Before installing a compressor system it’s important to put thought and time into ensuring that the system will function properly, providing optimum reliability and performance. Due diligence should be taken to purchase a quality system, for a good price, covered by appropriate warranties, delivered on a convenient schedule and with the opportunity for service after the sale. If the compressor system is not properly installed, it may affect performance, longevity and warranty. So, what do you need to consider before installing a compressor?

  • Compressor type: The first consideration is what type of compressor is best suited for your needs. Each type of compressor has advantages and disadvantages.
    • Positive displacement compressors draw atmospheric air into one or more compression chambers. These chambers are then closed from the inlet. As the volume of each chamber decreases, the air is compressed internally until the pressure reaches the designed pressure ratio. The valve then opens and the air is discharged into the outlet system. 
      • Reciprocating compressors are the most commonly used positive displacement compressors because they can handle all volume capacities and pressures. There are two different designs; single and two-stage.
        • Single-stage: With a single-stage, the air is drawn into the cylinder and compressed in a single stroke. Compressed gas is then transferred to a storage tank.
        • Two-stage: A two-stage design employs an extra piston and is capable of higher pressure levels.
      • Rotary compressors are positive displacement machines in which the compressing and displacement are affected by the positive action of rotating elements. The two main types are vane and screw compressors.
        • Vane compressors use rotating, fan-like blades called vanes to compress hydraulic materials. The size and shape of the vanes determine how strong the pressure can be. Multiple vanes are combined to make complex compressors of any size.
        • Screw compressors are positive displacement machines that have distinct working phases: suction, compression and discharge. Two counter-rotating helical screws are arranged in a compressor casing; gas inlet and discharge nozzles are at opposite ends.
  • Power and drive system: Next, ensure the power and torque available from your power source can handle the chosen compressor. Too little power and torque mean the compressor won’t run to capacity. Over specing results in high fuel costs and a larger than necessary initial investment. Then, decide what drive system you’ll use to connect to the compressor (Engine Mounted FEAD Belt Drive, Frame Mounted Belt Drive, Auxiliary Port Direct Drive, Flywheel Direct Drive, Flywheel Belt Drive, Hydraulic Drive, Electric Drive).
  • Vibration: Where and how you mount your compressor is an important decision as vibration can be damaging to an air compressor system, causing misalignment. Become aware of the level of vibration where you plan to mount the compressor and the recommended maximum vibration your compressor can endure. Anti-vibration pads are a common and inexpensive way to help minimize the amount of vibration in a system.
  • Temperature and cooling: Ensure your engine and other components are appropriate to operate in the environment present. Determine the maximum and minimum operating temperatures and work with the manufacturer to confirm your system is correct for these temperatures. Ensure the hydraulic system can keep up with cooling. Test the entire system with the hydraulic power running everything it can at once. Ensure that the cooling can keep the compressor cool at its expected duty cycle. 
  • CFM: The free air delivery in an air compressor is measured in cubic feet per minute. Changes in air temperature, altitude, power sources, hose size, and hose length all contribute to overall system performance. A tool test is the simplest way to determine CFM. 
  • Safety systems: When designing your air compressor system, consider these features to keep your system and operators safe:
  • Automatic blow-down valves: These valves protect your compressor from starting against system back pressure and help ensure the system is depressurized and safe to carry out maintenance.
  • Cold climate protection: Cold climate heating packages keep air compressors running in freezing temperatures while protecting components from cold weather.
  • Pressure relief: Protects your components from operating above their designed pressure.
  • Temperature monitoring: If something has failed or isn’t working properly, often it shows up as a temperature problem. Temperature switches and sensors protect your system from damage and help keep the operators safe.
  • Control system: Air compressors can be controlled by simple on/off switches to intelligent digital systems. Consider how much complexity you need and what functions you’d like your operators to be able to perform. Take the time to consider what information, functions, and capabilities you’d like included.
  • Access for service: Scheduled maintenance is vital for the longevity and performance of an air compressor system. To minimize the future maintenance time of your air compressor system, make sure serviceable parts have relatively easy access (switches, sensors, control systems, oil level checking, oil filters, air filters, coalescing filters, moisture traps and drains, belts/wearable drive train items, ball valves). Smart design can save significant time and frustration.
  • Accessory products:  Planning for the location and potential electrical power requirements for accessories is important before you complete your design (air receiver tanks, automatic electric drain valves, aftercoolers, air dryers, filters, regulators, lubricators, hose reels, heaters).
  • Failure modes and effects analysis is a step-by-step approach for identifying all possible failures in a design, a manufacturing or assembly process, or a product or service. Evaluating each component, operation and/or design against potential issues highlights areas of weakness. By identifying potential failures before manufacturing, you extend the lifespan and performance of the system. 

Designing a compressor system from scratch is a complicated and massive undertaking. Ensure you have a well-planned design process, clearly defined performance goals and an understanding of your environment. Consult experts in compressor system design to make sure you achieve the system that is right for your application.  

Need help designing a compressor system that is right for your facility? Contact Gaspro Compression Corp. We have a focused team that takes pride in their work. We strive to provide dependable products and prompt service to all clients. We’re continually improving and innovating our products to meet changing industry demands. Gaspro is a leading provider of compressor packages in Canada. Contact us to request a proposal.