If it’s time for you to consider buying a new air compressor, you may be overwhelmed by all of the options. Most people don’t know the difference between a rotary and reciprocating air compressor, but it’s one of the first big decisions you’ll have to make. Follow along to learn how each one works and which best suits your needs.

What is a reciprocating air compressor?

Using pistons that move vertically inside the cylinders, a reciprocating compressor is best for infrequent or intermittent use. If you need a solution for your home, small business, or do-it-yourself work, a reciprocating air compressor is generally your best bet. The upfront cost will be cheaper than that of a rotary compressor. On the flip side, you may have to spend more down the line on maintenance and energy fees.

What is a rotary screw air compressor?

Rotary compressors should be active the majority of the time, so they are ideal for when you need continuous airflow. We usually recommend rotary screw air compressors for large-scale businesses and operations. Their simpler structure means they are more durable than reciprocating compressors. They work well for constant use and come in two varieties, variable speed drive and fixed speed. Another bonus of rotary compressors is that they are more energy-efficient and also boast a longer life span.

Factors to Consider When Buying an Air Compressor

Now that you have a basic understanding of your two options, it’s time to consider other factors that may affect your purchasing decisions. The importance of each factor depends on your individual needs. However, some of the most common considerations include:

  • Energy efficiency: It’s estimated that over 80% of your operating costs will stem from energy costs rather than the machine itself over an air compressor’s lifetime. While you don’t see this information written on the price tag, it’s important to consider before finalizing your purchase. Rotary compressors are much more efficient than reciprocating compressors. They also increase their energy efficiency over their lifespan!
  • Life expectancy: Rotary compressors are built to last you for the long haul. If you’re the kind of person who foresees a need for a solid air compressor in the long term, rotary compressors will provide you with the longevity you are looking for. The larger initial investment pays off. As the years’ pass, you’ll notice your rotary compressor is stronger than ever before.
  • Downtime: All air compressors need a break sometimes. But reciprocating air compressors need more downtime to prevent overheating and other malfunctions. This makes them the perfect option if your machine doesn’t need to be running all of the time. If, however, you need it to be constantly on, a rotary compressor might be a better fit for your needs. 

Rotary compressors are overall more durable, efficient, and cost-effective in the long term. However, you may plan to use your air compressor on an infrequent basis. Or perhaps you don’t foresee the need for it years from now. In cases like these, a reciprocating air compressor can be an excellent cost-effective option.

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