Proper planning of your air piping layout is an important factor in the quality of your air system. An inefficient piping layout can cause your air system to fail entirely or to operate at less-than-optimal levels.

You should consider how air piping systems work, the material you are using in your layout, and the logistics of the layout before beginning the process of installing your piping. This will ensure that you do not run into issues due to an inefficient layout in the future.

This guide will provide you with all of the information that you need to ensure that your air piping layout is optimal and able to deliver your air obstruction free and efficiently.

Air Piping Layout

How Do Air Piping Layouts Work?

Air piping layout work by delivering the airflow through the piping system to the tools and machinery that require it. An efficient air piping layout will allow this air to be transferred in the exact right quantity and quality.

They also work to deliver the air at the proper pressure for tools and machinery that require compressed air. A high-quality air piping layout is just as important as a high-quality compressor for the health of an air system setup.

A suboptimal air piping layout can cause the energy cost of your setup to rise, equipment failures, and general underperformance issues. Because of this, it is vital to your air system setup that you plan ahead and find an air piping layout that is optimal for your situation.

Best Air Piping Material To Use In Your Layout

The two best air piping materials to use in your layout are plastic and metal. These are the two most common piping types found in optimal air piping layouts. The section below will discuss these different materials in detail and offer some information on the different applications they would be suited for.

Plastic

Plastic pipes have some considerable advantages over metal pipes when it comes to an air system. They are far more resistant to corrosion, meaning that you will not have to worry about rust contaminating the airflow. This will also reduce the risk of obstructions in your airflow.

They also have a much smoother interior surface than metal pipes, which means they will not deteriorate as fast and the flow will be encouraged. Plastic pipes are lightweight, making for easy transport and installation.

You should however consider the fact that not all grade plastic is appropriate for an air system layout. Two of the most common types of plastic piping are PVC and CPVC. You have likely seen these in your local hardware store and may be tempted to use them in your air piping layout.

Unfortunately, PVC and CPVC piping is not designed to withstand the pressure needed for use in air piping layouts. Standard PVC and CPVC piping will burst under the pressure of compressed air and will degrade when put into contact with the lubrication needed to operate most air systems.

OSHA has actually banned the use of PVC and CPVC piping in air systems in the United States. Because of the dangers involved in using these piping materials in an air system, you could face fines and criminal charges if you are found using this type of piping material in your layout.

The only three types of plastic materials that are suitable for use in an air piping layout are ABS, PE, and HDPE. These piping types have been graded and designed to withstand high pressures and will not degrade due to the exposure to the oils used to operate the air system.

Metal

Many people prefer metal piping in their air piping layout due to the more substantial look and feel of the layout. Metal is a much more traditional choice, making it much easier to find someone who knows how to install it properly in your layout.

Metal also has a better safety record because it is much less prone to bursting under high pressure than plastic piping. You can also depend on metal to retain its shape for longer than plastic piping. The type of metal material that you use will influence how well it works in your air piping layout.

The different types of metals commonly used in an air piping layout will be detailed more in the section below.

Black Steel

Black steel is the most common and highly recommended metal material for use in an air piping layout. It is a widely available material and can be easily installed into your layout. Black steel is extremely durable but is prone to rust contamination.

This is something you should consider if you are using pneumatic tools, as this contamination could damage these types of tools. If you are planning on suspending the pipes, you will need to ensure they have strong anchoring due to how heavy black steel pipes are.

Black steel pipes are known for being rather difficult to cut and join, so you should plan for a significant installation time. They are also known for having threaded connectors that can slip and leak air out of your system.

Galvanized

Galvanized steel pipes are more commonly used in plumbing applications but can be used in an air piping layout if installed properly. Galvanized steel is highly resistant to corrosion but will eventually begin to flake due to the galvanized coating.

These loose flakes can cause airflow blockages and may cause additional issues when released into the air system. This is especially relevant if you use pneumatic tools which are prone to contamination damage.

In some instances, the debris flaked off a galvanized steel pipe can cause bodily harm if you come into contact with it. Generally, galvanized steel pipes are not recommended for use in an air piping layout, though they are an option if you take the proper precautions.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel piping can be found either welded or pressed. Welded stainless steel is more prone to connection failure but is highly resistant to degradation and corrosion. It can be challenging to install stainless steel piping into your layout due to the weight of the pipes.

Stainless steel is a less common option that is considered when planning most air piping layouts. This is due to the high cost of the stainless-steel piping.

Aluminum

Aluminum will not degrade or corrode and is much lighter weight than most of the other metals contained in this list. It is an inexpensive option to consider when planning out your air piping layout. It can be a great option to consider if you wish to suspend your piping.

Copper

Copper pipes are highly corrosion-resistant and lightweight. The material is easy to cut and suspend, making them a popular choice for air piping layouts. Copper pipes are commonly found in plumbing applications so it will not be difficult to find someone to install them into your layout.

It is also generally a more aesthetically pleasing option than some of the other metals on this list. The one caveat to copper is the price of the material. It is one of the more expensive material options to consider for your air piping layout.

Black Iron

In the past, black iron was a popular choice for use in an air piping layout. In recent years, people are advising against using this type of material in your air piping layout. The reason for this material’s fall from grace is the evidence of guaranteed corrosion that this material exhibits.

That being said, you can use this as cheap piping material for your layout but you should expect faster degradation and corrosion issues than if you used a more viable material.

Air Piping Layout Tips

The three main tips you should consider when planning your air piping layout are sharp angles, moisture levels, and obstruction prevention. These tips will be discussed in detail in the section below.

Avoid Sharp Angles

Any sharp angles in your air piping layout will slow down the airflow and overall efficiency of your air system. Sharp angles will also cause a reduction in pressure, which can be detrimental to tools and machinery that rely on heavily pressurized air to function.

Because of this, you should avoid any 90-degree angles in your air piping layout. This will allow the air to flow more smoothly and avoid any drops in pressure or airflow.

Consider Moisture Levels

Moisture is an unavoidable factor of air compression. Because of this, you should consider how resistant to rust and corrosion the material you are using in your layout is. Moisture will cause some metals to deteriorate much faster than others, so you should take this into account when choosing a material.

You can act to control the moisture in your air piping layout by using an aftercooler. An aftercooler cools down the air as it exits the compressor which will reduce the moisture levels in your layout. This can help extend the lifetime of your air piping layout if you are using corrodible metals as your piping.

Consider Obstruction Prevention

If you are using material in your air piping layout that is prone to corrosion, this can introduce obstructions into your system much more frequently. These obstructions typically occur near the connectors and valves of your layout.

You should ensure that you have an adequate filtration system put in place for your air piping layout to avoid these types of obstructions. This includes purchasing quality air filters and ensuring that they are cleaned and replaced when necessary.

Other Factors

Other factors that you should consider for your air piping layout include any plans for the future, the need for drip legs, and the installation of ball valves and unions. These factors will be discussed in detail in the section below.

Future Plans

You should ensure that you will be able to easily make expansions to your air piping layout during your initial planning and setup. It can be a costly endeavor to redesign your layout once it has been installed. If you think you would like to expand in the future, consider oversizing your pipes.

Drip Legs

If your air piping layout lacks a membrane or a refrigerated or desiccant dryer, then you will have to install drip legs in the pipe. Without a dryer, the moisture levels inside your pipe will be extremely high, which could damage your pipes and your system.

A drip leg will allow this water to be removed from the pipes automatically without damaging your equipment in the process. You will need to drain the drip legs manually unless you have an automatic drainer installed.

Ball Valves And Unions

Ball valves can be installed in your air piping layout to allow for easy isolation of broken system components. You should install a ball valve before or after each of the major components in your air piping layout.

This will save you time and money if something needs to be replaced or repaired in your air piping layout sometime in the future.

Air Piping Layout Diagrams

The section below contains some popular air piping layout diagrams that you can consider for use in your own setup. You can also use these visuals to see exactly what an air piping layout should look like.

Final Thoughts

This guide has provided you with all of the information that you need to properly set up your air piping layout. As this guide indicates, your air piping layout is an important factor in your air system’s overall efficiency.

You can use the information in this guide to choose the right material for your air piping layout as well as be aware of the different issues that you should consider when planning your layout.

The diagrams included in this guide can also be used to get a visual idea of what a layout should look like. All of this information can help you setup your air piping layout in the most optimal way so that you do not have to make costly changes in the future.