Reciprocating Compressor vs Screw Compressor

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Compressed air has become a vital utility in the day-to-day operations of most companies. Businesses are well aware of the need for compressors, but there is considerable debate as to which of the two most popular types — Reciprocating Compressor vs Screw Compressor — works best in an application.

It is important to look at the similarities and differences between them to select the best one. Compressors are used with a wide range of gases, but air compression is the largest application. Stationary rotary screw compressors account for about 40% of the air market, while reciprocating compressors have 21% of market share by dollars.Reciprocating compressors are applied in many diverse applications. The era of using reciprocating compressors in standard 100-150 psig air applications is rapidly fading.

However, improvements in reciprocating compressor technology, requirements for higher gas-pressure applications, and needs for equipment that operates in severe duty ambient environments allow the reciprocating compressor to remain a viable and sensible choice for many applications.

When it comes to maintenance costs, rotary screw compressors have an advantage over reciprocating. Valves, piston rings, and other consumables on reciprocating compressor need expensive routine maintenance. Rotary screw compressor maintenance is limited mostly to oil, oil filter, and air/oil separator changes.

  • Rotary screw compressors are used extensively in applications above 30 hp and for air up to 150 psig.
  • Reciprocating compressors cover low horsepower and demanding applications where reliability is essential.
  • Oil-free or oilless compressors cost more to buy and maintain.



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