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Compressed air in the shop

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Forum topic by Jeff_F posted 06-27-2010 11:46 PM 5178 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Jeff_F

36 posts in 2618 days


06-27-2010 11:46 PM

Does anyone have any experience with using schedule 40 PVC for compressed air lines in the shop? I’ve got a pile of copper tubing laying on my floor that is collecting dust and I keep tripping over that I bought many many months ago to use for adding compressed air to the shop. I started to cut and solder it together but then projects started and….. you get the picture. I am not a real big user of compressed air…mostly for my orbital sander, right-angle sander for my lathe work and blowing dust off stuff. I don’t do a lot of finish spraying since I’m fortunate enough to be able to do most of that at a friend’s shop.

I know that copper will help reduce the moisture issue but I was planning on putting drain valves and filters at each of the drops anyway.

So, I figure schedule 40 PVC would be a lot easier to run. I’ve even thought about just using compressed air tubing and splice in connectors but I think the schedule 40 would be better overall.

What do you all think?
Thanks,
Jeff

-- Jeff, www.jeffswooddesigns.com


25 replies so far

View ajosephg's profile

ajosephg

1878 posts in 3027 days


#1 posted 06-28-2010 12:07 AM

A quick search of the web shows that PVC is not recommended for compressed air. The short story is that over time it can become brittle, and if it fails it can explode showering the area with sharp fragments.

Metal pipe can also fail, but the result will be a leak – not sharpnel.

Copper is ok – but big $$

-- Joe

View Gregn's profile

Gregn

1642 posts in 2450 days


#2 posted 06-28-2010 12:21 AM

With Joe all the way on this one.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View charlie48's profile

charlie48

248 posts in 2636 days


#3 posted 06-28-2010 01:17 AM

I’m also with Joe. Please don’t use the PVC, I think it’s trouble,use the copper,ya it’s time ‘but time well spent.

-- Charlie............Only time will tell if it was time well spent.

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TheWoodsman

65 posts in 2363 days


#4 posted 06-28-2010 01:50 AM

Though I know of plenty of places, even small businesses, that use it . . . it most certainly is not recommended. If it ever gets bumped or exposed to much UV (like along a window) it will shatter. My uncle had a piece explode in his small shop and he had PVC shrapnel all over the place. Good thing he wasn’t in there at the time.

-- I'm the Woodsman . . . the four-wheelin', tree-farmin', custom-furniture-makin' descendant of Olaf "The Woodcutter" Ingjaldsson.

View Tim_456's profile

Tim_456

170 posts in 3062 days


#5 posted 06-28-2010 05:07 AM

i started down the copper road a few years ago and found that while it was a great solution and such, it was far cheaper AND easier to buy a 50ft air hose from harbor freight (one of the few things I’ll buy from there) and I ran that and used pipe hangers and other pipe clips and such and ran that to a filter and regulator. My compressor is in the garage and the work shop is in the basement. I have one central “tap” in the basement and then have a longer hose that I use down there. Took about an hour to run it and such and I added a few valves in to along the way but it cost me about $50 rather than ALOT for copper plus it was quick AND easy. Just my two cents on how to get the job done without turning it into a project in itself. It allowed me to be less of a plumber and back to more of a woodworker;)

Hope that helps

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DAWG

2850 posts in 2603 days


#6 posted 06-28-2010 05:31 AM

I agree totally the PVC is a bad choice for air. PVC like many products is great when used for what it’s designed for, but horrible when used for something totally different than it’s intended use. Run the cooper or use air hose if your wanting something quick. Good Luck and I’m glad you asked this question.

-- Luke 23: 42-43

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Jeff_F

36 posts in 2618 days


#7 posted 06-28-2010 05:43 AM

Thanks for the insights! If I go the air hose route (like Tim_456) and string some around the shop can it be cut and used with various connectors, eg T-connectors? Would you use brass connectors with clamps?

-- Jeff, www.jeffswooddesigns.com

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Tim_456

170 posts in 3062 days


#8 posted 06-28-2010 05:50 AM

Hey Jeff,
I didn’t cut the hose, I just looped the extra up in the ceiling and then tapped into some brass fittings, a “T” and a valve and some other things. Even then you can tap into copper if you want but you wont’ have miles of run and such. The brass fitting aisle at Lowes is like mix and matching legos to peice what you need;)

View ajosephg's profile

ajosephg

1878 posts in 3027 days


#9 posted 06-28-2010 05:58 AM

The down-side of using air hose as you mentioned is the loss of pressure compared with 1/2 or 3/4 inch pipe. If your shop is small and you aren’t using any equipment that uses much air you can probably get by with it. If you go this route I’d use 3/8 inch hose as opposed to 1/4 inch.

I have a small shop (30 feet long) and use a 50 foot 3/8 inch air hose mainly for blowing stuff off and a pneumatic 18ga. brad driver. I think it will work ok for a future HVLP spray gun. It lays on the floor until I get tired of stepping on or over it and then I coil it up until the next time I use it (LOL).

-- Joe

View Gofor's profile

Gofor

470 posts in 3253 days


#10 posted 06-30-2010 02:46 AM

Please do not use PVC (even schedule 80) for compressed air. The heat of the air out of the compressor will make it brittle. The oil in the air will cause the joints to give way. Use iron pipe or flexible reinforced hose. If it is a stationary compressor, use a flex pipe to hook the piping to the compressor. This will prevent the compressor vibration from breaking the rigid piping at the first or second joint, and allows you to more easily remove the compressor for maintenance/repair.

If you go with the flexible hose, run 1/2” ID for the main runs so that it does not reduce the volume of air at the working location.

Go

-- Go http://ncwoodworker.net/pp/showgallery.php?cat=500&ppuser=730

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

115202 posts in 3043 days


#11 posted 06-30-2010 02:55 AM

I’m going against the grain here but I’ve used PVC for 20 years without problems. Do I recommend it?
No . Why because the other posters concerns are real and correct. It has to do with how well you prepare your pvc before gluing ,the type of glue used, what exposure you will have to the pvc if it fails. I took all this under consideration before using it.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View Jeff_F's profile

Jeff_F

36 posts in 2618 days


#12 posted 06-30-2010 03:25 AM

I appreciate all the advice. I think I will shy away from PVC for a variety of the reasons mentioned. I’ve been searching for alternatives and it appears a number of people have used a product called RapidAir. It is a nylon tubing product with fitted connectors. If you do a search for RapidAir on Harbor Freight they show a product that is either repackaged under their ‘brand name’ or it is a very close knock-off. Anyone have any experience with this product? Here is the link:

http://www.harborfreight.com/complete-garage-air-kit-66747.html

thanks,
jeff

-- Jeff, www.jeffswooddesigns.com

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a1Jim

115202 posts in 3043 days


#13 posted 06-30-2010 03:46 AM

Looks like pec’s plumbing. interesting.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View BTKS's profile

BTKS

1984 posts in 2931 days


#14 posted 06-30-2010 05:31 AM

I have used the RapidAir starter kit with a couple of added fittings for my shop. I love the stuff and just reconfigured my shop when I put the compressor in the overhead loft space. You can unplug the tubing from the fittings, re-cut and rearrange as you like or as your needs change.
Norther Industrial has the starter kit for a little over $100.00 if I remember right. The extra fittings are a little pricey but they are reusable. Most 90 degree elbows can be skipped with a gentle radius to the bend. The air drops and manifold are very flexible. Each drop comes with a bleeder valve to let out water and debris. The drops can be surface or recess mounted. The last drop I added, I have a connection on the front and a rigid pipe extension out the back putting a drop in my finishing room with an extra drier added there.
I love the system. The tubing is a little stiff if it’s cold. Manufacture recommends laying in the sun for awhile.
There was a concern about 150 max psi. Most air tanks and fittings are only rated for 150 psi. The tubing is cheap to replace, about 45 or 50 dollars for a roll of 100 feet.
I considered doing a review on this, guess I just did.
Hope this helps, specific questions don’t hesitate to PM.
BTKS
P.S. I agree about NOT using PVC for air.

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

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BTKS

1984 posts in 2931 days


#15 posted 06-30-2010 05:59 AM

I’ll bet it would be in excess of 300 psi just because the printed max rating is 150psi. Just a guess, I don’t have a compressor tough enough to push that kind of pressure. BTKS

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

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