work area setup #1: running air compressor with pvc

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Blog entry by jimofalltrades posted 10-29-2010 08:48 PM 2123 reads 1 time favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of work area setup series no next part

I came to this site cuz i did a google about this topic.

I have a med sized air compressor that is technically portable. It came with wheels and a bar to carry it with. I have since put it up in the air. I had to do this because of floods and it did get flooded in the past, i have drained it and my dad got it to pressurize again after using some oil to make it work again. It is an oilless compressor. I have used half in sch 40 pvc its rated at 600 psi. the dials on my compressor dont go above 300 psi. I dont see how this should be a problem but i have seen repeated postings that it can shatter sending shards out like shrapnel. One of these postings said that they used pvc that was rated at 100 psi. If you ask me he might as well been using paper. Very few of these postings gave me details as to the type of pvc used and the psi for it. I did read one posting from a guy on here that 80% of the wood shops in the country use pvc. Im trying to be as rational as possible with this project god knows i dont want this pvc blowing on me least of all with me in the basement. From what i have read i will need to replace the outside fitting with something that can handle the temp variations.

Any input would be appreciated.

8 comments so far

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3359 days

#1 posted 10-29-2010 11:06 PM

I have sch 40 half inch pvc pipe in my shop now for nearly 3 years and it works fine. It is rated at 600 psi and I had the same type of pvc pipe in my old shop for well over 15 years with no problems whatsoever. My compressor is a 30 gallon 125 psi oil filled Ridgid. This is less than 25% psi load for the rating of the pipe.
If I were using a much larger compressor with a higher psi rating I might consider a different pipe…but for my experience and 20 years total of having no problems, it works for me.

View Devon's profile


1 post in 3660 days

#2 posted 10-29-2010 11:09 PM

I’ve often bumped walls and ceiling when moving long boards. Give how brittle PVC is, my concern would be what happens when you bump the pressurized PVC pipe?

A google turned up this article. It looks like PVC is frowned on for compressed air and HDPE is preferred.

View jimofalltrades's profile


9 posts in 2817 days

#3 posted 10-30-2010 12:57 AM

Well the majority of the run is next to the pvc pipe for the furnace vent so possibility of getting bumped there should be low. When is it brittle the first 40 ft that i got i had fairly bent in the car to get it home. Found out the hard way that the back seats didn’t fold down. Can i contort it to get around stuff like the venting and building structure.

I read that the compressor can put out hot air and this can cause issues at the start of the run nearest the compressor. I had already planned to put a hose at the start to allow the compressor to move. Is there more that I can do. I also read that pvc doesn’t deal with low temps that well as this is in my basement, will i want to insulate it further down the run to help with this.

How tightly do i need to pin it to the joists at first i was just going to let it hang with the pipe for the furnace but now i know i need to secure it down. Some of it i have very secure.

View jimofalltrades's profile


9 posts in 2817 days

#4 posted 10-30-2010 01:08 AM

As far as the articles i have read a number but finding definitive answers like i used pvc and it broke but it was only rated at 100 psi with a 800psi compressor my bad i was not able to find.

Greg on the other hand is using the exact same pipe and a similar sized compressor, and done it for 20 yrs. This makes me feel much better. To me the issues that have happened with pvc seems to be lack of common sense. I did read where guys had them in what sounded like automotive shops now they should have a serious air compressor that’s really kicking out the psi they don’t raise your car with magic dust. So then they should be using something that can handle it.

View PCTNWV's profile


99 posts in 2855 days

#5 posted 10-30-2010 02:57 AM

I used a system in my shop from a company called Rapid Air. It uses flexible piping, compression style fittings and machined blocks for termination points. It is only certified for 150 PSI but since most of the tools in my shop are rated for less than that (max PSI) I have yet to find a need for anything greater. It is a GREAT system and very easy to install. Not the cheapest thing in the world but it may give you some ideas. The best I can determine the piping is a form of PEX (used in plumbing).

Good luck and enjoy

-- Troy, Virginia

View jimofalltrades's profile


9 posts in 2817 days

#6 posted 10-30-2010 04:16 AM

when i was first thinking of setting this up i thought of pex and said i wished it didn’t have the upfront cost unfortunately i cant find my camera at the moment so no pics till i find it.

View dlmckirdy's profile


199 posts in 3184 days

#7 posted 10-30-2010 10:27 AM

I was getting ready to dispute Greg the WhoDat’s claim that his sch 40 PVC system is rated at 400 PSI. I thought that I had better check my data first, and realized that 1/2” sch 40 solvent weld pipe and fittings are rated at 600 PSI at 73 deg f (the rating goes down as the size increases, but is still at 450PSI for 1” pipe). So, Greg, technically you probably are wrong – on the conservative side! Most air tools are not made to operate above 105 PSI without blowing the trigger seals. Your air storage tank may get up to 150 PSI normally, but you should keep the outlet pressure down to about 100 PSI or less (operate your tools at the minimum pressure they will properly perform at for the optimum life of the tools). If you want to operate your supply system at the higher pressures, you should have a pressure regulator at each outlet (not cost effective).

jimofalltrades, if you are worried about the pipe getting brittle at lower temps, or being broken by innadvertant impact, start by installing your system as you had planned, but with a 1/2” clearance all around. As you can afford the cost and the time, install the foam insulation (available where you get your pipe) around the pipe. I would think that you could use metal piping for no more than 2 feet from the compressor’s storage tank to compensate for the compression heated air. Unless the compressor is running for an extended period of time, the air in the tank won’t get nearly as hot as the maximum temperature rating of the PVC pipe.

-- Doug, Bakersfield, CA - I measured twice, cut it twice, and it is still too short!

View jimofalltrades's profile


9 posts in 2817 days

#8 posted 12-07-2010 07:30 AM

Well I got most of the system setup. I put in some valves in so I could use part of it without having the whole thing setup also limit the wear and tear on the system. Right now the biggest problem seems to be the air hose that i have on the outside seems to leak at the connection. It actually leaks at both ends of the hose when I connected a tool to it, it quit leaking, from the coupler but still leaks where I connected the hose. From what i can tell its the hose that leaks.

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