You’re looking at buying an air compressor and you keep coming across two common phrases: rotary and reciprocating. What does that mean? Which is better? And does buying the wrong one mean you’re going to be left saddled with the air compressor equivalent of a Betamax?

Piston Reciprocating Air Compressors NuAir range


Rotary and reciprocating air compressors

Rotary air compressors generate pressure using two interlocking screws (rotors) which take the air coming through the inlet valve, and generate pressure by reducing its volume. Reciprocating air compressors generate pressure by using pistons rather than rotors.


Which is better?

Confusingly, it depends. If you’re operating in a workspace which needs its air compressors to work 100% of the time, rotary or screw air compressors are likely to be a far better bet, because they’re better able to work without a break. Reciprocating air compressors are a better choice for intermittent duty cycles, but even here, a rotary system could be the more efficient in terms of energy consumption.


Design matters

The crucial deciding factor in determining whether a rotary or reciprocating air compressor will be more effective for your business is system design. It’s very easy to lose the theoretical efficiency advantages of a rotary system in an inefficiently designed system. That’s why it’s essential to seek expert compressed air system design.


Talk to us about your compressed air system

Algar Air has been designing energy efficient, high performance compressed air systems across Sheffield, Nottingham and beyond for more than 30 years. To explore your new or expanded system, talk to us now on 0114 243 2347, or contact us.

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*Please note photos are for illustrative purposes only – we may not stock / provide these exact models.

Piston Air Compressor - NuAir Belt Drive

Piston Air Compressors

High pressure, high durability and relatively low maintenance costs. Discover why a reciprocating air compressor might be your best choice.