Air Compressor Buying Guide


This buying guide will explain some of the factors to consider when selecting an air compressor, helping you to feel confident that you’re choosing the right compressor for your needs. With so many different air compressors available, it is important to consider the type, size and features that you expect from your compressor.


The key to choosing the ideal compressor for your needs is to match it to your job demands. Small reciprocating and portable compressors are ideal for small job sites, whilst stationary rotary screw compressors provide much higher volumes of compressed air.

The two most common types of air compressors used in Australian business are reciprocating and rotary screw.

Reciprocating air compressors are the most popular, widely used for short-term or intermittent domestic and light industrial use. Relatively inexpensive, these compressors are portable and suit a variety of applications.

Rotary screw compressors use twin screws, rather than pistons to create high pressure air. More suited to regular industrial use, they are best used when you need high volumes of constant compressed air. Available in a large variety of models and sizes, they have high operating ranges which make them ideal for use by small businesses and large multi-site operations alike.

Rotary screw compressors are also available in ‘boxed’ and portable varieties to suit the needs of some industries. Their use depends on your application.


Whilst cheaper compressors with low purchase prices may be appealing, it is important to consider the overall lifetime cost of your entire compressed air system. The common rule of thumb is that servicing and energy costs account for 80% of a system’s overall cost, with the purchase price only at about 20%.

Smart system design is also a key contributor to reducing your lifetime costs. There are many strategies available when designing your system:

  • Do not oversize your compressor; with 10 to 15% of all industrial electricity used to generate compressed air, compressing air can be wasteful so it is ideal to match your new air compressor’s capacity closely to demand.
  • Create a modular system where equipment can be easily added.
  • Use high quality filtration and drying equipment.
  • A properly maintained air compressor will provide optimum performance for many years; buying a unit from a company with a large national service network is a big advantage.
  • Carefully consider the pressure, capacity and duty cycles required from your compressor, which is of course dependent on the tools and\or processes you use.
  • Purchase appropriately sized air receiver tanks to allow you to cope with times of heavy and peak air demand.
  • Consider variable speed compressors, which work to respond to your site’s needs and can save an average saving of 35% of energy consumption when compared to standard load/unload air compressors.
  • Install piping that allows condensate to drain away.

If you need any assistance with purchasing an air compressor, CAPS Australia’s national sales team is available to answer any of your questions on 1800 800 878.

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