Dumb question about compressors and pnuematic tools

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Forum topic by Whiskers posted 01-19-2014 07:33 AM 1305 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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389 posts in 2228 days

01-19-2014 07:33 AM

This may or may not be a silly question, but since I’m new to owning a compressor and pneumatic naiilers I thought I would run it thru you guys. Usually I make a point of shutting off my compressor and popping the escape valve to drain the pressure off the tank, but I wonder if this is absolutely necessary. Obviously turning it off when I am done is a good idea, but does it hurt the compressor or any attached tools if they get left “powered up”? It might be worse popping the escape valve as that might wear that thing out. I’m especially curious since I’m currently running permanent iron pipe lines for the system. As it sits right now, I think it would happily stay pressured up at 90+ pounds for weeks.

If it matters, my compressor is a cheap HF model, it been really good so far, no problems or complaints. It the one they sell for about $110-125 all the time. Think it like 10 gal or something, and it is a oiled compressor, not one of them junk oilless things.

12 replies so far

View Larry's profile


24 posts in 2888 days

#1 posted 01-19-2014 07:48 AM

I see no need to drain the air out, shut the power so it won’t come on if it does leak down. I think your probably right that if you release the pop off on a regular basis it could give you problems. The main thing to do is drain the water off every few days so that your tank doesn’t rust prematurely and check the oil on about the same schedule. You need to consult your owners manuals on the nailers and other tools about oiling them also.

View Whiskers's profile


389 posts in 2228 days

#2 posted 01-19-2014 07:57 AM

Thanks, I do watch the maintenance of things. Based on other posts I have read on the subject I do not necessarily oil the tools every time I use them like the manufacturer recommends, but that cause of the way I use the tools. For instance, over the last week I’ve been using my new framing nailer, but so far I am only on the 3rd stick of nails. Tonight I shot 5 nails total. It still running on it’s original oiling which was pretty heavy. tonight mostly I was working with iron pipe, but there was a little carpentry involved.

View MrUnix's profile


7049 posts in 2400 days

#3 posted 01-19-2014 08:03 AM

I have mine on a dedicated outlet in the garage.. been on 24/7 for at least 10 years now except for when we have power outages. I try to remember to drain the tank once a year, but that rarely happens. I can’t see it hurting anything other than perhaps using a little bit more electricity.


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

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389 posts in 2228 days

#4 posted 01-19-2014 08:12 AM

Thanks, that kind of why i was asking the question, the iron pipe and the nifty HF 50’ hose reel on the end of them probably add a lot of air storage capacity to the system, and that one of the reasons for my question. If everything is air tight, it very likely could save electricity to not have to re-pressurize everything each time.

View hydro's profile


208 posts in 1953 days

#5 posted 01-19-2014 06:28 PM

You do not need to turn it off and drain it. Just flip the valve between the tank and the pipe system in case something should open up when you are not there. That will keep the compressor from running until it burns out.

Also, Iron pipe is just an all around bad idea. It begins to rust immediately after installation and the fittings are very prone to leakage. If you insist on Iron pipe, install a water trap and particle filter at each outlet to try and catch most of the crud before it grinds through you tool motors. Also do not use PVC it tends to break and will shatter under pressure and you do not want to be nearby when that happens. PVC is illegal to use in commercial applications for that reason.

-- Minnesota Woodworkers Guild, Past President, Lifetime member.

View nailbanger2's profile


1041 posts in 3345 days

#6 posted 01-19-2014 06:41 PM

With all of the opinions going to the leave it on side, I’ll speak for the drain it everyday populace. I have always been taught to do this. I have seen the sludge that comes out of a hard used compressor, even when it has been drained consistently. You WILL have condensation build up in the compressor. I don’t think anyone can argue this, can they? When you have water inside a closed steel can, rust develops, no? If these two things are indeed fact (if there is something I’m missing, please correct), then the only reason I can see to NOT drain by opening the drain in the bottom of the tank is laziness. The worst case scenario is a ruptured tank, and one LJ member started a forum about his exploding compressor. Do as you wish, I know you will anyway, but I will continue to drain mine every time I use it.

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

View hydro's profile


208 posts in 1953 days

#7 posted 01-19-2014 07:34 PM


If you read through the OP, it states that the pop off valve is pulled to vent the pressure off of the tank. Since the pop off valve is on top of the tank, it does not drain liquid. I agree that the drain valve ON THE BOTTOM of the tank should be opened regularly to drain off any liquid that accumulates.

I do not agree that the pressure should be bled off each day. That just wastes energy and money compressing a whole tank full of air at each use.

-- Minnesota Woodworkers Guild, Past President, Lifetime member.

View willie's profile


534 posts in 2656 days

#8 posted 01-19-2014 09:07 PM

My dad used to sell and service air compressors. He had a car dealer insist he sell him new compressors and take away the junk compressors, 2 V-twin 80 gallon tanks, that the last guy sold him 2 years ago because they were constantly going off and on. We tried to explain to him that it was an easy fix but he wanted new ones. He got them, and we took the old ones back to the shop and drained about 70 gallons of water out of each one. Cleaned them up a little and sold them both for all profit. Number one rule. DRAIN THE TANK DAILY!! The less the compressor has to run, the longer it will last and you won’t have problems with water damage to air tools or projects. Check your oil too!

-- Every day above ground is a good day!!!

View AandCstyle's profile


3179 posts in 2458 days

#9 posted 01-20-2014 01:49 AM

I follow Hydro’s suggestion: close the valve at the tank and drain the tank at the end of each day, but do not empty the tank completely. However, I have about 40 feet of black pipe coming out of the tank as a heat sink. This goes into a drop that has a desiccant and filter attached. I live in the desert and get water out of the tank every time I drain it.

-- Art

View lndfilwiz's profile


108 posts in 1802 days

#10 posted 01-20-2014 03:35 PM

I have an HF 80 gallon 5 HP compressor. There is a petcock on the bottom that I leave cracked open so any moisture will drain off. I use it infrequently and was concerned that moisture would build up while the compressor was not being used. I also change the oil in the compressor every 2 years and have had the compressor since 1999 without any problems. I did change the belts this year as a precautionary measure.

-- Smile, it makes people wander what you are up to.

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Lee Barker

2170 posts in 3052 days

#11 posted 01-20-2014 04:35 PM

An auxiliary storage tank can extend the life of your compressor.

If you’re wanting to drain frequently, my suggestion is that you replumb the petcock so it’s easy to get to. That makes it much less of an “event” to open it. You could even have a dedicated pair of pliers parked there.

I have an early model of the HF hose reel in my system, and it has always leaked audibly. I have a ball valve on it so I can isolate it, which is most of the time. It’s function is to allow a hose to be unreeled outside to blow off casework before it gets loaded.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Grandpa's profile


3261 posts in 2877 days

#12 posted 01-20-2014 06:32 PM

Drain the tank often. I had a tank rust through. Time to unplug that one. The tank would cost more than I paid for the compressor new. There are devices that drain the tank of moisture automatically. Don’t know how well they work but I plan to investigate one of those soon.

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