What Are The 3 Different Types of Air compressors and Their Uses?

What are the 3 different types of air compressors and their uses?

As with any product, air compressors are not created the same. The best choice would be dependent on its compatibility with the item or job you’re using it for. To help you make an informed purchase decision, we’ve provided the three main types of air compressors along with their appropriate uses.


Types of Air Compressors:

Reciprocating Air Compressors

Reciprocating or piston air compressors are designed for intermittent use which is why it is most applicable for DIY or home jobs, workshops, garages, or light construction work. It operates on positive displacement wherein air pressure increases as its volume is reduced. Air is drawn into its chamber and is compressed by a piston as it cycles down.

Reciprocating air compressors can be classified as single or double-acting depending on how many pistons are in motion. Understandably, single-acting would refer to one piston moving through the cylinder producing compressed air within the range of 70 to 100 psig while double-acting would have two pistons that generate higher air pressures of 100 up to 250 psig.


  • Relatively affordable upfront 
  • Reliable pressure range
  • Easy to use with serviceable parts


  • Noisy with excessive vibration due to many moving, wearable parts
  • High air temperature
  • Needs an air receiver tank


Rotary Screw Air Compressors

Rotary screw air compressors also work through positive displacement, only this time, it makes use of two rotating screws. As soon as it sucks in air through its chamber, the screws, also called rotors consistently spin in opposite directions trapping air in between and compressing it in the process. The rotors differ in shape and are referred to as female and male respectively. 

Rotary screw air compressors are built with an internal cooling system so you don’t have to worry about it overheating. That said, it can be used to produce compressed air of up to 210 psig non-stop over long periods of time even if that means 24/7 or 365 days straight. Plus, with a bigger capacity or intake of air per second, rotary screw compressors are ideal for industrial settings like a factory or warehouse. It can also be utilized in agriculture for automated sprinklers or greenhouse ventilation.


  • Made for continuous cycles
  • Fewer wearable parts so little to no maintenance
  • Smooth and quiet operation


  • More expensive initial cost
  • Routine replacement of oil
  • Long-idle times make it rusty


Centrifugal Air Compressors

Centrifugal air compressors are regarded as turbo types of air compressors since it utilizes dynamic displacement or the transfer of energy. These machines suck air straight into the center of their chambers with radial blades spinning at fast speeds to convert kinetic energy into pressure. In other words, centrifugal air compressors create high-pressure air through a rotating impeller that takes advantage of angular momentum and velocity. The cycle of compression happens in stages where the air is consistently cooled and excess moisture is extracted to ensure efficiency as well as air quality. 

Centrifugal air compressors are commonly designed to have three stages wherein pressures of 100 to 150 psig are achieved. More advanced models can have as many as eight stages with a working pressure of up to 1,200 psig. To maximize and prolong their use, it is highly recommended to keep them running at full capacity over long stretches of time. Centrifugal air compressors are generally suited for refrigeration, air conditioning, and in powering pneumatic tools used in the process of manufacturing goods.



  • The most energy-efficient
  • Great for continuous and long-term use for the upkeep of cooling appliances
  • Oil-free in nature with a wide range of rotational speeds


  • Sensitive to changes in air composition and intake
  • Not made to be portable
  • Motor performance may degrade over time


When purchasing air compressors the first thing you have to consider is what you are using them for. With that in mind, you can determine the best type of air compressor that can get the job done and avoid the common causes of failure. From there you can weigh your options in terms of budget, capacity, and portability. Only then can you think about your preference for an oil-free air compressor over an oil-lubricated variant, or a belt-driven machine instead of a direct-drive one. Also factor in the size of your air compressor in relation to your space.


Where to Buy Air Compressors in Singapore

It would be wise to look for reputable and credible distributors that can provide not only the air compressor but also their serviceable parts. That way, you are ensured maintenance and/ or warranty after the sale.

Lian Beng Machinery Co has established itself as the leading supplier of air compressors in Singapore for both industrial and home use. Apart from carrying a wide variety of air compressors like MonsterAir and their serviceable parts, they also offer other pieces of machinery used in construction.