IndustryNet Blog

Is It Time To Consider An Oil-Free Air Compressor?

Posted by Don Layyous from Pye-Barker Engineered Solutions on Monday, April 15, 2019

How To Slash Your Operating Costs, Boost Your Uptime And Sanity:
Is It Time To Consider An Oil Free Air Compressor?

100000369_air_compressor_shopfloor_plantworkerOil free air compressors are relatively new on the market, because of their higher price point they’ve earned a reputation that they should only be used in niche situations where ISO class 0 air (defined by the end user AND less than .01 MG/M3) is required.

As the market has matured and the technology has matured, the savings of switching from oil-flooded to oil free compressors are becoming viable in more and more applications.

Inside the compressor is a lubricant and it is vital to the function of the compressor. Once lubricating oil go through the compressor, it becomes a contaminant.

At a rate of just 2ppm carryover, an oil-flooded 100hp compressor operating for 8000 hrs (a typical annual run time in many plants) will introduce over 4 gallons of lubricant into the compressed air system.

Huge amounts of time and resources are expended removing the oil from the compressed air to minimize the damage the oil does to the piping system, the end use devices and the end-product.

Which prompts the logical question: Why contaminate your compressed air, if you don’t have to?

The expansion in the range of oil free air compressors makes this question possible. However, the market as a whole didn’t leap to embrace oil free technology, in part because of the perceived high price and the inertia of ‘sticking to what you know.’

Many plants didn’t do due diligence about how switching to oil free air could help them decrease total cost of ownership and improve up-time and reliability.

When you compare oil free to oil-flooded air compressors a number of issues come up for oil-flooded air compressors:

Oil Contamination Of Your Compressed Air.

Genuinely oil-free air compressors don’t have any oil in the machine. When this is the case there is ZERO chance that oil can contaminate the system, end use tools or the end product.

These are ISO class 0 compressors. While a manufacturer can make claims about their compressor being virtually oil free, then it won’t meet the ISO class 0. When we talk about oil-free compressors we are talking about air compressors that meet the ISO class 0 specification.

When there is oil in the compressor it means that there is a risk of oil contamination and damage to the rest of the compressed air system – the piping, the drying system (replacing oily desiccant can be expensive) any end use equipment and in some cases the contamination of the end-product.

Additional Requirements For Correct System Design.

When you need to filter oil contamination out of your compressed air, equipment such as filters and oil separators need to be installed. They have both a capital cost and an operating cost as part of keeping your air to specification.

Failure to do so will see your piping, end use tools and even end products contaminated, or damaged and the waste and repair costs add up.

High Energy Consumption.

The pressure drops associated with filtration mean that an oil flooded air compressor will have to work harder to meet a target output. This extra work translates into higher energy costs.

It’s worth remembering that up to 70% of the total cost of ownership of an air compressor is the energy consumption. This cost is never obvious at the time of purchase but the costs add up over the life of the compressor.

Higher Maintenance CostsIngersollRand_R-series-R110

Oil flooded compressors require a lot of maintenance. Every 40,000 hours or so (6 years of 24/7 operation) the air end will need to be replaced which can cost upwards of $50,000 or requires a whole new compressor.

In the meantime oil-flooded compressors suffer from wear and tear. Contacting parts wear down, the air end coating wears off.

It requires the compressor to work harder and harder in order to maintain its output. This is seen in higher and higher energy costs to get the same performance.

High Noise Levels

Market leading rotary screw compressors clock in at 75dB. Many people find that this volume starts to become annoying. It’s tolerable in short bursts but continuous noise at 75dB becomes annoying.

It won’t necessarily damage your ears but it is hard to carry out a conversation with 75dB noises in the background.

Reciprocating compressors tend to clock in at 81dB. About the same noise level as a garbage disposal unit. 80dB is actually twice as loud as 70dB. Eight hours of exposure to 80dBs can damage ear drums – ear protection is a must in these situations.

With all the focus on worker safety these days, any investment in noise reduction can be seen as a good investment.

In many cases, where oil free air would be beneficial but not essential, plants have chosen to install filtration systems to meet their ISO specification and just put up with the many draw backs of oil flooded air compressors.

This decision is only logical when comparing the price tag of an oil free and an oil flooded compressor. When total cost of ownership is factored in then the oil free compressor is the smarter investment every time.

Why Choose Quantima Oil Free Air Compressors

Pye-Barker are the exclusive distributors of Gardener Denver air compressors in the state of Georgia. Gardener Denver’s Quantima range of oil-less air compressors.

Here is how switching to a Quantima Oil Free Compressor will help your plant:

No Oil Contamination To The Rest Of The System.

When there is no oil in the compressor it can’t get into the air leaving the compressor which means it can’t contaminate the pipes, the end use equipment or the end product. Think about it – breathing air that is totally oil free. Oil free air for spray painting, in food and beverage, medical and pharmaceutical applications where contamination is unacceptable, oil free compressors offer a way to systematically remove an entire risk from the production line.

In machine shops and other places where oil damage to tools is accepted, the life of tools and end use equipment will increase when the air running them is oil free. The longer life of tools and equipment could be a significant saving in many cases.

A Simpler Compressed Air System To Install

There is no need to install an oil extraction and filtration as part of the installation of a Quantima air compressor. This results in savings on oil purchases, filters, coolers, regulators and disposal fees. Going oil free cuts a lot of maintenance time and operational costs out of your compressed air system as well as requiring less capital purchases.

Lower Operating Costs.

With only one moving part and no mechanical contact the Quantima compressor has much lower maintenance costs. There is almost no wear and tear on the machine. Coupled with the unit’s inbuilt monitoring system which allows performance to be monitored remotely – either by your control room or by Pye-Barker, any performance or maintenance issues can be identified quickly and resolved.

The reduced wear and tear keeps power costs the same over the life of the compressor. While oil-flooded compressors see their energy costs go up to produce the same volume of compressed air over time, the Quantima range of compressors keeps the same high efficiency because there are no moving parts.

Compared to other oil free compressors, the Quantima consumes 25% less power, which will cut 17.5% off the total cost of ownership.

They Are Quieter

Quantima compressors run at about 69 dB – one of the quietest compressors on the market. A virtue of their design is they are vibration free and the enclosure panels are sound-insulating to help keep noise levels low. By being below the 70db threshold, Quantima compressors eliminate the need for a separate compressor saving money on installation and allowing greater flexibility for the location.

How Does The Quantima Compressor Work?layyous_graph

Quantima oil free air compressors are actually part of a less well known class of air-compressor called an oil-less air compressor. They have no oil anywhere inside the machine and so will automatically be ISO class 0.

All Quantima air compressors have a high speed electric motor and magnetic bearings. A 2 stage centrifugal compressor is the only moving part and it has no mechanical contact – the magnetic bearings suspend the impeller while the motor is running.

Quantima represents a massive simplification in air compressor compared to standard rotary screw compressors. It is about half the physical size and about half the weight of an equivalent output rotary screw compressor. Fewer moving parts means greater reliability. Easier servicing resulting in the peace of mind of reliably on demand compressed air.

What Sets The Quantima Apart From Other Oil Free Air Compressors?

• Delivers ISO Class 0 compressed air. Genuinely oil free because there is no oil in the compressor

• The Quantima system is 100% silicone free which is a specification criteria for certain applications such as spray painting in the automotive industry.

• 25% Lower energy consumption over other oil free air compressors

• Up to 25% lower energy consumption oil free air compressors on the market

• No performance coatings to ware off over the life of the compressor – no risk of having to replace the air end. No degradation means same energy efficiency now and after 40,000 hours of operation

• 25% smaller than comparable output rotary screw compressors

• Runs at only 69dB

• One of the lowest total costs of ownership for any class of compressor, which makes it worth evaluating even in situations where oil free air isn’t essential

About Pye-Barker’s CAS Consulting, Supplying, Installation And Maintenance.

Pye-Barker can advise you on the design, specification, as well as provide all the parts for your oil free compressed system. Pye-Barker can also install them and maintain your compressed air system for you. With over 150 years of engineering experience across every part of the compressed air industry. On one client site we oversee the production of 7,300 CFM of compressed air and we work with clients running a single small compressor.

Because of our extensive client base and product range, we’ve already worked out how to get all of our sub-systems integrated with the different compressors we supply. Something that not all design firms appreciate or are on top of.

What To Do Next?

If you are considering building a new compressed air system, upgrading an existing one or looking to expand your compressed air system, we help you evaluate if going oil free is the right option for you right now. The first step to getting the right performance is a no-cost, no-obligation “Design Needs Assessment.”

To schedule your “Design Needs Assessment” call 404-363-6000, send an email to or go to

This post was brought to you by Pye-Barker Engineered Solutions in partnership with IndustryNet.

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Related Companies: Pye-Barker Engineered Solutions
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