Reliability speaks to the need to be able to operate your business without fear of interruption or lost time because of mechanical breakdowns. Economics refers to the need to manage costs, including purchase costs and ongoing maintenance and upkeep costs.
The best commercial air compressor will depend on the intended use, a power rating (hp), and CFM ratings. The compressors mentioned in this buyer’s guide are mostly indented for light industrial applications and medium-duty applications. If you are looking for heavy-duty application, check out our industrial air compressors post.
When deciding on Installing, upgrading, or replacing a heavy-duty air compressor You must decide which brand, compressor type, size, power. In order to make such decision business owners must focus on reliability, cost (lease vs buy), and maintenance schedule.
Best Commercial Air Compressors
Commercial Air Compressors Costs
Cost-wise, commercial air compressors are expensive. The cost is dependent on the size of the compressor, the airflow delivery and pressure required, and the quality of the air needed at the end of the air compressor system.
In general, stationary air compressor systems suitable for most general-purpose manufacturing or industrial operations range from less than $1000 for a portable unit capable of supplying a small construction crew too well over $50.000 for an oiled rotary screw compressor that will deliver 1350 CFM of airflow. It is always best to know what you need from an air compressor and then shop based on those exact specifications.
Lease vs. Purchase
The decision to purchase or lease a commercial-grade air compressor is dependent on several factors. Some of these are job and specification dependent, and some are related to financial decisions. The situation varies and can be affected by these issues.
- Do you need the air compressor short term or long term?
- Are you in a financial situation that will allow you to purchase?
- Is a lease more financially attractive?
- Can you lease to purchase?
- What are the leasing company’s restrictions on the equipment?
In the end, the decision to lease or purchase must be made with consideration for the financial and job requirement aspects of the transaction. This decision is best made with advice from experts such as accountants, operations staff, and company attorneys who can evaluate the terms of any purchase contract or lease.
Top Commercial Air Compressor Brands
Quincy Air Compressor Corp has built its organization around the concept of “Total Customer Value.” The objective of Quincy Compressor is to provide the tools and resources to allow each employee to respond to customer requirements and to continually improve the company operates every day.
Coupling the TCV program with aa dedication to Lean Manufacturing Techniques creates a company environment where quality, value, and customer satisfaction drive every decision and every manufacturing operation.
Quincy is a very well-known manufacturer of air compressors. Their compressors are regarded as good-quality, reliable units. They produce reciprocating piston, rotary screw and other types of compressors. These same durable characteristics are present in all of Quincy’s complete reciprocating line, which is manufactured in Quincy, Illinois.
In 1980, they began machining and manufacturing operations in Bay Minette, Alabama, where their rotary screw compressors and vacuum pumps are made.
The result is a company that produces top-quality commercial-grade compressors at an extremely economical price bringing value and economy to the end-user. The epitome of this commitment to quality is shown in Quincy’s warranty program, which offers extended coverage for up to ten years on some parts and components of their compressor systems. Quincy’s goal is to meet its customer’s expectations in four areas.
Maintaining these goals makes Quincy Compressors some of the best values on the market for commercial air compressors for medium and light applications.
Ingersoll Rand is an American company founded in 1872 to serve the mining industry. Since that time, they have grown to provide compressed air products to industries from aerospace to shipbuilding. Ingersoll Rand designs and builds air compressors for every facet of the industry.
After the sale, service, and support is one critical issue in selecting air compressors and their associated systems. Ingersoll Rand considers this to be a major part of their business model. The understanding that many customer’s businesses depend on the operation of their compressed air supply, Ingersoll Rand provides industry-leading after-sale support and services
The services that are an integral part of the Ingersoll Customer Support include
- Field overhaul services to assess the condition of your compressor
- Diagnosis of any problems or possible problems with your compressor
- Preventive maintenance programs to keep your compressor running efficiently
- Small repairs and large revisions made in the field to lessen downtime
A dedicated preventive maintenance plan is another key part of Ingersoll Rand’s commitment to its customers. Utilizing a preventative maintenance service from Ingersoll Rand ensures that critical systems within your compressed air installation are thoroughly inspected, maintained, and repaired. The Ingersoll Rand services are designed to
- Inspect and document the entire compressed air system
- Diagnosis of electrical, mechanical, and control systems
- Provide maintenance service programs to ensure unparalleled operation and dependability
- Replacement of lubricants and consumable component on a scheduled basis
From the moment that you purchase a compressor from Ingersoll Rand, you have available a professional and seasoned support staff to make sure that your compressed air installation operates at its peak efficiency.
Finally, this is an unbeatable company when it comes to fleet and field service applications. Their two-stage, gas-powered air compressors are perfect for remote pneumatic applications. They are also ideal in cases where electrical power is scarce. For emergency production line needs, their products are great. These units are known to always deliver the air you need.
They are mounted on truck beds and feature electronic ignition and ASME receiver tanks. They are also equipped with idle engine control. The units are OSHA approved with fully enclosed belt guards and a weather-resistant powder-coat paint finish.
Founded in Brazil in 1963, Shulz has grown to be a major player in the heavy-duty air compressor market in North America. The company entered the North American market in 1980 and has not stopped growing its market share since that time.
The Shulz motto, “The Right Product for you Need,” states the company’s philosophy in a nutshell. Their goal is to put exactly the right air compressor into your operation. Shulz offers not just compressors but a full line of branded filters, dryers, tools, and other accessories that allow them to design a complete and integrated compressed air system no matter what your needs and specifications.
Shulz operates their company based on four pillars
- A business which provides solutions in compressed air, products, and services which facilitate people’s lives
- A mission to offer complete solutions in compressed air, products, and services which facilitate the professional activities and day-to-day of people
- A vision to be a world-class company in solutions in compressed air products that facilitate people’s lives.
Based on these pillars, Shulz is a trusted brand across the globe for heavy-duty air compressor systems and installations.
Types of Commercial Air Compressors
One of the major decisions when purchasing a compressed air system for your business is the type of compressor to install. While there are a huge number of different types of air compressors, the two main types found in most industrial and manufacturing installations are reciprocating piston compressors and rotary screw compressors.
Reciprocating Piston Compressors
Reciprocating piston compressors are probably the most known type of compressor on the market. This type of compressor can be found in every home improvement store and make up the bulk of the compressor market.
Much like a car engine compresses the fuel-air mixture in the cylinder of the engine, a reciprocating piston air compressor draws air into a chamber, and a piston compresses the air before it is sent to a reservoir or tank. In some cases, multiple cylinders and pistons are linked together to deliver higher pressures.
There are pros and cons to the reciprocating piston-style compressors
Pros & Cons
- Can generate high pressures
- Less power
- Expensive to repair
Reciprocating air compressors are more suitable for compressed air systems where air temperature, oil content in the compressed air, noise levels during operation are not an issue. Automotive repair shops, woodworking shops, and other similar operations are good examples of where reciprocating piston air compressors excel.
Rotary screw compressors operate by driving air through a pair of closely meshed helical screws, commonly called rotors. These are high precision machines that require close tolerances to operate efficiently. Because of the high rotation speeds necessary, rotary screw compressors tend to be noisy and may require special enclosures if the compressor is in the work area.
Pros & Cons
- Can supply large amounts of compressed air
- More energy efficient than most piston-style compressors
- Produces relatively cool air
- New designs utilize special controllers and variable speeds for efficient energy use
- Some new designs offer low-noise operations
- More expensive than comparable size piston compressors
- Complex designs require much more maintenance
- Subject to damage from water condensation in the pump when not used regularly
- Repair and maintenance costs can be more expensive
Oil-lubricated Vs Oilless Commercial Air Compressors
Both reciprocating piston and rotary screw compressors come in oiled and oil-less types. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types and the job application is usually the best determiner of whether an oiled or oil-less compressor is the best choice.
In an oiled compressor, the cylinders or the rotors are bathed in a thin film of oil as the compressor operates. This fil of oil serves to
- Lubricate the moving parts
- Serve as a seal in the compressor system
- Cool the compressor
The advantages of an oiled compressor include:
- Makes more powerful compressors possible with less cost
- Increases the life of the compressor
- Keeps the compressor and the compressed air cooler
Some disadvantages must be considered, as well.
- Requires more maintenance on a more regular basis
- Weigh more than oil-less compressors
- Are typically more expensive to purchase and to operate
Oil-less compressors utilize “permanent” lubrication, usually in the form of a coating such as Teflon on the moving surfaces to decrease wear and provide the necessary seal. In use, oil-less compressors have some advantages.
- Less expensive to purchase
- Lighter than comparable oiled compressors
- Less maintenance
On the other hand, there are certain disadvantages to oil-less compressors.
- Less durable. The coatings wear down and eventually fail
- Hotter running means hotter compressed air and hotter machines
- Cannot deliver large quantities of high-pressure air
All in all, oil-less compressors are great for shops that only use and run their compressor for limited amounts of time and have minimal airflow and pressure requirements. In a production shop or manufacturing environment where large airflows, high pressures, or constant use are the norm, ail-less compressors simply aren’t suitable and will prove expensive and inefficient.
Heavy-duty air compressors are highly resistant to moisture, which is a good thing because it can damage and cause rust. They offer better long-term lubrication and a better defense against moisture. These compressors have a wide range of vehicle applications as well as applications in the mobile air-conditioning and refrigeration industries.
A lot of vehicles use them, from bus transit and long-haul trucking to construction and military vehicles. Well-known brands include Carrier, Caterpillar, CNH, and Navistar. It’s always recommended to look for ones with an acquisition system designed to protect data accuracy and quality.
High-Pressure Air Compressors
Most high-pressure air compressors are developed to operate up to a maximum of 175 psi. The vast majority of rotary screw compressors will run between 90 and 125 psi efficiently. Some applications require high compressed air volumes in the range of 45 to 60 psi. High-pressure rotary screw compressors designed to run in this specter will consume less power because they will use a smaller motor than a machine designed to run at a higher pressure.
Buyer’s Guide: Important Factors To Consider
You should start by asking a few questions about your business before you even look at compressors. Your business and its demands will eventually create the requirements that you will use in finding the right commercial air compressor for your job.
- What is your business and how do you intend to use your compressor? Some jobs require that your compressor be used on multiple job sites, which would require a Towable Air Compressors. In a manufacturing or industrial setting requiring larger airflows or higher pressures, a stationary compressor is a better choice.
- To what applications will the compressed be used? – The number of users and the types of tools that will be used with the compressor has a major impact on the size and style of compressor that you need.
- How much will the air compressor be used? – If you are running heavy machines that consume constant volumes of compressed air your demands will be different than if the compressed air is used intermittently by employees using air operated hand tools.
- What type of power is available? – In an industrial setting, three-phase power may be available and may be required to supply heavy duty compressors. Smaller shops or job site where portable air compressors are required may only have single-phase power available. In some cases, on remote sites or where the size of the compressor would necessitate three-phase power to run a commercial-grade air compressor, a diesel-powered air compressor may be the only answer.
With an understanding of the needs of your business for compressed air, we can look at the air compressors themselves.
Sizing a Commercial Air Compressor
Sizing a commercial-grade air compressor for your business requires doing a bit of homework. Before you begin searching for the right air compressor for your needs, you need to quantify the actual specifications the air compressor system must meet. This involves surveying your operation and the applications that the compressed air must serve.
- What air quality do I need? – This includes where the compressor will be located, the ambient air quality and temperature, what additional equipment such as air dryers, oil and water removal equipment, and filters will be required.
- What are the airflow requirements – How much SCFM must the compressor deliver to keep the operation running without interruption? Will the compressed air use be intermittent or continuous?
- How much pressure must the system deliver? – This can be based on the equipment that is served by the compressed air system or by the size of the overall system.
- What kind of power is available? – Many larger heavy-duty compressors require a three-phase power service. If you are considering portable systems, will there be power on the job site suitable for the compressor, or should you consider a diesel-powered compressor?
- What size tank do I need – The tank size is usually determined by the CFM of the compressor and usually come in standard sizes.
Once these types of questions have been answered, you should be able to easily find an air compressor that meets your specifications. Many of the top industrial air compressor manufacturers offer design support and can help you more tightly focus your compressed air specification and then develop a system that is the most economical fit for your needs.
The decision to purchase a stationary or portable sir compressor system may be forced on you by the requirements of your job or industry. When you must move your air compressor from job site to job site, a portable mobile compressor is the only option. Large manufacturing installations that demand large air flows are dependent on heavy-duty air compressors that require three-phase power. This precludes using portable compressors
Examples of jobs that are more suitable for portable compressors include:
- Construction where the compressor may be moved to different locations on the job site or between multiple job sites.
- Manufacturing installations where extra compressed air volume may be needed due to seasonal or other special needs.
Stationary systems are the predominant form of installation found in large industrial or manufacturing operations where permanent air piping is installed. However, medical installations often have compressed air systems permanently installed and most dentist offices have a stationary compressor installed as well.
Noise levels can become a big issue, especially in stationary permanently installed systems. OSHA rules and other safety concerns for employee protection often mandate a maximum noise level in the work area. There are certain things to consider when planning a stationary air compressor installation in a work area
- How will the operation of the air compressor affect the ambient noise level in the work area?
- Will the compressor need a special enclosure to maintain a safe work environment?
- Are alternatives available, such as locating the compressor in a separate building or outside?
All air compressors sold in the US should have s decibel rating as part of the specifications. Careful consideration of the noise levels produced by the compressor when it is operating should be given to ensure a safe work environment that meets all the workplace rules and regulations.
All commercial-grade air compressors require regular maintenance. In most instances, adherence to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedules and requirements is mandatory if you want to keep the warranty in effect. Maintenance and upkeep are an ongoing expense that must be figured into the overall cost of purchasing and operating a heavy-duty air compressor. Some things to consider that can affect your final decision on an air compressor are:
- Oil-less compressors generally require less maintenance but have a shorter life-span
- Oiled reciprocating piston air compressors tend to have longer life spans but higher ongoing maintenance costs
- Oiled rotary screw compressors require extra maintenance to keep the bearings and rotors operating efficiently but are probably have the longest life span
Most of the major manufacturers offer on-site maintenance plans or contracts, which can be a good investment in the long run. An air compressor under such a contract relieves the business owner of the responsibility for the continued operation of the equipment and provides a fixed-cost for maintenance on the air compressor.
Good planning and preparation are the keys to finding the most effective answer to your air compressor needs. This article is intended to give you a foundation from which you can launch your search for your new or replacement air compressor with confidence. Good luck with your search.