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Compressed Air System Basics

by Nick Calvo on May 03, 2020

The Basics of Compressed Air Systems

Building the perfect air system to meet your needs starts with learning how equipment is sized and rated.


CFM is a measurement of AIR FLOW in Cubic Feet per Minute. The higher the CFM, the more air flow that is required to be generated. High flow rates of air operated tools or equipment increases the air demand on an air compressor, especially if at higher pressures. A small pneumatic tool will use a small fraction of air in comparison with an air nozzle used to blast air at high flow rates.

♦ CLICK HERE to use our CFM CALCULATOR to discover your air demand!♦


PSIG is a measurement of PRESSURE in Pounds per Square Inch as read on a Gauge. Air compressors can generate and discharge air at several different pressures, such as 125, 150, 175 psig. Air tanks or receivers can store compressed air for use later, without putting a direct demand on the running air compressor or allowing the compressor some down time.

CAUSA Air Compressors

Reciprocating Air Compressor


HP is a measurement of HORSEPOWER. The higher the horsepower, the more generating power of a compressor to maintain high flow rates of air. Higher horsepower will keep up with a systems air demands while in use, or charge air tanks or receivers at a faster rate.

Tank Capacity

TANK CAPACITY is a measurement of AIR VOLUME in Gallons. Compressors can supply an air system, and store air in tanks or receivers. Compressors can be built together with air tanks or be independent of them. The bigger volume or larger gallon size of a tank means it can store more air. With more volume of air, higher flow rates or longer periods of discharge can be achieved when coming out of the tank.

Configurations of Equipment

CONFIGURATIONS of equipment can be BASE MOUNTED, TANK MOUNTED, HORIZONTAL, VERTICAL, and even PORTABLE. Depending on preference or application, there is a configuration to meet those needs. Base mounted units are ideal for large machines that supply large air loads. Tank mounted units can be more compact, if floor space is important. Portable units can bring air to the jobsite, whether it be hand carried, wheeled, truck mounted, or towed.


POWER to equipment is provided by either ELECTRICAL POWER, GASOLINE, or DIESEL. The most common compressor applications use Electrical Power within a facility. Electrical Ratings include the following: electrical frequency of 60hz, single-phase or three-phase, and supply voltage. Supply voltage is either 115, 208, 230, or 460 Volts. Some equipment can run off multiple voltages, making supplying power more convenient. Gas or Diesel engines are found on portable compressors.

Compressed Air System

1 comment
by Patrick M. on July 27, 2020

good info! CFM vs HP vs PSI can definitely be tricky. I like your calculator for it too.

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