What Material Should I Use for Compressed Air Piping?

Customers often ask us what type of piping they should use in their compressed air system. There’s quite a variety on the market so it’s easy to see why the choice could be overwhelming. In an effort to help you make an educated decision, we’ve compiled a list of the most common materials.

Aluminum Pipe

All factors considered, aluminum is the premier choice for compressed air piping. Aluminum piping does not corrode and it’s leak resistant. The light weight of aluminum makes it easy to handle and install, especially with push together connectors. All these factors make it a highly recommended material for clean air applications.

Because of its versatility, aluminum piping is available in a variety of forms. We offer the following:

  • Blue Aluminum Air Pipe
  • Black Inert Gases Piping
  • Green Aluminum Nitrogen Piping
  • Gray Vacuum Piping

Our piping is available in 20mm, 25mm, 32mm, 40mm, 50mm, and 63mm. If you’re not sure what compressed air piping size you need, view the Infinity Pipe Systems sizing chart.

At Michigan Air, we partner with Infinity Pipe Systems because their high-performance compressed air pipe & airline fittings are compatible with compressed air, nitrogen and vacuum systems. They extend, connect, and can easily be installed in compressed air systems through their expansive range of compatible Infinity Pipe Systems quick connection air pipe & airline fitting accessories.

Iron Pipe

Iron pipe is one of the oldest compressed air piping materials used. Installation is straightforward, or can be done by a plumber, and fittings are available at your local hardware store. Iron pipe is available in galvanized or raw black form.

While iron piping is easily accessible, it does have its drawbacks. It’s not easily adapted and most alterations in the piping system will need to be contracted out to a plumber, as opposed to being done in-house.

With iron piping you also have to worry about corrosion. Even if your compressed air system has drying equipment, somewhere along the lines water could still enter, leading to corrosion. This can cause a drop in pressure due to obstructions in the pipe.

Stainless Steel Piping

Some manufacturers like working with stainless steel because it doesn’t corrode. Installing the fittings and pipe can be a fairly simple process, however, installation can take a while. Stainless steel may be pressed or welded, however, threaded or welded joints can fail. And because of its weight, stainless steel can be difficult to fit and more costly than other options. Another down side to stainless steel piping is that the threads have a tendency to freeze up making disassembly and maintenance difficult.

Copper Piping

With copper pipes you don’t have to worry about corrosion, they’re easy to cut and weld, lightweight, and there are a wide range of fittings available due to its frequent use in plumbing. Copper is easy to suspend, and many fitters are familiar with working with it. Copper can give the application a very high end look, but it’s expensive so many manufacturers tend to look for an alternate material.

Plastic & PVC

PVC piping might seem like a great idea because it’s lightweight, portable, doesn’t corrode, and is easy to cut. However, PVC gets brittle over time and can crack, break, or even shatter in the right conditions. In addition, the air compressor oils in the line and heat from the compressed air can compromise the PVC much quicker. Using PVC for compressed air distribution is an OSHA violation. However, plastic pipes specifically manufactured for compressed air systems (not PVC) come with OSHA-tested and approved cements that will hold just as long as metal pipe welding.

Speak to a Compressed Air Piping Specialist

We can help you plan and install a new compressed air piping system or make modifications to your existing system. Contact us for more information and advice on selecting the right material and maintaining your air piping system. At Michigan Air we can help you maximize your compressed air system’s efficiency.


Rotary Screw Compressor Troubleshooting Guide

Run more efficiently with this quick reference guide that covers issues such as:

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