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  • Peg Minichiello

What is Pressure Drop in an Air Compressor?

You might have heard the term pressure drop in conversations around air compressors. But do you know what this term really means?

Pressure drop is a term used to characterize the reduction in air pressure from the compressor discharge to the actual point-of-use.

Not only are pressure drops an annoyance because of the low pressure but they can result in poor overall system performance and excessive energy consumption.

Now let’s take a look at where pressure drops occur and why.

When Does A Pressure Drop Occur?

To put it simply, pressure drop occurs when compressed air travels through the treatment and distribution system. A properly designed system should have a pressure loss of much less than 10% of the compressor’s discharge pressure, measured from the receiver tank output to the point-of-use.

Typical areas where pressure drops occur include the aftercooler, lubricant separators and check valves.

What Causes Pressure Drop?

There are a few common causes of pressure drops:

- Obstruction in the system

- Restriction in the system

- Roughness in the system

In a distribution system, the highest pressure drops are found at the points-of-use, including undersized or leaking hoses, tubes, disconnects, filters, regulators and lubricators (FRLs). Often the piping system in place is diagnosed as having excess pressure drop because a point-of-use pressure system regulator can’t sustain the required downstream pressure.

On the supply side of the system, air/lubricant separators, after coolers, moisture separators, dryers and filters can be the main causes of pressure drops.

Air system operators will have to spend a significant amount of both time and money to optimize their distribution system when pressure drop problems occur.

Don’t Just ‘Turn It Up’

As tempting as it may be to simply elevate system pressure and hope your pressure problems go away, this is not the way to deal with this issue. Don’t just increase your air compressors discharge pressure or add additional compressor capacity. Investigate alternative solutions and save yourself time, money and effort.

We can assist in getting this right and all it takes to get started is a site visit after which we’ll submit a quote and help implement the solution. Book your site visit today: 925.667.3400/

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