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Shop Air Compressors - Massive Air Supply

Posted in How To on January 1, 2007
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Photographers: Courtesy of the Manufacturer

Pneumatic air tools make working on your4x4 much easier, and having an air compressor in your garage, shop, or business to run those pneumatic tools as well as air up tires and clean parts is a great investment. Air compressors are usually the unsung backbone of a good shop.

Though very useful, they often get pushed in a corner, plugged in, and ignored as long as they work until they are covered with dust. But did you know that there are some exciting new changes coming to the shop air-compressor market? We recently tested a small industrial rotary compressor from Ingersoll-Rand for a few months, and though its behemoth size filled a corner of our workspace, its impressive performance and extremely quiet sound made it a pleasure to use. However, unless you have a small business or production facility, this unit is probably more than you need, but IR recognizes the value of this new rotary technology and it is quickly being refined for the home 4x4 builder. Here is just a sampling of what is available in the air-compressor market from Ingersoll-Rand, whether you are just starting on your first buildup, or making parts and building trucks for customers.

If you are looking for your first homebound compressor, then look no further than the Ingersoll-Rand Garage Mate. This 100 percent duty cycle machine runs off of 110 volts, and comes with built-in pressure gauge, pressure switch, and regulator. For about $600 you'll have a machine that put out 5.7 cfm at 90 psi with a max 135 psi via a 24-gallon tank. The pneumatic tires means you can easily roll it out into the driveway where you're working or back into the corner where most air compressors live. Here is the biggest downfall of this machine: the 2hp motor and single-stage pump results in a 75- to 80-decibel noise level, which isn't too bad, but can be irritating if constantly running. Also, delivering only 5.7 cfm and having a small tank means you may not have enough airflow for those big, demanding jobs.

If you have a more well-equipped shop or small business, then this Type 30, 7.5hp Reciprocating Air Compressor may be what you are looking for. This size machine is what you are used to seeing or more likely hearing outside your local tire shop. Though a tried-and-true design, a reciprocating air compressor is extremely noisy. In addition, reciprocating air compressors generate a lot of heat when doing their jobs and that heat, in turn, generates moisture in the air, which can cause problem with pneumatic tools and especially equipment like plasma cutters. Due to the design of the reciprocating air-compressor pump, a generous amount of oil is required in the crankcase to keep things running smoothly. But unless preventive measures are taken, this means dirty oil can also end up in your compressed air piping which is also not desirable. On the plus side, reciprocating pumps are tough and can be placed in pretty tough conditions-be it a farm shop or dusty garage-and still perform great as long as the easy maintenance is followed. This unit costs around $2,000 depending on what features are added.

If you want the Rolls Royce of compressors, then you want a rotary screw air compressor such as the UP-Series 5-15hp unit. In this machine, air is compressed through the use of two intermeshed rotors in a typically oil-flooded enclosure. As the rotors turn together, air is drawn in and compressed. Rotary compressors are extremely efficient as a result, with greatly reduced oil carryover into the airflow. Plus the service life of a rotary machine is more than three times a similar reciprocating compressor. And one of the biggest advantages is the noise-level, such that this small UP device runs as quietly as a dishwasher at around 65 decibels. This advantage means that rather than having your compressor outside in the elements to keep the noise out of your shop, this can be quietly placed in the corner without bothering your family or coworkers. Unfortunately this unit isn't entry level priced with a $4,000 to $6,000 tag depending on size, but most come with a total air system that includes an air dryer and dual filters to knock the moisture and condensation out of the air so you won't see fish-eyes in your next paint job or have rusty pipes or moisture in your air tools. That being said, rotary technology is quickly becoming more affordable to the average user.

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