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Understanding the Features of Today’s Compressors


Justwhen we thought we knew it all, we learn that we really know verylittle about certain pieces of equipment in our shops. Take a minute toreview this glossary of terms as they apply to compressors.

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Whatabout full load – do you know what this means? In short, this is aboutair compressor operation at full speed with a fully open inlet anddischarge, delivering a maximum air flow.

How about an aftercooler? This is a heat exchanger used for cooling air that isdischarged from a compressor. The resulting condensate may be removedby a moisture separator following the aftercooler.

Next up, theair dryer. This is a device that removes moisture from compressed air.It is typically accomplished by cooling the air through a refrigeratoror desiccant bed. So what’s a desiccant? It’s a material having a largeproportion of surface pores, capable of attracting and removing watervapor from the air.


What about an automatic sequencer? Thisdevice operates compressors in sequence according to a programmedschedule. Next, let’s look at capacity. This is the amount of air flowdelivered under specific conditions, usually expressed in cubic feetper minute (CFM).

As for dew point, a quick definition: this hasto do with the point at which temperature in the air will begin tocondense if the air is cooled at constant pressure. At this point, therelative humidity is 100%.

What’s brake horsepower? This ishorsepower delivered to the output shaft of a motor or engine, or thehorsepower required at the compressor shaft to perform work. Moving on,what about intercooling? This is nothing more than the removal of heatfrom air or gas between compressor stages.


A modulating controlis a system that adapts to varying demand by throttling the compressorinlet proportionally to the demand. Do you know the function of aload/unload control? This is a control method that allows thecompressor to run at full-load or no-load while the driver remains atconstant speed.

How about pressure range? In a compressor, thishas to do with the difference between minimum and maximum pressures foran air compressor. It is also called cut in/cut out or load/no loadpressure range.

There’s a lot more going on inside yourcompressor; this is only the beginning. Ingersoll Rand supplies thispartial glossary, plus much more information. If you have furtherquestions, check the terms out at

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