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What Types of Pipes Should You Use for Your Air Compressor System?

What Types of Pipes Should You Use for Your Air Compressor System?

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An essential first question when planning a new compressed air system is, “What type of pipe should I use for my air compressor?”

There are two primary options: plastic and metal. Below, we will discuss in detail the advantages and disadvantages of each of them and address some of the myths that surround each of them.

1. Plastic Pipes


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Plastic pipes offer many benefits over metal, which include:

• Resistance to corrosion: This means you don’t have to worry about rust falling off your pipes and dropping into your airflow. This, in turn, reduces the risk of obstructions.

• Smooth, interior surface: The interior of a plastic pipe never deteriorates, which encourages laminar flow.

• Lightweight: Plastic piping is lightweight, making it simple to transport and fit.

• Easy to cut: Cutting plastic pipes is easy and only requires basic tools.

• Easy to connect: Plastic pipes can be glued together, which is less costly and quicker than connecting metal pipes, which must be welded together.

However, you can’t use just any plastic pipes for compressed air distribution. The most common types of plastic piping available today are polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC). These are widely used for plumbing applications, and you may be tempted to use them as they are easy to install, affordable, and readily available. However, they cannot withstand the high pressure necessary for a compressed air system.

As is the case with many plastics, PVC becomes brittle with time and is prone to cracking, breaking, or even shattering. Furthermore, many air compressors also require lubricating oil that can aspirate out into the air stream, and this oil is corrosive to PVC and CPVC pipes and causes them to degrade.

Even worse, the above failures, combined with air under pressure, could create airborne, razor-sharp shrapnel that could be fatal to anyone standing nearby. For all the above reasons, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has banned the use of PVC for air compressor piping systems, meaning that you could face a steep fine.

The following three plastic materials, however, are all suitable choices for piping compressed air:

• Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS): You can find ABS in a variety of products, from car fenders to LEGO®-brand toy bricks.

• Polyethylene (PE): This kind of piping is produced specifically for compressed air systems.

• High-density polyethylene (HDPE): This is yet another suitable plastic for compressed air pipes.

OSHA has approved PE, HDPE, and ABS for compressed air channels. Unlike PVC, they are all oil-resistant, so compressor lubricants cannot degrade them.

Some people believe that plastic piping for pressurized air isn’t a good idea because the cement used in connectors is not strong enough and will fail, causing bursts and leaks. However, plastic piping manufactured specifically for compressed air systems comes with special cements. These cements are OSHA-tested and –approved and will hold as well and as long as welding on metal pipes.

2. Metal Pipes


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Metal pipes have been around for much longer than their plastic equivalents, and traditionalists prefer them when it comes to piping compressed air distribution systems. Just the look and feel of a metal pipe is more substantial and seems to have greater strength than plastic. However advanced plastic piping becomes, some people will always feel safer with metal piping rather than plastic. There are also many benefits of metal pipes when used for air compressor piping systems. These include:

• More well-known: Metal is more traditional, which means more technicians know how to install the pipes.

• Longer safety track record: Having been in service longer, metal piping has proven its strength against fracture, splits, and blowouts.

• They’re guaranteed not to change shape: While certain plastic materials offer great strength, metal’s inherent rigidity guarantees it won’t warp.

• Impervious to degradation: Compressor lubricants will not degrade metal pipes.

Of course, there are many kinds of metal materials that you can use, and each offers certain pros and cons when used to pipe air compressor systems. Let’s save that for next week’s article topic, shall we? Stay tuned!

Schedule a Consultation with All Air Compressors

If you are still confused or have no idea what pipes you should use, calling a professional could be your answer. All Air Compressors will help you and take you through the whole process of planning and install a new compressed air piping system.

All Air Compressors is your trusted technicians who specialize in compressed air servicing and repair, air piping installation, and line filter installation.

Contact us to schedule a consultation and find out about the latest technology emerging in piping systems.

Source: quincycompressor