air compressors for contractors are designed to be durable and portable. For contractors, portability can either mean carrying or wheeling the air compressor around the job site. Consider mounting a mobile air compressor to your truck or wheelbarrow, especially for applications in the construction industry.

Air Compressors for Manufacturers

Manufacturers who know how to choose an industrial air compressor can maximize their efficiency with improved safety and performance. Because manufacturing industries need reliability, industrial-sized air compressors are designed to provide steady airflow and keep production moving for a more extended period.

Many commercial and industrial-grade air compressors are stationary models with large storage tanks, greater horsepower, more CFM and more PSI. The air tank typically holds up to 120 gallons, allowing for longer run times and more capability to take on demanding applications. Machines with ASME certification indicate the use of high-quality components and advanced technology. Manufacturers should look for ASME-certified units to ensure efficient and reliable performance.

Satisfy various demanding industrial compressed air applications with the best types of air compressors for each industry. For some industries, compressed air is the only option to provide a safer and more reliable power source.

Both our reciprocating air compressors and rotary screw models feature significant benefits for a wide array of industries, including:

  • Agriculture and farming: Air compressors are an affordable and dependable solution for maintaining a successful farm. Many agricultural machines require compressed air, including water pumps, crop sprayers, pneumatic handling material machines, dairy machines and tractors. Compressed air is also used to supply greenhouses with proper ventilation and power conveyors that quickly transport grain to and from silos.
  • Manufacturing: Applications for compressed air have been discovered in nearly all fields of the manufacturing industry. Whether in refineries, assembly plants, plastics, transportation, metal fabrication or general manufacturing, many day-to-day processes require an intermittent or continuous stream of pressurized air. Industrial-sized air compressors offer the ideal solution to industries in high demand for a safe and efficient power source.
  • Automotive: Auto assembly plants and body shops require compressed air to power essential tools and operations. From vehicle assembly to engine construction and from cleaning to precision painting, air compressors are vital to every stage along the production line.
  • Mining: The rapidly growing need for air compressors first began with the mining and metal fabrication industry. Air compressors provide an invaluable source of reliable energy. Drive various pneumatic tools and safety equipment used in drilling, mineral extraction, material handling and transportation. Compressed air can even maintain the complex ventilation systems needed for underground mining operations.
  • Plastics: For the plastics industry to continue thriving, it requires a consistent power source that can deliver high-quality plastics for various products and applications. Consistently have the power to perform multiple delicate operations specific to plastics manufacturing, like blow molding and injection. Air compressors absorb fluctuations in the electrical current to provide unwavering power to the necessary equipment.
  • Aerospace: Manufacturers and designers of aerospace components use compressed air systems to ensure consistent quality control. Air compressors produce reliable power throughout all stages of production, from the assembly line to the final painting. Oil-free models are ideal for manufacturing specific aerospace components. They eliminate contamination risks that could harm the product or process.
  • Amusement parks: Air compressors keep operations fast and dependable so visitors can experience the fun reassured in the safety of amusement park attractions. Roller coasters and other rides rely on compressed air for hydraulic launch systems, brakes, power gates and other critical features. Improved maintenance operations like air compressor-powered washers make cleaning attractions quick and efficient.

Industries creating edible or consumed goods have strict requirements for their air compressors:

  • Food and beverage: To run their constant operations, the food and beverage industry requires consistent compressed air. The air must remain clean, dry and contaminate-free throughout the entire supply chain, and oil-free models help meet these requirements. Air compressors serve various applications, including packaging, mixing foods, filling foods and molds, powering air knives and nitrogen generation.
  • Brewing: All types of breweries can use compressed air for various craft brewing and distilling tasks. Reciprocating air compressors work best for keg washing and other low-pressure applications, while heavier-duty rotary screw models can help to drive assembly line processes.
  • Pharmaceutical: From mixing ingredients to bottling liquid and pill products, the pharmaceutical industry is highly regulated throughout every step of the formula’s creation. Compressed air systems ensure the equipment operation and medicine production are running at maximum efficiency. Air compressor-powered equipment maintains pressure in mixing tanks, bottle the finished formulas and assist in other jobs where consistency is essential.

Various sectors of the energy industry utilize air compressors:

  • Energy exploration: An air compressor can deliver reliable power to the energy industry for drilling rigs, petroleum refineries and pipeline operations. Air compressors are ideal for both onshore and offshore energy exploration since they provide consistent, efficient performance without concern for the turbulence and harsh conditions faced every day.
  • Oil and gas: Both large and small-scale oil and gas applications utilize compressed air systems. The most common operations include maintaining the pressure of processed gas during pipeline transportation and increasing the pressure during petroleum refinement. Pressurized air is also used in the manufacturing process for the synthesis of various petrochemicals.

Clothing-related industries use air compressors, as well:

  • Textiles: Air compressors help drive necessary tools and applications throughout the entire supply chain. To keep up with demand, many textile facilities use compressed air systems for fast and effective production. The pressurized air can consistently power spinning machines, air-jet looms, ginning mills and other equipment unique to the textile industry.
  • Dry cleaning: When it comes to the quality cleaning of garments, compressed air is typically used to operate dry cleaning presses, steam cleaners and chemical cleaning guns. The ideal air compressor for dry cleaning applications requires an average of 3 CFM at 70 to 90 PSI. Access to reliable compressed air allows you to focus on serving the customer with greater confidence in the performance of your equipment.

Home improvement and construction industries also make use of air compressors:

  • Plumbing: Truck-mounted and hand-carried air compressors enable plumbers to take compressed air with them to various on-site jobs. Some plumbers invest in a stationary model for their shop with a larger capacity and more power. Air compressors for plumbing typically have an electric motor and a v-belt or direct drive.
  • Painting: Paint sprayers are commonly used to speed up tedious painting tasks, especially for the construction and automotive industries. The right air compressor will ensure consistent pressure and volume for highly specialized jobs. Consider the control method needed and decide whether continuous speed or auto start/stop operation will work best.
  • Woodworking: Many woodworking and lumbering processes require air compressors for better quality control and safer working conditions. Manufacturers need reliable, high-pressure air to conduct spark-free operations. Air compressors can handle both the detail-oriented needs of furniture craftsmanship and the high-production needs of lumber processing.
  • Climate control: Air compressors designed for climate control must live up to the demanding market. Custom performance and diverse operating capabilities ensure quality climate control in various environments. The compressed air helps HVAC systems produce clean, dry air with minimal oil contamination.

Choose the Right Air Compressor With Quincy Compressor

As new advances in air compressor technology arise, the expectations surrounding your industry’s products and operations may also change. Stay on top of these developments with the legendary performance and reliability of Quincy products. Our air compressor products are backed by a dependable network of knowledgeable air experts who can guide you through the air compressor selection process.

Quincy Compressor has been a trusted name in the compressed air system market for over a century. For professional advice and support, contact Quincy Compressor today. Take advantage of our 24-hour service and locate an authorized Quincy Compressor dealer near you.

Compressed air systems supply pressurized air throughout an industrial facility to power many devices, including tools, automated valves, slide gates, dust collectors, diverters and other precision instruments. A compressed air system functions on pressure. Most systems use a variable speed motor to pressurize the air.

In an integrated system, the compressed air passes through a dryer to reduce moisture and humidity before a network of pipes distributes it throughout a facility. Typical air systems provide approximately 80-90 pounds of compressed air pressure across a single building.

Compressed Air for Automation

Global industries prefer to use compressed air for its practicality. From automotive and hospitals to mining and general manufacturing, compressed air systems are everywhere. There are many benefits to using compressed air for automation:

  • Air-powered tools are easier to handle. Tool manufacturers choose to power their devices by air because heavy battery packs or motor boxes do not weigh them down.
  • Compressed air is environmentally safe. Compressed air can be used in various environments and does not chemically react with other substances or compounds.
  • Air-operated devices are more economical. Air tools use far less energy than electrical tools, and some have much more power.
  • Compressed air is accessible. An industrial facility can quickly and efficiently distribute compressed air with an effective piping network.
  • Air tools are more reliable. They typically have fewer internal parts than their electrical counterparts, allowing for less maintenance and a smaller chance of breakdown.

Industrial Compressed Air Systems

Depending on a facility’s specific functions and operating capacities, some compressors are more advantageous than others. Manufacturers usually choose their air compressors based on their particular operations. Some of the most popular models on the market include:

  • Rotary screw: These compressors isolate air between two rotors and reduce the air volume as it travels through the rotors. Rotary screw compressors are known for their highly efficient and economical use.
  • Reciprocating piston: In a piston compressor, a valve system uses downward-moving pistons to draw air into the main cylinder. These systems are ideal for lighter-duty applications like maintenance shops.
  • Centrifugal: A centrifugal compressor floods kinetic energy into its system, creating an unlimited supply of pressure in potential energy. These compressors involve much more intricate designs. Larger companies with high compressed-air demands often consider these as a primary option.
  • Scroll: A scroll compressor is similar to a rotary model in design. Because it’s oil-free, it suits facilities with unsteady air requirements.

Quincy Compressor features dependable and durable compression systems to suit your needs.

Compressed Air in Robotics

Robotics competitions often employ compressed air systems to show how pneumatic power can work in preprogrammed, automatically-moving devices. Robotic arms and legs can use compressed air to function in various capacities. The best compressor for robotics competition events is generally a smaller reciprocating model, like Quincy’s Single-Stage design, which works well with robotics.

How Quincy Compressor Can Help You

To learn more about the types of compressors that Quincy provides, explore our products page or visit our sales and service locator to find an authorized Quincy representative in your area.


In the modern world of pneumatics, air compressors are vital to the operations of factories and workshops across the globe. But they haven’t always been. Air compressors are a relatively recent invention in the context of machine-age history.

Before air compressors, many tools got their power from complicated systems with belts, wheels and other large components. This machinery was massive, heavy and costly, and typically out of reach for many small operations. Today, air compressors come in many shapes and sizes, and you can find them in large shop floors, auto workshops and even your neighbor’s garage. In this guide, we’ll discuss air compressors and how they work.


What Are Air Compressors Used For?


Air compressors can be used for a wide variety of tasks. They can supply air for filling up objects like tires or inflatable pool toys, or they can supply power for operating tools. Some of the equipment that works well with compressed air power includes:

  • Drills
  • Nail guns
  • Grinders
  • Spray guns
  • Sanders
  • Staplers


From drills to AC units, many versatile air-powered tools and machines are responsible for the comfort, shelter, automation and efficiency of everyday life. The compressors themselves are more compact and lightweight than other centralized power sources. They are also long-lasting, require less maintenance and are easier to move than other old-fashioned machinery.

Piston Air Compressor Functionality

So, how does an air compressor get air? For those that use pistons, it involves two parts: Raising the pressure and reducing the volume of the air. Most compressors use reciprocating piston technology.

An air compressor typically uses:

  • An electric or gas motor
  • An inlet and a discharge valve to draw in and release air
  • A pump to compress the air
  • A storage tank


The compressor draws in air and creates a vacuum to reduce its volume. The vacuum pushes the air out of the chamber and into its storage tank. Once the storage tank reaches its maximum air pressure, the compressor turns off. This process is called the duty cycle. The compressor will turn back on when the pressure drops below a specific number.

Air compressors don’t need to have storage tanks, and a few of the smaller options forego them in favor of portability.

What Is Air Displacement?

Air displacement is at the core of each air compressor. To compress air, the internal mechanisms within the compressor move to push air through the chamber. There are two primary types of air displacement used for this purpose:

How positive displacement works in air compressors

Positive displacement: Most air compressors use this method, in which air is pulled into a chamber. There, the machine reduces the volume of the chamber to compress the air. Next, it is moved into a storage tank and saved for later use.


Dynamic displacement: Also called nonpositive displacement, this method uses an impeller with rotating blades to bring air into the chamber. The energy created from the motion of the blades builds up air pressure in a shorter amount of time. Dynamic displacement can be used with turbocompressors because it works quickly and generates large volumes of air. Turbochargers in cars often use dynamic displacement air compressors.


Types of Positive Displacement Air Compressors

Because positive displacement is the more common type of air compression method, there is a large variety of positive displacement air compressors. However, each one works differently. Some are better for industrial use, and others are suitable for home projects and smaller applications. Here are some of the different types of positive displacement air compressors:

How a rotary screw air compressor works

Rotary screw: A rotary screw compressor is typical for industrial use and has sizes to fit many applications. These compressors have two screws inside the motor, turning continuously in opposite directions. The motion of the screws creates a vacuum that sucks in air. That air becomes trapped between the screws’ threads and is compressed as it is forced between them. Finally, it is sent through the output or into a containment tank.


How a rotary vane air compressor works

Rotary vane: A rotary vane compressor or vacuum pump has a similar principle to a rotary screw. With a rotary vane, a motor is placed off-center inside a rounded cavity. The engine has blades with automatically adjusting arms. As the arms approach the air input, they are elongated, creating a large air cavity. As the motor spins, moving air with it, the arms approach the output and get smaller, creating a smaller space between the vanes and the round casing, which compresses the air. Vane-operated rotors are small and easy to use, making them great for homeowners and contractors.


how a reciprocating/piston air compressor works

Reciprocating/piston: In a reciprocating air compressor, a rotor spins, causing a piston to move up and down. When the piston goes down, freestanding air is pulled into a chamber. Then, the air is compressed and forced back outward as the piston rises back up. Some compressors, called single-stage compressors, use only one piston. Others, called two-stage compressors, use two pistons and are able to pressurize more air. The reciprocating type of air compressor is one of the most common.


The Mechanics of an Air Compressor

How air compressors work can vary according to design. Piston-based air compressors can have one of two types of compression cycles:

how a single stage air compressor works

Single-stage: The piston compresses the air in one stroke. A stroke is one full rotation of the crankshaft driving the piston. The simple, single-stage design makes many of these compressors ideal for private projects.

how a two stage air compressor works

Two-stage: The first piston compresses the air before moving it to a smaller cylinder, where another piston compresses it further. This design allows the compressor to generate higher pressures. Since the kinetic energy that compresses air generates heat, many two-stage systems also cool air as it travels between each cylinder. Cooling the air allows the compressor to move more air without overheating.


How Does an Air Compressor Regulator Work?

A regulator attaches to the outlet for your compressor’s air tank and features an adjustable nob and a pressure indicator. As you rotate the knob counterclockwise, it pushes on a spring which restricts a valve, which lowers the pressure by reducing the supply of air entering the regulator. When you turn the knob clockwise, the spring and the valve release, allowing more high-pressure air through the output.

For many single-stage air compressors, the preset pressure limit is 125 psi. When this limit is reached, a pressure switch goes off to stop the motor and the production of compressed air. In most operations, you don’t need to reach that pressure limit, so many compressors set air lines to a regulator. With a regulator, you can input the appropriate pressure level for a given tool.

When the amount of pressure needed to power your tool is lower than the pressure in your air pressure tank, a regulator adjusts the pressure for you. While the regulator can’t raise the pressure above what’s already in your tank, it ensures your tool gets a consistent flow of air at the correct pressure.

When the specified pressure is reached, the regulator shuts off the pump at any point in its cycle, which means the piston can be halfway through a stroke, with pressurized air in the chamber, when it stops. This air can put undue pressure on the starting circuit, which needs more power to start the motor. An unloader valve is a simple addition that releases the trapped air to avoid this problem.

A regulator is bookended by two gauges — one to monitor the pressure of the tank and another to monitor the pressure within the air line. Also, the tank has an emergency valve that triggers if the pressure switch malfunctions.

What Is a Reciprocating Piston?

The reciprocating piston involves the following parts:

  • Crankshaft
  • Connecting rod
  • Cylinder
  • Piston
  • Valve head


It works similarly to a combustion engine in a car. The crankshaft rod raises the piston in the cylinder and pushes air into the compression chamber, decreasing air volume and increasing the pressure. The piston closes, forcing the compressed air into the storage tank. Then the piston opens again to draw in more air and start the process over.

Compressors that use pistons can be louder than some other designs because of the way the machine’s components move and generate friction. But new technologies and advancing designs are bringing dual and multi-piston models that can make things quieter by splitting up the workload.

The Rotary Screw Air Compressor


In many heavy-duty industrial applications, a piston compressor just doesn’t cut it. For the higher pressures needed for complex pneumatic and high-powered tools, professionals tend to choose rotary screw air compressors.

While the piston air compressor uses pulsation and the alternating nature of the piston mechanic, a rotary screw compressor is continuous. A pair of rotors mesh together to pull air in and compress it as it moves through a spiral. The rotary motion moves the air through a chamber and ejects it. Fast rotational rates can minimize leakage.

Many compressor types experience some shaking, which can damage the equipment and requires you to take measure s to minimize vibrations. In contrast, most rotary screw compressors operate smoothly for even, vibration-free performance.

Rotary screw compressors can vary widely, with rates from 10 CFM to those in the 4-5 figure range. Control schemes include:

  • Stop/start: This approach either provides power to the motor, or it does not, according to the application.
  • Load/unload: The compressor is powered continuously, with a slide valve that reduces the tank’s capacity when a specific compression demand is met. This scheme is common in factory environments, and if it involves a stop timer, it is called a dual-control scheme.
  • Modulation: Modulation also uses a sliding valve to adjust pressure by throttling/closing the inlet valve, matching the compressor’s capacity to the demand. These adjustments are less effective on rotary screw compressors than other types. Even when set to a 0 capacity, the compressor would still consume about 70 percent of its full power load. Still, modulation is applicable for operations in which frequently stopping the compressor is not an option.
  • Variable displacement: This control scheme adjusts the volume of air that is pulled into the compressor. In rotary screw compressors, this method may be used alongside modulating inlet valves to improve efficiency and pressure control accuracy.
  • Variable speed: Variable speed is an efficient way to control a rotary compressor’s capacity, though it may respond differently with different types of air compressors. It varies the speed of the motor, which affects the output. This equipment tends to be more delicate than other designs, so it may not be suited for particularly hot or dusty work environments.


How Lubrication Works in Air Compressors: Oil-Flooded vs. Oil-Free

One of the most important things to know about air compressor maintenance is how lubrication works. When you’re looking at oil pumps, you’re dealing with two categories:

  • Oil-lubricated pumps: In this design, oil splashes onto walls and bearings within the cylinder. This method is also called oil-flooded lubrication and tends to be more durable. A piston ring is a piece of metal on the piston that helps to create the seal inside the combustion chamber. This ring can help keep oil out of the compressed air, but sometimes it can still seep into the tank.
  • Oil-free pumps: Oil-free pumps receive special lasting lubrication that eliminates the need for oil. In many industries where contamination is not an option, like breweries, food production and pharmaceutical manufacturing, oil-free pumps are an excellent option. They ensure that no oil contaminates the air they use in their process or product.


Oil-flooded pumps are somewhat of a mixed bag. For power tools that need lubrication, the presence of oil in the air stream can be beneficial. For tools that need oil, inline sources can distribute oil in even amounts. Many tools, on the other hand, can stop working correctly when even minute amounts of oil are present in the air stream.

For painting or woodworking, oil can interrupt the entire process. It may keep coatings from drying or finishing evenly. Airborne oil can even corrupt the surface of wood projects.

Thankfully, there are tools to prevent oil from entering the tank, like air-line filters and oil separators, but when oil-free air is critical to operation, oil-free compressors and their permanent lubrication is the best option.

Air Compressor Power Ratings: What Is CFM?


When we talk about power in an air compressor, we usually speak in terms of horsepower, but there are many other ways to determine how much pressure a machine can provide. We use cubic feet per minute (CFM) to discuss the rate and volume by which a machine compresses the air. But the rate at which outside air enters the cylinder is influenced by heat, humidity and wind in the surrounding atmosphere.

To consider these internal and external factors, manufacturers use standard cubic feet per minute (SCFM), which combines CFM with those outside factors of pressure and humidity.

Another rating that you might see is displacement CFM, which looks at the efficiency of the compressor pump. It pulls information from the revolutions per minute (RPM) of the motor and the volume of air that the cylinder can displace. This number is more of a theoretical measurement, while you can also measure CFM in terms of delivered air, or how much is actually discharged. This number is called CFM FAD, which stands for free air delivery, and is useful for measuring delivery to certain tools.

Pumps vs. Compressors: Two Instruments for Harnessing Air

Some degree of confusion exists between the words “pump” and “compressor,” with many believing them to be the same thing. In reality, the distinction between the two is a crucial part of discussing air compressors:

  • A pump takes liquids or gasses and moves them between places.
  • A compressor takes a gas, squeezes it down to a smaller volume and higher pressure and sends it elsewhere.


The most significant distinction is that a pump can work with liquids, while a compressor cannot. Liquids are much harder to compress. You may find a pump within a compressor, such as in a reciprocating air compressor — the part that performs the compression is a pump. The functions of pumps and compressors can overlap on machines where the pressure rises with each revolution.

Take a tire pump, for example. While it happens to perform both tasks — moving air and reducing its volume — it’s purpose is to move outside air somewhere else, into the air-tight space of the tire. Since its goal is not to reduce the volume, it’s not technically considered a compressor. An alternative example would be using pneumatic tools, which require compressed air. The device that reduces the volume of the air is a compressor.

Air pumps generally fall into one of two categories:

  • Reciprocating pumps, which move back and forth. A bicycle pump is a reciprocating pump, where the cylinder pulls outside air in with a back-and-forth motion and moves it into the tire.
  • Rotary pumps, also called centrifugal pumps, which spin. A rotary pump uses an impeller, which is basically an enclosed propeller. It has blades that move incoming fluid and send it through an outlet at high speed. This pump uses motorized energy to pull fluids from one place to another, and is not to be confused with a turbine, which captures fluids that are already moving.


Compressed Air in Everyday Life


From pneumatic drills and braking systems to HVAC units, a vast range of air-powered tools and machines make everyday life comfortable, safe and efficient. In nearly every building you walk through or pass by on a given day, air tools helped someone sand the wood, paint the walls and hammer beams and plasterboards into place. On shop floors across the world, people use compressed air to add coats of paint and blast dust and debris away.

It’s nothing short of remarkable that mankind discovered a way to take ambient air, perhaps the most abundant resource on the planet, and transform it to power motorized equipment for a wide variety of purposes.

Quincy Compressor offers high-quality air compressors in many styles, including rotary screw, reciprocating/piston and oil-free. Use our sales and service locator to find a dealer near you.

Last Updated on September 3, 2021 at 10:00 am

It is essential to keep your tires adequately filled with air. Underinflated tires can suffer from overheating, uneven wear and less efficiency. However, it can sometimes be inconvenient to take your flat tires to a professional. In that case, it is helpful to know how to fill a tire using an air compressor on your own.

Use the Right Tools

The first step is to make sure you have the correct tools for the job. Otherwise, you won’t be able to safely and effectively fill your tire to the proper specifications. You will need several tools, including:

  • Tire chuck: This tool enables the air compressor to attach to the tire’s valve stem.
  • Regulator: This device regulates the amount of air coming from the compressor. It makes it easier to reach the correct pounds per square inch (psi) of air in the tire.
  • Pressure gauge: A gauge is essential to ensure the tire’s air pressure is at the correct psi. The gauge is an indispensable element in tire inflation, as you risk underfilling or overfilling the tires if you don’t know how much air you’re adding.


Correctly Fill the Tire

The two most common types of tires you can fill at home with an air compressor are car and bike tires. You can also use an air compressor to fill the tires of dirt bikes, lawnmowers, tractors and other equipment. Here are the basic steps for filling tires with an air compressor:

  • Know the psi: Before filling your tire, know how much air it should hold. That way, you’ll know when to stop while watching the pressure gauge. You can find the proper psi from the owner’s manual, vehicle stickers or tire markings. Keep in mind that it’s ideal to fill a cold tire. If you’re filling a hot tire, the pressure gauge reading won’t be accurate.
  • Remove the stem cap: Once you’re ready to fill your tire, remove the stem cap from the valve stem. Keep the cap in a safe place and reaffix it once you’re done.
  • Use the air compressor: Using the tire chuck, attach the air compressor’s hose to the valve stem. Once everything is secure, turn on the compressor to fill the tire. Fill the tire slowly to ensure you don’t overinflate it.


Know the Differences

While the basic method of filling tires is the same, knowing how to fill a bike tire with an air compressor is slightly different from a car tire. There are several variations, including:

  • Adaptor: While you can use a tire chuck to fill most bike tires, you may need a different adaptor for thinner tires.
  • Psi: Thicker bike tires require less air pressure than thinner ones.
  • Filling speed: It is crucial to fill a bike tire slowly because it can explode if you overinflate it.

Understanding these differences is vital in knowing how to service your bike tire with an air compressor.


Contact Quincy to Learn More

Air compressors can help refill tires on cars, bikes and other equipment. There are some differences across each tire type, but the process is mostly the same. With Quincy Compressor, you can find the perfect air compressor to fill up any of your flat tires on your own. Contact us today for more information, or explore our portable air compressor options!

Air compressors are essential pieces of machinery. They have many uses, such as powering various pneumatic tools.

However, while many people regularly use air compressors, it’s essential to understand that they are potentially dangerous. Beginners using an air compressor for the first time without proper knowledge could risk hurting themselves or damaging their equipment. As a result, it’s critical to know about the machinery before using it.

How to Prepare

It is important to make the necessary preparations if this is your first time using an air compressor.

Beginners who are employing an air compressor should follow several critical steps, including:

  • Know your air compressor: Some of these machines have pistons and require oil, while others have rubber diaphragms and use no oil. Check which kind you are using. If your air compressor needs oil, ensure there is enough in the crankcase before using it.
  • Make sure you have the appropriate attire: Always be prepared with steel-toe shoes and protective glasses to safeguard yourself if your equipment malfunctions.
  • Designate a safe spot: Before you use the air compressor, ensure it’s on a sturdy and flat surface for stability.
  • Acknowledge the potential danger: Understand you are working with potentially dangerous machinery. Before using an air compressor, prepare for all outcomes and recognize potential risks so you’ll know how to address them if they occur.


Using an Air Compressor

Once you get the hang of using these machines, they will become essential tools in your workspace. Before you reach that point, however, you should know several air compressor basics, including:

  • How to work it: Before turning the switch on, attach the necessary hose connections, close the drainage valves and reduce the air hose pressure. Then, make sure the pressure power switch is off when you plug in the power cord. After that, you can turn on the air compressor’s power switch.
  • How to perform proper maintenance: Maintaining your air compressor is vital. Never use the machine if the air hose has kinks or shows signs of age or damage. Regularly change the oil for air compressors that require it. Also, empty the air tank after every time you use it and systematically change the air filter.
  • Which tools it can power: Some tools will not be compatible with your air compressor. Check their compatibility before you use them together. Additionally, get familiar with the various pounds per square inch (psi) measurements of each air compressor you use. You should also know the correct psi for your tools.


Learn More From the Air Experts at Quincy

Air compressors are helpful tools, and it is important to know how to use them properly. If you are using an air compressor for the first time, take the time to prepare, learn the right steps and understand how it works.

If you’re looking for an air compressor to add to your workshop, feel free to browse our portable air compressor options. If you have any questions, contact Quincy Compressors for more information.

Air compressors are a valuable tool in many industries, including the medical field. Hospitals rely on air compressors for a clean air supply throughout the building. Medical air compressors maintain conditions in extreme environments, such as those found in a hospital setting.

How Hospitals Use Air Compressors

Air compressors include a wide range of tools and systems for use within a hospital. Most air compressors are non-lubricated to prevent oils from entering the air. Medical air compressors have to meet the medical industry’s high standards.

There are many uses for medical air in hospitals, including:

1. Operating Rooms

Within the operating room, medical compressed air keeps the patient breathing and comfortable. It also improves the function of handheld medical devices. A controlled compressed air filtration system is critical to prevent the spread of airborne diseases, which can lead to infection.

2. Intensive Care Unit (ICU)

Ventilators keep patients breathing when they lack lung capacity. In the ICU, ventilators use compressed air from the surrounding area to ensure the patient has enough oxygen. Throughout the ICU, ventilation systems maintain critical levels of oxygen and keep the air contaminant-free.

With the high-stress demands of an ICU, air compressors have to maintain constant function.

3. Neonatal Rooms

Within neonatal rooms, the number of contaminants must be low to prevent any infection during birth. Neonatal ventilators are exclusive for infants in neonatal care. These infants are often critically ill or have lung issues, so the ventilators rely on quality compressed air to provide significant oxygen.

Neonatal ventilators must be small enough to suit newborns and powerful enough to supply oxygen.

4. Air Filtration

Clean air is necessary for patients, physicians and visitors alike. Hospitals require the driest, cleanest air possible, and air filtration systems are a source of clean air. Efficient systems maintain a stable airflow at all times.

Air filtration systems are essential for patients who have high oxygen sensitivities. Operators can control and monitor the airflow and make sure oxygen levels stay balanced.

5. Maintenance

Hospital maintenance crews rely on compressed air for their tools, just like in any other department. Impact hammers, nail guns and other impact-driven tools require compressed air to function. Air compressors ensure maintenance workers can effectively repair and maintain the building.

6. Equipment

Hospital beds use air compressors to adjust vertically. For students taking medical tests, human simulators use air compressors to mimic breathing and other bodily functions. Chiropractic and physiotherapy tables also use air compressors to help physicians treat patients effectively.

It is vital to maintain proper air compressor function. They have numerous uses all over the building — management must regularly analyze and repair air compressors as needed for ultimate safety.

Learn More From Quincy Compressor

Medical air compressors are vital throughout hospitals. From disease protection to comfort, medical compressed air keeps everyone safer. Finding the ideal filtration system or air compressor can elevate a hospital’s atmosphere.

Quincy Compressor supplies medical air compressors to meet your every need. To learn more about our products or receive air compressor information, contact us with questions.

Air compressors are versatile energy solutions that form the backbone of many industries. With the proper care, you can keep your air compressor running smoothly for years to come. Overall, the biggest threats to air compressors are water and rust. Over time, a rusting tank can become over-pressured and dangerous. At Quincy Compressor, we’re here to teach you why rust forms on your air compressor as well as how to clean it to keep your workers safe.

Why Rust Forms on Your Air Compressor

At the beginning of an air compressor’s product life cycle, the machine has little to no water inside of it. However, as you begin using your air compressor more often, the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen produces water that interacts with the iron inside your air tank. The longer you’ve been running your air compressor, the more water it probably contains. A majority of this condensation leaves the tank through the nozzle, but around 10% tends to condense and turn into liquid in the tank.

Your tank may look spotless and healthy on the outside, but as long as there is water inside the tank, the tank’s integrity may be compromised. Rust is a highly corrosive chemical reaction byproduct that eats away at the integrity of your tank and causes small punctures that allow air to escape. Once the integrity of your tank has been compromised, it must be replaced to ensure workplace safety.

If you have noticed excessive condensation in your tank, you should replace your rusting air compressor. You cannot remove rust from an air compressor, and sanding away rust damages the integrity of the tank and increases the risk of danger.

How to Prevent Rust in an Air Compressor Tank

Since rust causes irreversible damage to air tanks, prevention is the best way to keep your tank healthy and yourself safe. The most effective way to prevent rust in your air tanks is to drain each tank regularly after every operation. This process helps eliminate the condensation that’s pooled at the bottom of the tank. After draining, leaving the valve open for a couple of hours will allow the inside of the tank to dry out.

Another way to help prevent rust is with the addition of an aftercooler. Aftercoolers attach to your air tank to stop water vapor before it enters the tank. An aftercooler acts as a filter that gathers warm air and cools it down. This technique prevents moisture from occurring in the first place and helps eliminate the heat that detrimentally affects equipment sealing and lubrication. For optimal effect, your aftercooler should be attached as closely as possible to the discharge of the compressor.

No matter what equipment you use to keep your air compressor rust-free and safe, always make sure to keep routinely checking the vessel for water and rust. Even if you have an aftercooler, you should still check the tank for vessel integrity to uphold the highest safety standards possible.

Reduce Rust With Quincy Air Compressors

Quincy Compressor is one of the world’s leading producers of air compressors. We pride ourselves on creating products that have the most reliability and cost-effectiveness in their field. To learn more about our air compressors, contact us today.

Food and beverage operations make up a high-risk industry, and air compressors are valuable tools throughout processing and packaging. With the need for efficiency, consistency and cleanliness, compressed air meets every requirement. Learn about air compressors for beverage packaging and how food packaging plants can remain contaminant-free.

Compressed Air in Food Facilities

Compressed air is a versatile tool in the food industry, particularly in packaging. Many food facilities need to package high volumes of food in a given day, and compressed air systems offer the efficiency these operations need for their product lines. Typical applications for compressed air in food packaging plants include:

  • Vacuum sealing.
  • Air-cleaning packaging.
  • Generating nitrogen for food preservation.
  • Sanitizing packaging machines.
  • Blow molding for packaging containers.
  • Operating diaphragm pumps for liquid distribution.
  • Cold compressing frozen products.

Facilities regulate air compressors into packaging lines because they deliver consistent, repeatable results. For example, air compressors for vacuum sealing ensure every product will stay fresh, and all packages will look the same on the shelf. Beyond consistency, air compressors can meet sanitary requirements in food processing and packaging.

Contamination and Contact System Types

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate 48 million people get sick every year from foodborne illnesses. Preventing contamination is critical to consumer safety, and many food facilities prefer air compressors because they can meet a high cleanliness standard.

Without proper care and preventative measures, air compressor systems may contain microorganisms, oil vapors and aerosols, dirt, dust and spores. Air compressors are separated into three categories to determine the best configurations and care measures for food safety.


When air compressors come into direct contact with food items, manufacturers take extreme measures to prevent contamination. Examples of a contact air compressor are air knives used to chop produce or jet nozzles for peeling vegetables.

In these instances, preventing contaminants is critical. Manufacturers will avoid oil-based systems to prevent contaminating aerosols. Carbon filters remove any excess oil vapors, and desiccant dryers reduce moisture where microorganisms can grow.

Non-Contact High Risk

In these compressed air systems, there is no direct contact with food, but there may be indirect contact. An example of this category is compressed air used to mold packaging. The air doesn’t touch the food, but the packaging will later on in the production line. These systems use similar measures as contact systems to prevent potential contamination.

Non-Contact Low Risk

In cases where the air compressor makes no direct or indirect contact, the system is low risk. These systems are often called plant air systems, and they go toward the general function of the plant, like cleaning non-food-related machinery. Typically, these systems are oil-free to reduce vapors, and they’re designed to have a specific dew point setting that will prevent excess moisture where microorganisms can grow.

At Quincy Compressor, we understand the demands of the food industry, and we give you the guidance you need for choosing air compressors for beverage packaging. From atmospheric contamination and storage to compressor types, we set you up with the best unit for your operation.

Contact Quincy Compressor for Compressed Air in Food Facilities

For over a century, Quincy Compressor has offered reliable air compressors with premium performance for a range of applications. Our 24-hour service support, industry-leading warranty protection and high-quality engineering mean you can count on us for your air compressor needs.

When you need air compressors for food and beverage packaging, we’ll ensure your system is consistent and safe. Get a quote for your air compressor or contact us today.

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