Reccomendations for Compressed Air lines

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Forum topic by SteveKorz posted 06-28-2010 03:54 PM 14235 views 3 times favorited 36 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2134 posts in 3737 days

06-28-2010 03:54 PM

Topic tags/keywords: compressed air copper pvc question

Hey All-

I am going to install new air lines throughout my shop when I do the interior remodel of it, and I was curious what types of air lines that you all have installed in your shops. I presently have copper line, but I would like to get away from that. The line, over time, has proven to be leaky. Plus, for the amount of line I’m going to run (almost 100’) with lots of fittings, I don’t think it would be very cost effective. I would also like to stay away from compressed or crimp fittings, except for any hoses.

I was thinking about using PVC since it was a little more cost effective and really simple to use. Does anyone know what kind of pressure these lines can hold without rupture? I would love to have a cost effective line that I could run to all my work stations, and through the ceiling rafters for easy access to air all thru the shop without tripping on a line.

Will the diameter of the line make a difference? The line I have now is really small, but the line in a buddy’s shop is much larger. Will this affect pressure or volume?

I’m looking at a MAX pressure of around 130 psi. It’s just for my shop with just me… I won’t have multiple people using it.

As always, thanks in advance…


-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

36 replies so far

View ajosephg's profile


1880 posts in 3584 days

#1 posted 06-28-2010 04:07 PM

Most of your answers are in this thread.

Diameter is important. Air pipe diameter is analogus to water pipe or electrical wire diameter. The greater the demand is, the larger the pipe.

Most likely 3/4 inch black pipe would be the way to go. If your air volume needs are low, and if your shop is small 1/2 inch might be ok, but the cost difference between 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch probably isn’t big – so go larger.

-- Joe

View ClayandNancy's profile


519 posts in 3038 days

#2 posted 06-28-2010 04:08 PM

My shop is plumbed with iron pipe. Plastic won’t cut it, I have seen it burst and throw plastic shards like a grenade. Volume is the key so run 3/4” inch as a main line and then branch off 1/2” to quick couplers. The size of the hose is also important, as a mechanic using 3/8” hose, impact guns ran better. But for a woodshop, air nailers and such, you can use 1/4”.

View Michael Murphy's profile

Michael Murphy

453 posts in 3028 days

#3 posted 06-28-2010 04:16 PM

I have read that you need schedule 80 if you want to run plastic.

Copper would be the easiest to put together and customize, just practice your soldering. Make sure the joints are clean and tight. You should be able to get it done with no leaks.

-- Michael Murphy, Woodland, CA.

View Abbott's profile


2570 posts in 3326 days

#4 posted 06-28-2010 04:17 PM

I know guys that have used PVC for airlines and haven’t had any problems with it for over 10 years. They used the schedule 40 pipe. I have also seen it used in some commercial shops. In my shop I used a heavy red rubber hose that I had left over from running nail guns on job sites. I have run three drops in a 28’X36’ shop. The hose doesn’t do anything for cooling but my 5hp 60 gallon compressor doesn’t operate or push hard enough to where heat/moisture has ever been a problem at my tools. I just drain the tank now and then to empty the moisture.

I usually run at about 110 pounds.

-- Ohh mann...pancakes and boobies...I'll bet that's what Heaven is like! ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

View woodsmithshop's profile


1319 posts in 3568 days

#5 posted 06-28-2010 04:18 PM

your insurance will not cover pvc, also pvc can be very dangerous, when it blows it sends shards of pvc in all directions, according to an engineer I talked to, he said the reason it can be so dangerous is that air can be compressed, so there is greater pressure behind it when it blows, more so than with water. so I think black pipe is the way to go.

-- Smitty!!!

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4322 days

#6 posted 06-28-2010 05:02 PM

Black iron pipe is recommended.

My shop at work, a state agency had black pipe.

It was all 1/2”, some of the lines were 50’, & all of the tools worked fine.

Some guys run a larger size pipe for more storage capacity, if your compressor has a small tank.

You need a Tee, & drip leg, about one foot, with a drain cock at every outlet, in order to get rid of the water.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View mnguy's profile


193 posts in 3421 days

#7 posted 06-28-2010 05:16 PM

My 2 cents

PVC is only suitable for a buried air line – too much risk of shattering if it gets banged by a board, etc.

Black pipe is an excellent choice, but will be expensive and you need a pipe cutter and a threader to install it, or you end up using a ton of couplings and short sections – expensive, a pain, and more potential for leaks.

I agree with posters recommending copper, with a little more attention to good soldering (I’ve done a lot of soldering, and I’m not 100% either :) ) will give you the best bang for your buck.

As for pipe size, I agree that bigger is better, but if you are only running nailers and blowing off your bench, 3/4” is complete overkill. If you are running rotating air tools, 3/4” mains will benefit you.

View bigjoe4265's profile


52 posts in 2955 days

#8 posted 06-28-2010 05:49 PM

Has anyone mentioned PEX? Not sure if it can be used for compressed air, but it has a higher maximum water pressure than copper.


View bigjoe4265's profile


52 posts in 2955 days

#9 posted 06-28-2010 05:53 PM

Don’t know anything about this system, but it looks compelling.


View Ger21's profile


1074 posts in 3154 days

#10 posted 06-28-2010 06:00 PM

There is an ABS pipe made for airlines, called Duraplus. It’s not cheap, though, but it won’t kill you if you drop a hammer on it.

-- Gerry,

View TheWoodsman's profile


65 posts in 2919 days

#11 posted 06-29-2010 02:04 AM

I use the aluminum pipe from Kaeser Compressors. It’s the same as the Transair – - – >

It’s not cheap but it sure is nice, leak free, and easily reconfigured.

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

View FJPetruso's profile


326 posts in 3733 days

#12 posted 06-29-2010 04:27 AM

Most of the automotive & truck shops that I have worked in have twin two stage compressors & use black iron or copper pipe. High CFM tools like 3/4” or 1” impacts or running multiple tools would require 3/4” pipe to the point of use. The easiest to work with & the most efficient was the copper pipe. Main lines like your 100 foot section would be run out of 3/4” HARD COPPER. Drops & water traps with petcocks would be 1/2” HARD COPPER. All joints (except threaded joints) should be SILVER SOLDERED. Leaks would be all but eliminated. A flexible, large diameter section of reinforced rubber hose should be installed between any compressor & the piping to isolate the pipe, no matter which type of pipe you use, from vibration.

My 500 square foot woodshop has only a pancake compressor & a couple of brad nailers at this time so I placed a hose reel that reaches over 40 feet close to where I will need the air the most & am running just a 15 or 20 foot section of 1/2” rubber hose to the hose reel. My garage is completely at the other end of my Ranch style house so it was cheaper & easier to buy a pancake compressor than to run a line all the way to the other end of my house from my 3HP 30 gallon compressor.

-- Frank, Florissant, Missouri "The New Show-Me Woodshop"

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3065 days

#13 posted 06-29-2010 05:15 AM

You can get 1/2 Black iron pipe for about ten bucks for 10 feet at any Lowes or BORG, They come all different sizes so you don’t have to cut and thread. If worse comes to worse just buy regular air line and attach that to the wall.

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2946 days

#14 posted 06-29-2010 02:22 PM

Definitely NO PVC. It’s dangerous for compressed air,even at sch 80.
When I worked for Lowes I had a kid and his buddy come in that was going to run air in their shop. The one guy had been there before and was ok. His buddy was a know it all (about 20 y/o) The guy that was going to buy it was talking to me and I suggested copper or black pipe and was telling him how to put dirt legs in it etc. Well his buddy chimes in and says this pvc is a lot cheaper and it says right here it’s good for 180psi. I tried to tell him that was based on 70 degree ambient temp. and as the temp went up so did the psi and the pipe would not take it.All you had to do was run it in front of a window and you had a bomb. He informed me that I was just trying to sell the more expensive stuff (I could care less,no commission)
I got p.o.’d at that. I told him I had spent 32 years as a pipefitter and 7 years as a high pressure piping inspector for the state so I probably knew a little more than he did. At that I just walked away you can’t reason with an idiot. His buddy came back latter without the other guy and I designed his system for him and figured out all the parts and pieces(black pipe) He was very happy.
FLP has the right idea other than using silver solder. True silver solder(not silfos) is over kill and very expensive. Most people cannot use silversolder as it does not apply like regular solder.Compression fittings like swagelok or parkers when properly installed will hold as much or more than a soldered joint. Most of these fittings(not the el cheapos) are rated higher than the bursting strength of the pipe.

-- Life is good.

View TheWoodNerd's profile


291 posts in 3215 days

#15 posted 06-29-2010 03:56 PM

I’ve used compressed air hoses for many years with complete success. Very flexible, extremely easy to install/modify/expand, and pretty inexpensive. However, remember to leave 10-15% slack when installing because the hose expands slightly under pressure and consequently gets a little bit shorter.

-- The Wood Nerd --

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