How Air Compressors Work?

Compressors are generally used to accelerate pressure in a variety of gases and compressible fluids. One of the most used ones is an air compressor. This device is used to run air tools, abrasive blast equipment, paint sprayers, and so on.Air compressors are a much-needed device in different sectors such as delivering high-pressure clean air to pump up gas cylinders, filling tires, filling high-pressure air tanks, run pneumatic tools, industrial processes, and so on. This machine has brought a revolutionary change in industries, factories, and workshops.In this article, we will be talking about air compressors. Such as how air compressors work, what are their uses, types, and many more. So, without further ado, let’s get it started.

What Is an Air Compressor?

An air compressor is a device that uses an electric motor, gasoline engine, or diesel to convert power into potential energy, which is stored by pressurized air. It is one of the essential components in any workshop or factory. This device is capable of powering any single air tool. The air compressor pushes a lot of air into the storage tank, increasing the pressure inside.This stored energy inside the tank can be utilized in different applications. Think about construction projects, manufacturing industries, agriculture, different types of engines, and so on. When the pressure in the tank reaches the lower limit, the air compressor starts up again and starts re-pressurizing the tank.

What is an air compressor used for?

Helping understand how air compressors work helps to know what an air compressor is used for? Air compressors can be used in several ways. They can supply power to various operating tools or supply air for filling inflatable pool toys or tires.

Examples of equipment that work excellently with compressed air include:

  • Spray guns
  • Sanders
  • Staplers
  • Drills
  • Nail guns
  • Grinders

Different Types of Air Compressor

Air compressors come in different shapes, sizes, and categories depending on their uses and capability. In this section, we are going to have a look at the different types of air compressors.There is a 2-basic type of compressor. One is a positive displacement compressor, and the other is dynamic displacement. These types also have different categories. Let’s have a look.

  • Positive Displacement Compressor
  • Rotary Compressor

Positive Displacement Compressor

A positive displacement compressor produces power via air displacement. It represents a variety of different air compressors. The air compressors in this category function with a different inside mechanism. But all of those follow the same principle.Rotary Compressor: The rotary one is the most common and doesn’t require much maintenance as they have an internal cooling system. They are usually large in shape.Reciprocating Compressor: Reciprocating compressors are also a popular sub-category of displacement compressors. These types of devices are usually seen at home construction projects and garages. Reciprocating saw comes with more moving parts than the rotary screw compressor, and the parts require regular lubrication for smoother operation

Dynamic Compressor 

The dynamic air compressor has rapidly rotating blades that generate horsepower by carrying the air in. Then it restricts the air to create pressure. The produced kinetic energy gets stored as static within the compressor.

In this section, we will talk about 2-different types of dynamic compressors. One is an axial compressor and another centrifugal compressor.Axial Compressor: You will not find such compressors in any construction projects rather in high-speed engines on planes and ships. They will give you high efficiency but come with a higher price tag than any other compressor out there. And their ability to provide thousands of hp earns them the credit. This is why they are used in aerospace research.Centrifugal Compressor: Centrifugal air compressor functions by slowing and cooling down the incoming air with the help of a diffuser to generate potential energy. This compressor can produce a lot of energy because of the multi-phase compression procedure even after having a small machine.

How D​o Air​ Compressors Work or Functions?

Air compressor comes in different types each with their unique features. The process of air compression gets done in two methods, one is positive displacement and dynamic displacement.

Let’s have a look at how positive displacement works:

Positive Displacement

A positive displacement air compressor works by forcing air in a chamber where the volume gets decreased in order to compress the air. Air compressor that is power through positive displacement falls into the umbrella term called positive displacement.Although you will see a different internal system in different machines, the technique of providing the power is the same. Some are designed to deal with heavy industrial workloads, while others are suitable for private projects or hobbyists.

Down below we have described 3-main types of air compressor that uses positive displacement method:

  • Rotary Screw type ari compressor
  • Rotary Vane type ari compressor
  • Piston Type ari compressor

Rotary Screw

Two internal screws in the rotary compressor spin in opposite directions, and in that process, it traps and compresses the air between them. As the two screws rotate around, they also generate constant movement. Rotary compressor is very common out there, and the best thing about them is they are easy to take care of.

Rotary Vane

The rotary vane also works kind of like the rotary screw compressor. But it doesn’t come with any screws. It has got vanes mounted on the rotor and rotate inside the cavity. The air gets compressed between the vane and also it’s casing. After that, it gets pushed out at another exhaust port. They are very used to operate so, in private projects, they have huge popularity.

Piston Type

Piston compressor has pistons and, they are controlled by a crankshaft to supply the gas, maintaining high pressure. You will find this usually in smaller worksites, and they are not built for prolonged and continuous use. Piston compressor has two different types, one is single-stage and another called two-stage.

Single Stage

In a single-stage compressor, one side of the piston deals with the functionality while the other side takes care of compressing the air.

When the piston moves down, the air gets drawn in, and when it climbs, the air gets compressed. They are very affordable compare to the other types of compressors. You can find them in almost any mechanic shop.


A two-stage compressor comes with two compression chambers on both sides of the piston. A continuous flow of water keeps the double-acting compressor cool. So, comparatively, it has a better cooling system than any other compressor out there.

The two-stage compressor comes with a higher price tag, so they are usually found in big factories and workshops.

Dynamic Displacement

The dynamic displacement air compressor has a rotating blade powered by an engine that generates airflow. It restricts the air in order to create pressure, and then it stores that kinetic energy within the compressor.

They are basically used in large projects such as steel manufacturing or chemical plants. Dynamic displacement compressor also has two different types just like the positive displacement compressor; one is axial and the other centrifugal.

Air Compressor Power Ratings

Air compressor power is usually rated by using horsepower between 1.5 and 6.5. However, some of the larger ones are capable of producing 15 HP. If you have got standard electric power outlets, you will need to have an air compressor at 2HP or lesser than that. The reason is the standard AC cords need lower voltage to work.The type of air compressor you are using affects the HP ratings. For instance, a work that an electric compressor gets done with a 5 HP, diesel, or gas-powered compressor would require you to run at 10HP to get the same job done.

This gas engine generates power using its combustion, while the electric ones get their power from an external system.

  • Axial Compressor Power ratings
  • Centrifugal Compressor Power ratings

Axial Compressor

To generate air axial compressor has a series of turbine blades, forcing all the air using a small area. The stationary blades in the axial compressor slow down the airflow and, that increases pressure. These types of air compressors are not so common. Mostly you will see them in aircraft engines.

Centrifugal Compressor

The centrifugal compressor functions by drawing air into the center using a rotating impeller, and afterward these are pushed forward through centrifugal. It generates kinetic energy by slowing down the air through the diffuser. This kind of compressor needs an electric motor to function. They are mainly used through HVAC systems.

Final Verdict

When it comes to construction projects or any industrial work, you cannot think of accomplishing projects without an air compressor. Even when it’s about scuba diving, spray paintings, or pressure washing, you will need an air compressor. The invention and continuous development of air compressors are making our life a lot easier and comfortable.Most importantly, it saves our precious time, and, you know, they say, “time is money.” As you can see, different types of work require different kinds of compressors. They have been categorized based on their functional method utilized to produce the compressed gas or air.The piston is the most significant part of the air compressor as it gets the main job done. Anyway, that will be all for today. We hope after reading our article now, you understand how air compressors work.

[tcb-script async=”” src=”//”][/tcb-script]