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What Is a High-Pressure Compressor?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 17, 2024
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A high-pressure compressor is an air compressor that operates at a much higher pressure than a typical compressor. Often using screw-type compressors to achieve a high rate of pressure, the high-pressure compressor is typically more prone to breaking down due to faulty seals, bearings and compressor components. Used primarily in manufacturing and the production of compressed air, such as systems commonly used in self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) diving, the high-pressure compressor is able to push much more air into a small tank than a comparably-sized, low-pressure compressor.

When used in an industrial application, the high-pressure compressor commonly uses several stages to provide the utmost in high-pressure compressed air. This allows several workers to use high-volume air tools without losing air pressure, which could potentially slow production. Along with the higher pressures that the high-pressure compressor provides, it also provides a much greater storage supply of air and does not create the heat associated with a single-stage air compressor. This allows the high-pressure unit to compress more air for less money as compared to a single-stage, low-pressure compressor. This reduction in heat equates to less condensation and water in the air flow.

Less water in the air supply means less repair to air tools due to rust and worn seals, as well as less expense caused by having to install and maintain excessive numbers of water filters in the air supply line. The high-pressure compressor is available in both a vertical or standing style and a horizontal or lying-down style. The vertical compressor does not require as much space as the horizontal, thus a larger air supply can generally be achieved with the vertical model over that of the horizontal style. While capable of providing a greater flow of air to an air tool, the high-pressure type of compressor is not a high-volume design.

High-pressure compressors are able to pump air that is under a great amount of pressure, while high-volume compressors are able to move much more air in the same amount of time as a high-pressure type, albeit at reduced pressures. For a single-air tool, a high-volume compressor will usually provide enough air supply for even the most exhaustive projects, such as operating a sander. For multiple operators using several air tools, the high-pressure compressor will provide the power to operate the tools even when the air supply is severely diminished.

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