How to Set Up and Use an Air Compressor?

For a time, you could only find air compressors in the hands of expert engineers and mechanics, people that earned their living from the use of power tools. But then their design changed.

Air compressors became smaller, safer, and more versatile. As a result, they became more commonplace in residential garages and workshops. Today, most people understand the importance of keeping an air compressor on hand.

They make pneumatic tools so much easier to use. Even carpenters and builders have adopted them. With the right compressor, you can drive a nail into a wall or spray paint a room with very little effort.

But the proliferation of air compressors has created a problem. The fact that so many inexperienced workers are using them means that the opportunities for accidents to occur have multiplied.

Pneumatic tools powered by air compressors are dangerous. And if you do not approach the air compression installation process with care and consideration, you could suffer serious harm.


What Are Air Compressors?

These are devices that store compressed air in a steel tank. When triggered, they release this air, using it to operate various tools. They are compatible with everything from air wrenches and sanders to grinding equipment and nailers.

How Do Air Compressors Work?

Air compressors have an electric motor that works in tandem with a compressor unit to pump air into a storage tank under pressure. The compressor unit keeps the pressure high enough to power your tools.

The air reaches your tools using the air hoses to which they are connected. When you activate the compressor, its motor will kick in as the air in the tank drops. Once the tank pressure reaches the limit, the motor will shut off.


Why Do People Use Air Compressors?

Air compressors are advantageous because you can use a single unit to power a wide variety of tools. The right air compressor can give you access to more power than a hand-held electrical tool.

How to Set Up an Air Compressor System?

Air compressor uses are numerous. As such, you have plenty of reasons to add one to your workshop or garage. The process of installing an air compressor unit begins with selecting the right unit. That is to say, you must ensure that the unit you have selected matches the requirements of the projects you have in mind. That means taking these factors into account:

1) CFM – Standing for cubic feet per minute, the CFM will tell you the amount of air a compressor can produce. Every tool you have has a particular CFM that it requires. The CFM of the compressor should match the CFM of your tools.

2) PSI – Standing for Pounds per Square Inch, the PSI is just as important as the CFM. The unit refers to the amount of pressure the compressor can generate. The compressor you select should have a PSI that exceeds the requirements of all your tools.

3) HP – The Horsepower is concerned with the output of the motor. It will reflect the overall power of the compressor.

4) Tank – As you might have guessed, the tank capacity of your compressor matters. The greater the capacity of the tank, the longer you can work without interruption.

5) Duty Cycle –Compressors cannot operate indefinitely. At some point, you must shut the unit down so that it can cool. This is what the duty cycle measures. It tells you the length of time that an air compressor can operate before you have to shut it down. A decent unit should have a cycle of 50 percent or more.

You need to account for every single one of these factors before choosing a compressor. This is the only way to ensure that you select the best possible unit. Once you identify the right unit, you can proceed to the air compressor setup process which typically involves the following:

  • Location

Choose a location for the compressor. It should be a flat surface that is not only clean but dry. Look for areas with decent ventilation. Otherwise, the machine and its user will suffer the consequences.

Try to find a place that is strong enough to survive the pressure the vibrations of the compressor will exert. If the compressor is belt-driven, the section with the belt should face the wall rather than an open space. The unit should stand at least 30cm from the wall.

Take the available space into account, especially if your air compressor is bulky and you are less likely to move it. Find a spot that gives you plenty of room to work.

This goes without saying. Try to position the unit near an outlet.

  • Hose

Get a hose in the right size. Target hoses of roughly 50 feet. A long hose running between the compressor and your tool is not encouraged because you are going to lose air.

50 feet is more than sufficient for any project you have in mind. It is long enough to reach distant tools without affecting the efficiency of the compressor. Keep the capacity of the hose in mind. It should be strong enough to contend with the stresses the compressor and your tools will exert.

  • Filters and Dryers/Separators

Your air compressor is going to require a strong filtration system to deal with the moisture that will eventually sneak into its system.The presence of moisture in the compressor can create complications for projects like sanding and blowing.

This is why you need to put in some filters. You should also install a dryer that will protect the unit from all kinds of fluids.

  • Oil

Is your air compressor oil-free? If it isn’t, you should check the oil. Locate the dipstick and use it to determine whether or not the oil reaches 2/3rds of the way up. Add some more where necessary.

Don’t just add any type of oil you find. Look for a manual and use it to identify the type of oil your specific unit requires. If the unit is oil-free, this messy process is not necessary. The compressor will have neither a tank nor a dipstick.

  • Attach the Hose

Look for the regulator valve. It is located next to the small pressure gauge. If you can find the pressure gauge, the valve is round and copper-colored. Look for a metal plug with a big hole at its center. This is where you will attach the hose. Push one end into the valve.

  • Attaching the Power Tool

If you remembered to bring your pneumatic tool while you were assembling your air compressor parts, you can plug it in at this stage. You have to use the hose. It should have a free end at this point.

The tool has a plug that will enter the hose. Once you push it in, twist it. This will lock it in place. Ensure that the tool’s plug can’t slide out of the hose. If you came here to learn how to use an air compressor to fill a tire, you can take this opportunity to push the coupler onto the valve of the tire in question.

  • Connecting the Power

At this stage, you can connect your compressor to power. Do not use extension cords. A power extension could burn out your unit if it causes the voltage to drop. A hose reel extension could help you in this situation, assuming you have no choice but to use one.

But this is why it is important to position your unit near a three-pronged outlet; so that you have a power source within easy reach. Turn the unit’s power switch off before taking this step. This will prevent unexpected accidents.

At this point, your air compressor should be ready to go. But if you still have questions, this video should help.


How to Use an Air Compressor?

Once you have your air compressor setup in garage, you can start using it. Fortunately, this process isn’t that difficult:

1) Safety

This should be your very first step. Ensure your safety. Air compressors are dangerous, especially when you attach them to pneumatic tools. Before proceeding, first cover yourself in protective gear.

That includes safety goggles (or an eye guard) to defend against flying debris, a hard hat and boots to protect your head and feet in case your tools malfunction, and some thick gloves that will lessen the blow if the air compressor explodes for any reason.

It would also behoove you to wear some protection for your ears such as earplugs. If you haven’t made the effort to silence them, air compressors can ruin your hearing. If you are exposed to the noise they generate for long periods, you will suffer the consequences in the long term.

2) Testing

Don’t use the compressor without first testing the safety valve. Look for the safety valve. It is found near the hose line. Just keep an eye out for a copper-colored plugaround this area. Pull it towards you to see if the air escapes.

You should hear a hiss, proving that the valve is working. If you don’t hear anything, don’t panic. If the valve can be pulled out and pushed back in, it can still be relied upon to do its job.

3) Activating the Compressor

You can go ahead and flip the switch to turn your unit on. It should produce some sort of buzzing sound to prove that it is working. Don’t do anything just yet. The tank needs to pressurize. You can track its progress by looking at the pressure gauge.

As you might have guessed, it is found on the side of the tank. You will know that the tank has reached the maximum pressure once the needle on the gauge stops moving.

Make sure you are looking at the right gauge. Some people become distracted with the smaller gauge that is concerned with the air pressure in the hose. Ignore this one. Its needle won’t stop moving, not at this point.

4) Investigating the tools

If you did your homework, then you already know the pressure your tools need. If you did not, most tools are labeled. If you can’t find the information on the tool, read the manual. It will tell you the PSI the tool needs to function efficiently.

Once you know the pressure, you can use the pressure regulator knob on the air compressor to manipulate the amount of air flowing into the hose. The goal is to adjust the pressure of the compressor so that it matches the tool’s PSI requirements.

This is where the smaller pressure gauge enters the picture. Watch it while you make the adjustments. Stop moving the knob once the gauge tells you that you have achieved the relevant pressure.

5) Using your Tools

Once you successfully make the adjustments and pressurized air is in the hose, you can start using the tool you attached. Don’t be alarmed if the pressure drops after you start using the tool.

This is supposed to happen. Also, the pressure will automatically refill itself. No further adjustments to the pressure are needed at this stage. You can start performing whatever task the tool was meant to do.

6) Shutting Down

Once you are finished, look for the air tank drain valve. It is typically found on the underside of the tank. By twisting it, you will allow the compressor to expunge all the moisture that collected. You need to do this whenever you use the compressor.

After this, shut the hose’s air supply off. Turn the compressor off. Allow the pressure to drain out of the system by leaving the compressor alone for a moment.

At this point, you can pull the unit’s plug out of the outlet. Don’t forget to remove the hose. Put the air compressor away. Don’t just leave it lying there.

Find a dry place to store it. If the compressor doesn’t get frequent use, try to perform basic maintenance on it all the same. That includes replacing the oil every year (for oil-filled units).

If you still have some lingering questions, this might clarify some things



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