Uptime, energy efficiency, life expectancy, air quality — when it comes to the core monetary and performance issues, rotary vane has the edge over reciprocating air compressors.

What does the ideal air compressor look like? It’s compact, silent, runs all day using no electricity, and never shutterstock_662575516breaks down. Because no such option exists in the real world, we’re tasked with making a choice between bad, good, better, and best.

You can’t tell best from worst by looking at a compressor’s packaging any more than you can judge a book by its cover. Instead, we have to look to the technology to ascertain performance.

Rotary Vane Compressors Vs. Reciprocating Compressors: The Technology

Fans and filters aside, the core technology of any compressor is the compression system itself. The particular technology any given machine uses to compress air will have the greatest impact on its performance.

Reciprocating compressors use pistons to compress air within cylinders, which is then sent to the pressurized receiving tank for use. Rotary compressors, on the other hand, use rotors, and rotary vane compressors use a single rotor with longitudinal slots and vanes, which slide in and out of the rotor to form compression pockets.

The rotary vane mechanism is simpler, more durable, and more efficient than reciprocating compressors (also called “piston compressors”), and the result is a better machine — one with more uptime, better energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness, higher air quality, and a longer lifespan.

The main advantage that piston-powered compressors purport to offer is “upfront affordability.” But when you factor in lifetime operating, maintenance, and energy costs, it turns out to be more of a money trap than a true advantage. When you purchase a piston compressor, it turns out you’re not really purchasing an asset at all — you’re purchasing a multi-year subscription to a machine whose monthly payment skyrockets over time as its quality plunges. Your razor handle might be cheap, but how much do the blades cost?

Rotary vane compressors, believe it or not, get more energy efficient over time, so your costs decrease as your machine gets better. And they don’t kick the bucket in five or ten years the way reciprocating machines do. So when you list a rotary vane machine on your books as an asset, it’s not just a nominal designation.

So now let’s take a look at the air compressor core four: Uptime, energy efficiency, life expectancy, and air quality — and see just how rotary vane technology earns its advantage.

Energy Efficiency

83% of total air compressor costs are related to energy usage, while the machine itself only amounts to 11% of lifetime costs. You won’t see these expenses on a price tag, but you’ll see them every month on your electricity bill.

That’s why energy efficiency is perhaps the single most important factor to consider when purchasing an air compressor. You want a system that delivers more air for less energy—and that’s exactly what rotary vane machines do. The advanced design of rotary vane compressors creates a near-perfect airtight seal in the rotor stator unit, which enhances volumetric efficiency and reduces the amount of energy required to deliver the air.

Rotary vane compressors can achieve mechanical efficiencies of up to 90% — an impossibility for reciprocating machines. Because reciprocating machines run at higher speeds, they produce more friction, more heat, and more wasted energy. By contrast, rotary vane compressors run slow, with minimal friction, reduced operating temperatures, and greater efficiency.

Uptime (Duty Cycle)

Your air compressor is only useful when it’s compressing air. Unfortunately, no air compressor can run non-stop — every machine requires some downtime. But some require more than others. Piston compressors require downtimes of between 30% and 50% in order to prevent overheating, component wear, oil carbonization and breakdown.

So when you’re choosing a piston compressor, you’ll need to select around twice the amount of cfm your application requires. Rotary vane compressors, on the other hand, can run at 100% of their rated capacity for a full 24 hour workday without experiencing any premature wear or damage.

And since the uptime on rotary vane compressors is so high, you can use a smaller machine. And smaller machines require less energy to run, meaning you’ll save big on your energy bills.

Air Quality

The reliable delivery of high-quality air is a prerequisite when it comes to air compression systems. Rotary vane compressors integrate high-efficiency filtration systems, which ensure that as little as 1-3 ppm of oil carryover enters the air system, preventing equipment damage and product contamination. Traditional piston compressors, on the other hand, often see 25 ppm or more of oil carryover.

Rotary vane compressors are valued for their reliable delivery of high-quality air which keeps everything downstream running better and longer.

Life Expectancy

Rotary vane compressors are built to last. And last they do — much longer than reciprocating compressors. It’s not uncommon for rotary vane machines to exceed their already-impressive designed lifespan of 100,000 hours. And the reasons are clear: low operating speeds, minimal friction, simple engineering, and proprietary airends.

While piston compressors may have the upper hand when it comes to “upfront affordability,” their durability leaves a considerable something to be desired. High operating speeds, tremendous friction, complex engineering, and components built for planned obsolescence mean that piston machines are closer to the end of their lifespan on day 1 than a rotary vane compressor with a decade of hard work behind it.

Rotary Vane Compressors: Built To Last

With self-evident advantages in all areas, rotary vane compressors are just plain better than their reciprocating counterparts. With huge savings to be had in lifetime operating expenses, the initial investment is worth its weight in ROI.

A rotary vane air compressor from Mattei will likely be the last compressor you’ll ever need to buy. Contact Mattei or your distributor today today to learn more about our BLADE Series and our other superior compressed air solutions to reduce your operating expenses, improve your air quality, up your uptime, and make sure the next air compressor you buy is your last.

Topics: Air Compressor, Rotary Vane Compressor, Compressor 101


Additional Resources

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