Compressed air energy efficiency

Components of a compressed air system


Compressed air systems usually consist of the following components:

  • compressor
  • air cooler
  • air receiver tank
  • filter
  • dryer
  • condensate trap
  • distribution system

The compressor produces compressed air at the required pressure.

The air receiver tank acts as a reservoir to store and cool the compressed air and helps make sure the system can cope with variations in demand.

The air cooler, filter and dryer all treat the air at different points in the system. They remove impurities such as water, dirt and oil from the air taken in by the compressor, as well as those added by the compressor.

Compressed air may be fed to various uses on a site via a distribution system. These distribution systems can be relatively straightforward or very complex. Some businesses use portable units, which consist of all of these components in a compact package. Portable units are usually used for small-scale applications, or when a mobile source of compressed air is needed.

Types of air compressor

The main types of air compressor are:

  • Packaged rotary air compressors are most commonly used because of their low noise levels and maintenance costs. There are different types of packaged rotary air compressor, including:
    • rotary screw, which is the most widely used type as it is reliable, efficient and only needs basic routine maintenance
    • rotary sliding vane
  • Reciprocating compressors are often used for small industrial applications. Their specific energy consumption is equal to or better than rotary compressors. However, they can suffer from reduced performance levels if not maintained properly.
  • Centrifugal compressors are generally used for applications that need a high volume of air. At high flow rates, the centrifugal compressor is by far the most energy efficient.