Everything you need to know about how to quiet an air compressor
Before we go into how to quiet an air compressor, there is a few things to keep in mind. Air compressors compress atmospheric air to make power tools run. They are convenient, comparatively easy to use, and portable. Almost every household owns an air compressor apart from commercial units and business establishments. They come in different sizes, types and price ranges.
As much as they are handy, all is not roses and peaches about them. For one, they are notorious for producing a loud noise.
To have a better understanding, a normal human conversation is about 60 dB. A typical air compressor sound ranges from 70 dB to 90 dB. Human ear exposed to extended periods of noise above 80 dB can cause permanent auditory damage.
Before we try to find solutions for the noise levels, it is necessary to understand why air compressors are loud.
Reasons why air compressors produce such loud noise are:
Compressors have a lot of parts that move in the process of compressing air undergo tremendous friction. The constant rubbing motion produces noise. This is especially true for reciprocating compressors. On the other hand, rotary or screw compressors have less moving parts and are less noisy.
Compact compressors are also noisier than the larger ones. It is because the piston inside it has to move at a high RPM to produce the required pressure.
2. Air intake
By principle, air compressors take in atmospheric air to convert it to compressed air. It involves sucking in the air which is one of the primary sources of loud noises in a compressor.
The exhaust pipe gets rid of all the byproducts of the compressed air. The process is done under pressure which results in the production of noise. It is the second loudest component right after intake.
Vibrations usually do not produce deafening noise. However, the constant buzzing can be a nuisance. The vibrations can be magnified if the compressor unit contains hollow components. A stand or a support that is not sturdy will also compound the vibrational noise.
5. Materials and components
Air compressors made of good quality materials that are dense will produce less noise. However, a unit that is made with thin components will result in a hollow interior. It will make the sounds louder.
6. Source of power
Air compressors that are run by electricity typically do not produce unbearable noises. On the other hand, a compressor that runs on gas produces considerably louder sounds.
7. A loose casing or other parts
One of the main non-technical reasons why a compressor gets loud overtime is a loose casing or other body parts. Air compressors undergo a lot of stress and strain while being used. Over some time, the constant shaking and vibrations can loosen the parts. It will make the sounds more compounded.
8. Placement of the compressor
Air compressors need a lot of ventilation. If they are placed where there are other machines around it or in a confined area, be sure to expect some increase in the level of noise. The limited amount of space will likely produce echo which is not ideal.
Compressors that are placed on top of metal components will also generate more noise due to vibrations.
9. The type of the compressor
The type of machine also determines the level of noise generated by the compressor. The reciprocating compressors produce the loudest sound at around 80 to 85 dB which is pretty loud. The dual piston pumps in the reciprocating compressor are the primary defaulter for the noise production.
On the other hand, compressors with rotary screws are quieter and produce sounds in the range of 70 to 75 dB. It is because they have soundproof designs
incorporated in the enclosures of the compressor. The rotors also move only in one direction which decelerates the noise levels.
How to Quiet an Air Compressor.
Irrespective of their make, type, placement and condition, air compressors are not discreet. They will produce some level of sound as their very nature demands it. However, you know you have a serious problem when your compressor sounds like an airplane taking off.
Auditory nerves and the eardrum can be permanently damaged if you are constantly exposed to loud noises. It can also cause considerable misery to other people living in the area.
The easiest way you can reduce the noise levels is to buy a new compressor with low noise levels. Some modern designs have noise levels as little as 60 dB which is a great feature.
However, not everyone is ready to replace an old compressor right away. Therefore, let us take a look at how you can quiet an air compressor efficiently.
There are essentially two ways you can reduce the compressor’s noise – Modifications on the compressor itself and modifications outside the compressor.
How to quiet an air compressor
Use a muffler
A muffler or a silencer will effectively reduce noise levels. They are not only used in motorbike or automobiles. Installing a muffler on the intake will reduce the noise levels by 2 dB, which is a significant number.
Intake mufflers typically include a silencing component and an air filter, and this reduces the noise levels considerably.
A well-known property of rubber is that it is a good sound absorber. An excellent way to reduce noise levels from a compressor is to secure the motor with rubber grommets. Different types and sizes of air compressors can make use of it, as they are available in various sizes.
The rubber will absorb the vibrations from the motor. Rubber grommets significantly reduce the noise produced by the air compressor.
Place the intake outside
The intake component is responsible for producing the majority of the noise. It is compounded when the compressor is stored in a confined space like a garage. An extendable rubber hose attached to the intake component can come in very handy. When the air is sucked in from a free area outside, the compressors do not emit noises as loud.
Right after the intake and exhaust, the piston cylinder is one of the loudest parts of a compressor. Sound blankets are an excellent way to reduce noise. The sound sheet will absorb mid-frequency to high-frequency sounds. It will reduce the noise levels or at least reduce the amplification of the noise.
Modifications outside the compressor
A soundproof enclosure is the most productive way to quieten an air compressor. Encasing the unit inside the insulated box will significantly reduce the noise. If the compressor is not particularly ear-shattering, the box can reduce the sound to a minimum.
The box or the enclosure can be quickly built using a cardboard and foaming material. Other materials that can be considered for the construction are gypsum which is fire resistant as well as concrete block for durability and stability.
It is essential to construct the enclosure with a cutout for the exhaust and power outlets and hoses of the compressor. These components should never be trapped in a confined environment during its use.
Work away from the compressor
This is self-explanatory; maintain a reasonable distance between the workspace and the compressor. A slight modification such as situating the unit across the room can substantially reduce the noise levels.
If your compressor unit is particularly deafening, consider storing it in a different room altogether. The reduction of noise can be as efficient as 25%. In such situations, an extendable hose can be especially advantageous.
However, placing the unit outside in the open may affect the performance. It is particularly true while engaging in painting works as the weather can affect the airflow.
Alienate the compressor
For a heavyweight machine such as an air compressor, it needs its own space. The best solution is to install it in a separate room altogether. But of course, not everyone can afford to have a separate storage unit for it. But cramming it in a small area filled with other solid components make the sound bounce off of them.
Assigning a small space or a corner away from other things such as car parts, plumbing materials will provide ventilation and reduce stress in the compressor.
Other ways you can reduce the noise levels.
1. Regular maintenance checks
As the adage goes, “prevention is better than cure,” the best way you can prevent the compressor from making such life-threatening sounds is regular maintenance.
An air compressor sustains a tremendous amount of stress, through motion and heat. The constant friction and grinding can result in wear and tear. If this is not taken care of through regular maintenance, it can result in the machine getting louder. Eventually, it will lead to a total breakdown of the unit.
2. Clean the air filters
Air filters, by default, tend to snare dirt and other particles that come in through the intake. There is only so much a filter screen can do before it gets clogged. When this happens, the compressor works harder to pump atmospheric air. The dirt in the filter can also get past it, and the system gets noisier under the strain.
The recommended time to clean the air filter is once every 12 months. However, if you work in a particularly dusty environment, you should clean the filter more frequently.
3. Lubricate the metal parts
A compressor is a machine after all, and machines require regular upkeep to function in an optimum manner. There are metal components that need to be lubricated and oiled regularly. The metal parts of the compressor undergo friction continually. Insufficient lubrication in the machine can lead to louder noise production, rusting and corrosion.
For a compressor to function smoothly, produce less noise and have durability, it is a must to keep the metal parts well lubricated at all times.
4. A professional examination
The fact that the air compressor roars every time you start it is an indication that something could be wrong. While it is true that an average owner can perform routine lubrication and cleaning, there are some aspects that a professional will be better at.
Essential parts such as valves, gaskets, and belts need occasional replacing. A professional service provider can analyze your compressor for all these and more. It is recommended to have your machine serviced by a professional every year or so, depending on how frequently you use it.
It will not only reduce the noise levels but enhance its productivity. Regular maintenance will accelerate the longevity of the compressor as well.
5. Invest in a quality compressor
The next time you need to replace or buy an air compressor, invest in a good quality one. A cheap machine made with substandard materials will only be a source of grief. Apart from being loud and obnoxious, they will need constant repairs and maintenance. It will perhaps even die prematurely.
A premium machine made with dense materials and advanced technology is quiet, has high-productivity and is durable. It is especially true if you work in a workshop or manufacturing unit. Invest in a quality unit and you as well the other worker will no longer clench your teeth every time the compressor is activated.
Safety precautions while modifying the compressor
Exhaust hose, cooling vents, and airflow should never be subjected to confinement. It is essential to keep them ventilated at all times.
The PSI setting on the pressure should never be tampered with.
Safety valves should be regularly checked to ensure that they are in good condition.
If you have a portable compressor, unplug the machine and free the air tank after every use.
Compressed air can be fatal when it is misused. Therefore it is a must to observe some safety precautions. No matter how useful or expensive, the air compressor unit is, your safety comes first.