Use this step-by-step guide to evaluate the pros and cons of investing in a used air compressor system.

When selecting an industrial air compressor to meet your needs, you may consider opting for a used shutterstock_699466396compressor, since the initial buy-in is generally lower than investing in a new machine.

However, used air compressor systems may come with a slew of unique challenges. That’s why it’s important to know about the potential benefits and drawbacks of both new and used air compressors before making a decision. We’ve broken it down:

Your Best Bet: Higher ROI From a New Air Compressor

We’ll be blunt – it’s almost always better to invest in a new air compressor. Though the initial cost of a new industrial compressor can be steep, it can be a cost-effective investment. A new compressor is guaranteed to have a longer lifespan, piping and filters that are free of wear, and higher energy efficiency — since it’s unlikely to have any existing air leaks.

While many worry about energy costs and inefficiency, a number of best practices can be employed to boost the overall efficiency of your compressor and ensure it will deliver consistently high ROI. This includes monitoring for leaks, conducting thorough maintenance evaluations and audits, reducing system pressure, using part-load controls, utilizing outside air intake when it’s cooler than inside air, and employing properly designed heat recovery — which can save between 50 and 90% of lost heat energy and use it to warm air or water.

Ultimately, applying these economical energy efficiency practices to a new compressor will increase the cost- and energy-efficiency of your machine and add sustained value to your business.

A Temporary Fix: What to Consider When Buying a Used Air Compressor

Though a new compressor is always preferable, there are some situations in which it makes sense to buy a used machine. If you have access to a reputable dealer, you may consider buying a used air compressor as an interim solution for meeting your business needs. Here are a few of the major considerations of buying a used industrial compressor system.

1. How much air do you need — and at what pressure?

If your firm requires consistently high output and high PSI, it’s probably worth investing in a used air compressor with a relatively large tank, which can provide more compressed air at a higher pressure. Though it may be bulkier and more pricey than a smaller machine, a large compressor is certain to be more energy efficient.

2. What kind of tools do you use?

A compressor with a large tank is also a wise choice if your business operates pneumatic tools like power drills or paint guns, since larger compressors produce consistent but short bursts of pressurized air at a time, which enables the motor to catch up with the output while allowing high PSI.  

On the other hand, smaller compressors can’t generally deliver at such high pressure, but do offer a steady stream of lightly pressurized air, which may be a better option for businesses who are not operating pneumatic tools but simply require air purity that meets stringent regulations. Smaller compressor systems may also be ideal for rapid manufacturing applications.

3. How strong must your air compressor be?

It’s always best to overestimate the power you will need to fulfill operations. Some experts recommend overestimating by approximately 40%.

Oftentimes, as the volume of product air increases, maximum pressure decreases. This is indicated in the compressed air produced in cubic feet per minute (CFM) and in the PSI of discharge. It may serve you well to evaluate the compressor’s standard cubic feet per minute (SCFM), which is the industry standard — measured at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, at sea level, and at 35% humidity. Understanding a compressor’s SCFM may help you make a more informed decision about the machine’s ability to meet the output demands of your tools or applications.

4. Do you need a lubricated or oil-free air compressor?

Oil-free machines require less maintenance and may be more mobile and versatile than oil-lubricated air compressor systems. However, they are louder and subject to more regular wear, which may decrease the machine’s durability.

On the other hand, oil-lubricated compressors tend to be quieter than oil-free compressors, since the lubrication reduces friction and thus often reduces noise. Since they endure less frictional wear, lubricated compressors have the added benefit of higher energy efficiency and increased longevity. They tend to be the best option for applications requiring consistent air flow.

While lubricated compressors are more durable, they require careful, regular maintenance, and run the risk of ‘misting’ in the long-run, which may pose problems for highly sensitive applications as it leads to oil-infused, or contaminated, air. However, thanks to a number of filtration innovations — such as the Mattei Absolute Zero (MAZ) Oil-Free Air System, an add-on filter can be installed on any lubricated compressor to enable it to produce oil-free air that meets ISO 8573-1:2010 Class 1 and Class 0 purity standards.

5. How much wear has the used air compressor endured?

When purchasing any kind of used air compressor, ensure you are buying from a trustworthy seller who can provide accurate and up-to-date records of the machine’s use and will be sure to inform you if it has been used or maintained improperly — which can cause significant damage to a number of internal parts.

Ask as many questions as possible and always ensure your machine can meet federal, state, and industry-specific compliance.

Topics: Air Compressor, Rotary Vane Compressor, best practices


Additional Resources

Rotary Vane vs. Rotary Screw Compressors Download Infographic
Benefits of Rotary Vane Air Compressors Download eBook
Fact Vs. Fiction Guide Download Guide