When to use a piston compressor

Piston compressors – also known as reciprocal compressors – are designed to work within certain limitations. Find out more about them here.

Estimated time to read: 3 minutes

June 8, 2023

Piston compressors

Piston air compressors, also known as reciprocal compressors, are best used when you only need occasional, small amounts of compressed air. They’re simply not designed to provide a continuous flow of compressed air for hours on end. If that’s what you’re after, a screw compressor, the big brother of piston compressors, is the way to go.

Piston compressors: pressure limits

EngineAIR Piston Air Compressor

EngineAIR Piston Air Compressor

Piston compressors are only designed to perform to certain pressures. A single-stage compressor is fine for pressures of up to about 800 kPa. Going higher? Use a double- or multi-stage compressor; they should cover you for pressures of up to 30,000 kPa. But in every case, keep the load level below about 60%. Use your compressor intermittently. After about two minutes, you’ll want to give your compressor a rest for the next minute and a half. In a whole day, they should only work for a maximum of about four hours. Four hours work a day … What a lifestyle!

Oil-injected and oil-free piston compressors

Piston compressors are available in oil-injected and oil-free models.

With an oil-injected model, you’ll usually end up with a tiny amount of oil still in the compressed air. It’s usually nothing to worry about. However, for the electronics, food-and-beverage and medical industries, even these trace amounts of residual oil are a no-no. For this reason, these industries are likely to use oil-free piston compressors.

Oil-free models have permanently lubricated bearings and grease-free piston rings. There is not even the slightest trace of oil in the output. 

Want to know more?

Would you like to know more about piston compressors? Or what the possible output is? Is a piston compressor the most suitable for the job you’re doing?

You’re more than welcome to ask us at ALUP. We are always happy to put our knowledge to good use, especially if it’s going to help someone. Get in touch today.

Continue through our compressed air guide:
< Compressed Air Filter: Filtration with Active Carbon and Depth Filtration
One-stage vs Multi-stage Compressor >

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