Oil vs oil-free air compressors: what’s the difference?

Air compressor product

Air compression is essential in several industries, including the pharmaceutical, automotive, food and beverage, and agricultural sectors.

There are several air compressor variations; for instance, some handle heavy-duty applications better than others.

However, you can typically place air compressors into two overarching categories: oil-lubricated compressors and oil-free compressors.

Mechanical differences

The basic mechanics of oil and oil-free air compressors are similar – air is drawn in and compressed, with a vacuum pushing the compressed air out of the internal chamber and into its storage tank.

For this process to work, the air compressor pump – which draws in the air – requires adequate lubrication to move without resistance. As the name suggests, oil air compressors use oil for lubrication, whereas oil-free systems have parts that are pre-coated in friction-reducing chemicals for permanent lubrication.

Man checking the air compressor

Usage and maintenance

As you would expect, oil air compressors require more maintenance to ensure they are working optimally. Just like a car needs oil changes to keep running smoothly, oil air compressors require the same maintenance. How often you’ll need to change the oil will depend on the model of the air compressor.

While you won’t need to complete this type of maintenance for oil-free compressors, the lubricant coating can tend to wear out and leave the system without adequate lubrication. Oil-free air compressors also tend to become hotter than oil-lubricated systems as there is no oil to cool the components. This generally means that oil-free compressors do not last as long as their oil-based counterparts.

Oil-lubricated air compressors also tend to weigh significantly more than oil-free compressors as they have more complicated designs and more parts.

Is there really a difference in noise levels?

Traditionally, oil-free air compressors tended to produce more noise than oil-based systems because they have less lubrication. However, modern designs with sound-reducing technology have dramatically reduced the noise levels of oil-free air compressors.

If noise output is an important factor in your purchasing decision and you are seeking an oil-free system, Pilot Air has a range of oil-free, silent air compressors.

Extensive product range

Whether you are after an oil-lubricated air compressor, or oil-free, Pilot Air’s extensive offering of Australian air compressors offers a solution for all your needs, no matter the industry.

Our product range and large stock levels, combined with our comprehensive spare parts inventory, ensure we maintain your compressed air system’s reliability and efficiency while reducing whole-of-life operating costs.

Learn more about our compressed air systems.

Air Compressor Products

From air compressors through to compressed air storage, treatment and distribution, our extensive range of compressed air products ensures we have the right solution for your business needs, no matter the industry or application. We also offer custom-built packages and compressed air systems that are fit for purpose and tailored to your budget.

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