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What is an air compressor accumulator?

Updated February 21, 2017

Air compressors are widely used in homes and industry to provide compressed air to pneumatic tools, instrumentation and other equipment. An air compression system includes a primary air compressor and may include filters and accumulators to provide clean air at a consistent pressure. Compressor accumulators, or receivers, are an essential part of a properly designed air compressor system.

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Providing Air Capacity

The primary purpose of an air accumulator is acting as an air reservoir. In the same way a water reservoir stores drinking water for future use, an air accumulator takes the air discharged from the compressor and stores it for use in tools or instrumentation. Many tools are used intermittently. If they are connected directly to an air compressor they will either lack sufficient air capacity to operate properly or the compressor will be starting and stopping frequently, resulting in premature compressor wear and failure. The accumulator provides a steady source of air capacity. Larger accumulators may have multiple compressors connected and permit connection to many pneumatic devices running at different capacities.

Pressure Regulation

A critical function of an air accumulator is to regulate output pressure of the compressor. Reciprocating air compressors create a pulsing pressure output that can be difficult to use in some tools and can damage pneumatic instrumentation. The accumulator acts as a pressure control by absorbing the pressure pulses into the air stored in the accumulator. This results in a more constant pressure output for the devices connected to it.

Water Removal

Air contains water molecules that do not compress with the air leaving a compressor. Water can be discharged from the compressor and can damage tools or instrumentation. Many accumulators have a water drain at their low point that allows removal of free water to prevent it entering downstream equipment. Along with other filtration, the accumulator can help remove water from the compressed air system and provide a cleaner air source.

Cost Effective and Flexible System Design

Multiple air accumulators can manage complex air systems and are much less expensive than multiple air compressors. A main accumulator on the compressor discharge provides primary capacity and pressure control for the system. If a downstream device has a high but intermittent load, a secondary accumulator provides storage capacity for that device without the need for an additional compressor.

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About the Author

Paul Richard began writing in 2002 after a career in chemical processing, refrigerant alternatives and workplace safety. He has written articles for the "Cecil Whig" and "Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News." Richard holds a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Akron.

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