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The Types of Reciprocating Air Compressors

As previously discussed there are many types of air compressors but the most popular overall are reciprocating compressors.  Using a piston system similar to the kind used in automobiles it pushes air into a smaller space which results in an increase in pressure – this principle is called positive displacement.  One of the benefits of a positive displacement pump is that the flow will always be the same regardless of discharge pressure – ensuring you always have enough air flow to run applications.  There a couple of important types of reciprocating air compressors and they’re outlined below.


This is the most common air compressor on the market.  If you were to go to a local hardware store and pick one up for home use this is most likely the type of compressor they would have.  They tend to be quite loud but can be reasonable powerful for their size and weight.  Due to that portability they can be placed close to point of use so if your needs are limited you can avoid installing a large amount of piping and their relatively simple design makes maintenance significantly easier.  As a rule they have a higher cost of compression than their double-acting siblings so they work best in environments where constant compressor use is not needed.


A double-acting reciprocating air compressor uses both sides of the piston to compress the air resulting in a far more efficient compression than the single-acting version.  Additionally, these compressors are more likely to be used for industrial applications which is why they are available with versions with very high horsepower and with multi-step controls to manage energy use.  They also have a fairly simple maintenance procedure.  Drawbacks include relatively high up-front cost, significant space requirements, and the potential for high vibrations which may mean special mountings or foundations.

Regardless of type both versions come with both single and multi-piston models, lubricated and non-lubricated, and can provide long-term and effective air compression depending on your needs.  If you’re considering buying a reciprocating air compressor and want some more information you should contact the experts at CED today.

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