Commercial Air Compressors
Buying an air compressor for a business is different than buying one for home use, particularly if your business requires constant operation from the compressor. Commercial air compressors are often marketed differently by the manufacturers, and although they may have similar functionality and even cost, there are a few important differences to consider.
Since you need more open space and must generate more power with commercial air compressors, most of this equipment has greater pounds per square inch (PSI), cubic feet per minute (CFM), and horsepower (HP) than models intended for home use. For example, a standard compressor used around the house may have a maximum CFM of 6 at 90 PSI, while a commercial model may provide upwards of 250 to 600 PSI and horsepower output that commonly ranges from 800 to 1,100 in bigger models.
Additionally, they will have higher voltage and amperage to sustain commercial applications, and will often be noisy - though many units are now designed to minimize the noise as much as possible. The higher decibels are related to the complication of the machinery, and unless you require quiet or nearly silent operation, a decibel level of 90 or more might not be far-fetched.
Types of commercial air compressors
Dozens of different industries use commercial air compressors for daily activity - from construction, manufacturing, and oil drilling to health care facilities and law offices - with leading brands like Ingersoll Rand, Campbell Hausfeld, and Quincy producing highly competitive models. The type of compressor you choose depends on the power you need and the precise atmosphere in which the compressor is used
For example, some industries require a completely dry atmosphere where all moisture generated by the compressor must be dried immediately, and condensation is limited by the type of compressor chosen. Industry-specific options include:
- Reciprocating air compressors - Used in a variety of operations, these basic models typically feature easy-start engines, fuel-efficient idle control, balanced design that minimizes vibration and noise, and up to 135 PSI pressure discharge.
- Rotary screw contact-cooled air compressors - Ranging from 5 to 300 HP, depending on the model selected, this large compressor is used for industrial applications and features housing that greatly diminishes the amount of noise it generates. As these models are frequently in continuous use, they also feature energy-saving work modes that reportedly cut more than 30% of their energy consumption.
- Rotary screw oil-free air compressors - Often found in spray paint booths and similar applications, this type of commercial air compressor is designed with a moisture separator and air seals that prevent moisture from entering the unit and causing corrosion. Cooled by either water or air, these models are also designed with a variable speed operation that allows them to save energy by operating in line with demand.
- Centrifugal air compressors - Featuring an airend, driver, cooling system, and automatic lubrication systems, centrifugal compressors are popular for a design that limits the number of moving parts, resulting in a longer lasting lifecycle with fewer maintenance requirements. Also featuring balanced rotor assemblies, it offers great reductions in vibration compared to other models.
- PET air compressors - Created especially for the PET industry (those who manufacture bottles made from Polyethylene terephthalate), this commercial model is oil-free and geared toward high-end production. Available in centrifugal and reciprocating models, it's also highly customizable to a manufacturer's production needs.
In addition to the diversity found in the units themselves, operational features for commercial air compressors are becoming much more sophisticated. Large display monitors that observe every aspect of operation, for example, are standard on most high-quality commercial models.
You'll also find gauges, magnetic starters, and other handy upgrades that can improve the productivity and accuracy of your operation.
Size vs. cost
You probably wouldn't want to lug a 500-lb compressor around your garage at home, but 500 lbs isn't particularly heavy when compared to most commercial air compressors. Size is one of the most obvious factors when deciding between the commercial and home use. You'll need to carefully consider the space you're able to allocate for a compressor.
Some businesses have entire rooms in their warehouses or plants that are reserved for air compression, while others might not need such big equipment. Whatever the case, modern technology is slowly reducing the average size of compressors, but make sure this is factored into your decision.
The price you pay will be dictated by the size, output, and complexity of the machine. Basic models with an output of around 10 HP can be found for $700 to $2,400. Larger models geared toward high-end production start in the neighborhood of $4,100 and will exceed $20,000 for oil-free and centrifugal models.
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