24 Hour Emergency Services

The Different Kinds of Air Compressors

There have been a lot of ways developed to mechanically compress air.  Each method has advantages and disadvantages but in order to make the right decision for your needs it’s important to have a general overview of each kind of air compressor and how they work.  These are the most common types of air compressors available on the market.


The most common form of air compressor and the one most often found on home compressors – it uses an automobile-like piston system to compress the air.  It comes in single acting, or double acting (where both sides of the piston compress the air) and come in ranges in size from single digit hp all the way up to 1000 hp.

Centrifugal Compressor

Sometimes called radial compressors, centrifugal compressors work by spinning the incoming air flow into a faster and faster velocity.  A centrifugal compressor can be as large as 1600hp and is used primarily to deliver lubricant-free air.  While quite useful in many applications this type of compressor does have special considerations in terms of maintenance.

Rotary Screw

Rotary screw compressors come in many types but work on the principal of rotors spinning at speed to produce compressed air either in tandem with another rotor or set of rotors.  They come in models both lubricated and lubricant-free and can produce hundreds of horsepower in a relatively low-cost and compact package.

Sliding Vane Compressor

A sliding vane compressor uses a rotor with slots holding vanes or blades inside a stator.  The spinning of the rotor puts centrifugal force on the vanes which creates a buildup and release of compressed air.  These compressors require lubricant and have many of the same positives as rotary screw with capacity control limitations and lower efficiency.

Scroll Compressor

Also called a spiral compressor, a scroll compressor uses two interleaving scrolls – one orbiting the other – to pump the air caught between them.  Primarily used in air conditioning it has recently become part of the host of commercial compressor options – though at the low end of the power scale.

There are lot of options available for your air compressor system.  If you want to make the right choice you should talk to the compressed air experts at CED.  We can help you decide which option is the perfect one for your business needs.

Pressure System

Partnering with our clients to save
on energy and utilities for future generations!

Learn More