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Sizing an Industrial Air Compressor to Fit Your Needs

industrial air compressors in cramped room

Sizing a new industrial air compressor can feel like a difficult task. It requires knowledge of the pressure and flow needed for the application. A solid understanding of how frequently jobs are performed and how many jobs are being completed at once. This may seem like a substantial amount of work, but the benefits of correctly sizing your compressor include improving your business’ productivity, decreasing existing compressor room inefficiencies, and improving your bottom line.

Understanding the Conflicts of Undersized Compressors

If your compressor is undersized, it’s likely running all day, every day! Keep in mind that rotary screw compressors are intended to run virtually 24/7. However, this would be noticed right away with piston compressors, as they aren’t fit to run 24/7. So, if you’re experiencing pressure drops and your industrial air compressor can’t complete a task, chances are you have an undersized compressor issue.

Understanding the Conflicts of Oversized Compressors

If your compressor is constantly stopping and starting, it could be oversized! This action will 100% lead to huge energy bills, largely caused by the spike in energy produced when the compressor starts up. The excessive start/stop cycle can also result in motor burnout, future mechanical problems, and potential failure of the compressor.

How Do I Correctly Size a New Industrial Compressor System?

There are a few key steps to take in order to appropriately size a new industrial air compressor:

  1. The CFM, or flow rate of your compressor, is application-dependent. This means that having a good understanding of your plant’s demand profile is critical to sizing a compressor and uncovering any potential energy efficiency opportunities. If you are trying to determine the flow requirements for a new place, be sure to have accurate flow requirements for all equipment and estimates for the duty cycle of that equipment. For an existing operation, we recommend reaching out to your 3C Compressed Air Expert to assist you. Your expert can also guide you through planning for future expansion and make sure your airflow and quality are appropriate for your applications. 
  2. Pressure is measured in PSI, or pounds per square inch, and refers to the amount of pressure required by the tools/equipment used by your application. The typical PSI for your application is between 90 and 100 but can be higher or lower. While it’s tempting to add a little padding to this pressure, be cautious of increasing the pressure beyond what is absolutely necessary. Increased pressure means increased power bills and loss due to unregulated uses.
  3. And don’t forget to check your voltage & phase. Your industrial air compressor will require a sufficient energy source to operate, so knowing the voltage and phase of your compressor’s new site is a must. If you’re unsure, get with an electrician. They’ll be able to tell you whether the electrical supply is single-phase or three-phase and the voltage.

And Don’t Forget an Audit!

So you may be wondering, where do you even start? We recommend starting by first getting your new compressor specifications. This can be done by conducting a compressed air audit. Knowing your system’s compressed air demand can determine how to deliver the right amount of compressed air at the lowest cost, and avoid choosing a compressor that is undersized or oversized.