Air compressors are used for many different applications. They can be used for painting, pneumatic tools, manufacturing, and they are used in the food and beverage industry. Air compressors are used all over, but one big drawback to them is the noise level.
Air compressors can consistently create noise levels high enough to permanently damage hearing. They can be quieted and made safer for workers with a few modifications. By moving the compressor to a different location, surrounding them with soundproof walls, or installing a silencer, air compressors can work at a safer noise level.
With a few modifications, air compressor noise can be lowered too much safer noise levels. In this article, we will go over 6 ways to make an air compressor quieter.
Why Air Compressors Are So Loud
Compressing air is a noisy business for many reasons. Moving air makes a lot of noise in itself, but adding in machine parts, exhaust, intake, and other moving parts can create a deafening experience. Friction makes a lot of noise as well, especially when metal is banging or moving against metal.
It also depends on the type of compressor as well. Air compressors that use pistons and are gas-powered are much louder than electric rotary screw compressors. Some air compressors can create noise as loud as 100 decibels.
Noises as loud as 85 decibels can cause irreversible hearing damage. In relation, a normal conversation is around 60db, average power tools can reach 90db, and a jet plane taking off is around 120db. The loudest air compressors, especially when several are lined up like in factory settings, can quite literally, be very painful.
How to Make Air Compressors Quieter
Whether it’s a small compressor used in the home shop, basement, or garage, or industrial sized compressors in giant factories, there are a few ways to quieten them and make the working environment around them safer for all.
1. Install an Air Compressor Silencer
Air compressor silencers attach to the intake or exhaust of the machine and muffle the harsh sound that comes out of them. This is usually the loudest part of the air compressor and installing one of these can lower the decibels out of the danger range.
These silencers are great because they not only reduce the noise level but also filter the air intake. Because of this filtration though, make sure the silencer is big enough for the compressor. A silencer that’s too small can restrict airflow and damage the compressor.
There are many different manufacturers of air compressor silencers, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find the right fit. Installation is typically quick and easy. They screw into or attach to the intake hose or port.
2. Move the Compressor Away From the Workspace
Distance is one way to dampen loud noises, so moving an air compressor farther away could lessen the noise made by the machine. While this tactic isn’t always a feasible option, if the space is available it could dramatically reduce the sound level.
If there is a small storage building, closet, or outbuilding that could contain the compressor, move it into one of these shelters. Even if the walls are made of thin wood or metal, the noise would be muffled because of these materials. Just doing this could reduce the sound from the air compressor by several decibels.
3. Build a Soundproof Room or Enclosure
This may be the most drastic measure to take to reduce the noise from an air compressor, but it’s the most effective. A soundproof room or enclosure may not eliminate the noise from the compressor, but it will hardly be noticeable.
Using plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF) construct the walls for the enclosure. If the budget allows, or even more noise reduction is required, cement blocks or cinder blocks can be used. These block even more sound than wood.
After the enclosure is built, cover all the walls and ceiling in acoustic foam panels to further dampen the noise. Before closing it all completely up though, make sure the compressor has air access by letting intake and exhaust circulate outside the enclosure. Small holes should be added for air hoses and electrical cords as well.
With proper construction of a soundproof air compressor room or enclosure, the sound could be reduced to almost zero, making for a very comfortable working environment. Conversations can be heard better and no one will be susceptible to hearing damage.
4. Use Sound Blankets
When an entire soundproof room can’t be built, the next best thing could be the use of soundproof blankets. These heavy blankets reduce sound by absorbing mid-range and high-range frequencies.
If the compressor is in a corner, simply put up two walls to cover the open area, and drape a few soundproof blankets over the two new walls. The blankets could even be tacked to the ceiling or attached to rods to reduce the sound.
Small compressors can be covered with something as simple as a box and then have the soundproof blanket draped across the box to reduce the noise.
There are a few ways to use soundproof blankets to muffle the air compressor noises, but always consider the airflow the machine needs. Don’t seal them in an airtight enclosure, and always be mindful of the exhaust on gas-powered air compressors.
5. Keep the Compressor Properly Maintained
Machines not working at optimal efficiency can be much noisier than adequately maintained equipment. If an air compressor has clogged filters, rattling, loose parts, or is not lubricated properly, it could make a lot of noise.
Air compressors work hard under stressful conditions. As time goes on, parts begin to wear down and get dirty, making the machine work harder which results in even more noise.
Keeping the air compressor on a regular maintenance schedule will reduce the stress on the machine and keep the noise lower.
6. Clean or Replace Air Filters
Air filters are one of the most important parts of the air compressor. They trap airborne particles from getting into the machine, but when air filters get too clogged they can cause problems for the air compressor.
It will start to struggle for air, it will heat up faster, and get noisier as it struggles to keep up with demands.
Once an air filter is completely clogged, dirt particles can start to be drawn into the machine and cause more problems than just noise. Make sure the air filters are replaced at least annually, or more often as needed.
7. Make Sure the Compressor and Tools are Lubricated
Whenever metal parts rub against each other, heat and noise are generated. To reduce both and to keep the air compressor working properly, make sure all the moving parts are lubricated according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
8. Tighten All Loose Parts
Air compressors create a lot of vibration while they work. The pistons move back and forth very rapidly, belts shimmy, and rotors spin to compress a lot of air. With all these vibrations and moving parts, screws and other parts can start to shake loose.
While tending to the air filters and lubricating the machine, make sure all the parts are nice and tight.
As parts shake and rattle against others, even more noise is made, making an already noisy machine much louder. Keeping up with loose parts will not only make the compressor a bit quieter, but it can cut down on higher repair costs down the road.
Put Some Distance Between Work and the Compressor
When moving the compressor to another location is not an option, or there’s no way to build an enclosure to muffle some of the jarring noise, workers should try to work as far away from the compressor as possible.
Something as simple as walking farther away from the compressor could reduce the decibel level by as much as 25 percent. Depending on the location of the compressor—is it at home or in an industrial setting—one could simply go around to the other side of the garage, or partially close the garage door to reduce the noise.
Another way to help reduce the noise of the compressor and protect from the high noise level is to use ear plugs or other forms of hearing protection. Foam earplugs are extremely inexpensive and a great option to reduce noise when nothing else is an option.
Air compressors are noisy, but often are essential machines for several industries, and they can also make many home projects less labor intensive. The problem with air compressors is the massive amount of noise they can make. While it may be impossible to make an air compressor completely silent, there are several options to reduce the noise these machines make.
To reduce the noise of these machines there are options. The air compressors can be moved away, or enclosed in a soundproof room, or soundproof blankets can be set up in a way to drastically reduce the noise. Air compressor silencers can be installed, or workers can place themselves as far away from the machine as possible.
Regardless of what options are used to reduce the noise of air compressors, hearing protection should always be available and implemented just in case.