Regardless of the size of your shop, a piped network of compressed air in your workshop has several benefits. It is advisable to install a custom-made system with hose connections at the points where you need them. This is better than winding a single long air hose around some obstacles all the while being cautious not to trip over it. If you have a custom-installed system, you can install shorter air hoses along with the required tools at each workstation.
Choose a plan
The first step towards installing your customised air hose system is to choose a plan of action or strategy. Be clear on your goal – what do you wish to achieve with the system? Do you use the hose just to blow off the dust on a tool used occasionally? Or do you spray finish? Would you use other pneumatic tools such as impact wrenches or sanders?
You need to answer these questions carefully as all these requirements need different airflow volumes. So, you must choose an air compressor that can supply the required cubic feet per minute (cfm) for each of the tools you use. You must also pay attention to the tank size of the compressor so that it doesn’t have to pump constantly.
Prepare the layout
Once you have the strategy in place, the next step is to prepare the layout. Mark the location so the compressor and hose connections. You can even place the compressor in another room or a closet to reduce the noise. However, make sure that the compressor location has adequate ventilation as it requires fresh air intake. Place the hose connection stations at spots where you’ll use them the most. Also, for spray finish, you should install the connection adjacent to an exhaust fan or overhead door.
It is better to use short, flexible air hoses to connect the compressor to the pipe system as it allows you to disconnect and transport the compressor elsewhere if required. The hoses isolate and block the compressor vibration thereby preventing it from reaching the pipe network. A filter will keep impurities away and the lines clean.
Choose the pipe
You can choose from a wide range of options such as steel, copper, or aluminium for pipes. Oftentimes, even semi-flexible rubber tubing approved for high pressure is used. All materials have their own advantages and disadvantages. The installation process also differs. Never use PVC pipe, or similar plumbing fittings for compressed air as they are not rated for high pressure and might explode or break under pressure.
Once you choose the pipe, you’ll need several fixtures to outfit the system. You’ll need tees and elbows to turn, add or branch off other fixtures. Wall-mounted stand-off brackets hold the pipe securely, often ensuring enough spacing between the pipe and wall to attach fixtures and for safe soldering.
Likewise, you’ll need valves for turning on or off the air pressure at various points along the network.
A typical hose-connection drop has a pipe with a valve, regulator, and quick-connect fitting. A drip leg keeps off the moisture from the hose.
A complete compression system needs a pressure regulator at each drop. This allows you to control the air pressure at each hose separately. You don’t have to change the setting of the compressor. While you can add inline filters at each drop, it is unnecessary if you have one at the mainline near the compressor.
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