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  1. #1
    n00b
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    Plumbing compressed air around my garage...

    I figured I'd start a thread about a little project I've started...

    I'm a home-owner. My girlfriend bought an air compressor for me over the holidays. What a girl. It's just a Craftsman 26-gallon, 150PSI, 1.5HP, 5.1SCFM@40PSI, 3.6SCFM@90PSI, vertical jobber, but it's a gift and I'm going to use it until I can't use it any more. I've always wanted to run hard line around my garage with quick-connects in strategic locations so I could avoid dragging yards of air hose all over the place. I got a ton of Lowe's gift cards over the holidays as well, so I started planning.

    My first dilemma was what material to use for the lines. The four common options are black pipe, galvanized pipe, PVC and copper. Aluminum is gaining steam but it's...Not common yet. I decided to go with copper.

    Why copper? It has many advantages, but only two disadvantages, which I'll cover.

    Advantages:
    • Copper is the best material for heat transfer. Compressed air gets hot. Water doesn't condense out of hot air as easily as it does cooler air.
    • Copper is easy to work. Cut, clean, flux, fit and solder. No special threading tools needed for black or galvanized pipe and no stupid glue needed like PVC.
    • Copper corrodes, but once it builds a layer of corrosion it corrodes much more slowly than black pipe does. Black pipe is not rated for water or water borne in air and will rust very quickly from the inside out. Galvanized pipe will still rust, plus you can get zinc flakes in your air tools. Not good. Same goes for rust flakes. Copper corrosion also doesn't flake like rust does.
    • Copper is more than strong enough for the pressure I'm running, which will be between 100 and 125PSI, regulating down at the quick-connect for the tools. Black pipe and galvanized are stronger, but copper will work. PVC is a serious explosion risk and is not rated for air by any manufacturer. Lots of people use PVC, but I've also seen PVC explode...Bad stuff.

    Disadvantages:
    • Copper isn't cheap. I blew my entire stack of Lowe's gift cards on sixty feet of 3/4" Type L, thirty feet of 1/2" Type L and a bunch of copper fittings.
    • Copper isn't as durable/damage-resistant as iron pipe.

    I can live with the two disadvantages. Most of the system will live under a high-mount shelf in the garage, so it should stay pretty protected. Besides, I'm not a clumsy oaf.

    Next up is layout. The goals here are three-fold: ultimate water drainage, convenient access to air and staying out of the way.

    The first goal means drains at every drop, drain lines at the end of horizontal runs and a drain on the input line. This also means you angle the horizontal lines down from the highest point, which should be where the air comes into the system at...In my case, a tee from another vertical line. Finally, this means that you want your drops for the quick-connects to tee up from the horizontal line, go up six or eight inches, over a bit and then turn back down, crossing over the horizontal line into another tee with the air chuck coming out the side and a drain coming out the bottom. Also, you want to have drain lines at the ends of your horizontal line.

    The second goal determines where the drops are. I have a (roughly) 20'x20' garage. I've decided that the air compressor itself will sit in the outside rear corner of the garage, not far from the circuit breaker panel on the outside wall of the garage to keep noise as far away from the house as possible. I want one drop in the middle of the rear wall, one drop in the middle of the side walls and one drop near the garage door on each side wall. That's five total and should be more than enough...

    The final goal means keeping the pipe securely mounted and as out of the way as possible. I'm going to be running the pipe under the shelves on the side walls and trying to keep things out of the way.

    My quick-connects are on the way from McMaster-Carr; five 6534K16 brass, push-to-connect, industrial-style 1/4" couplings with 1/4" NPT male threads. They're screwing into five 5520K407 1/2" copper solder to 1/4" NPT female reducers. The inlet will be 1/2" line with a sixth 5520K407 and a 1/4" industrial-style female 1/4" NPT quick-connect plug.

    The air compressor has a regulator on the output. I'm just going to run that wide open into an isolation hose running to a regulator/filter/drain mounted low on the wall, so it's the lowest point in the hose system. From there another hose runs up to the quick-connect on the copper. I can drain the regulator pretty trivially. That's my first line of water removal.

    I'm left with four hurdles to sort out. They're not big ones, and I'm hoping that maybe someone will have some advice.

    First, how do I want to attach the copper to the wall? Securely would be nice. I'm considering putting 2x4s on the wall where the drops are and attaching the downward-running bits of copper to the 2x4s, so they're mounted securely to something too. The drops have to cross over the horizontal anyway. What sort of clamps do they use for copper?

    Second, how do I want to handle the drains? Just install a petcock-style drain and crack them open? Something like this?

    Third, how do I want to handle where the 1/2" drop line crosses over the 3/4" horizontal line? If I use the 2x4s it's a non-issue; I just cut a gap in the 2x4.

    Finally, what solder should I use? I've been advised that lead-tin solder isn't advisable above say, eighty PSI or so, and I plan on running at least that much.

    Overall...Thoughts? Anyone interested in seeing progress? Anyone care at all?

  2. #2
    In Cod We Trust ronman's Avatar
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    Thank you for not using PVC.

    As for attaching to the wall, just get some plastic pipe hangers (they're usually grey) and then you won't have to worry about galvanic corrosion or mechanical damage from vibration. Put one every second stud or so.
    When my dad plumbed his garage many years ago we got hold of a big industrial-style dryer that takes these dessicant cylinder brick-things stacked like 6 high. And all it had was a petcock at the bottom to drain excess, and when it got too saturated, you just pulled the bottom bolts out and put the bricks into an oven for an hour or two to dry them out.
    You could get 90s and do it the right way, but that's overkill. Just get a bender and put enough curve in the copper to clear.
    On the solder, I have no idea.

  3. #3
    n00b
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    I used to do fireworks professionally before 9/11 (and the explosives licenses required after 9/11). We made our launch tubes out of fiberglass. Fiberglass tears; it doesn't shatter. The guy running our shows showed us a video of what PVC can do when it blows up. That turned me off of using PVC for anything besides water...Ever.

    Down the road I may get a good dryer. I think my solution should work for now, though.

    So far I'm liking my 2x4 idea. It'll be very rigid and I can just tip the top '90s' out a bit to get the downpipe onto the 2x4.

  4. #4
    you saw nothing....
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    don't forget ball valves at you're quick connect ports if you want the system to hold air say over night..

  5. #5
    Administrator TDSP's Avatar
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    I'd use 95% Tin/5% Antimony and etching flux. That's probably the strongest joint you can make with any heat source you'd want to use on that size of copper. You could use 80/20, but I'd be afraid of warping the pipe...

  6. #6
    n00b
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    I don't think I'm going to bother with ball valves, particularly one at each quick-connect. Ideally I'll drain the compressed air and water out of both the compressor and the pipe after every use. I don't plan on leaving any pressure in the system.

    I need to look into the 95% tin/5% antimony solder. sounds like a good option. As far as heat sources, what do you use for that type of solder? My choices, really, are butane or MAPP.

  7. #7
    Administrator TDSP's Avatar
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    Plumber's propane torch, any hardware store should have them for $20 or REALLY careful with the MAPP

  8. #8
    Here's what I'm wondering about air compressor setups: for the infrequent use of a hobbyist/enthusiast is it better to run with oil in the lines or do an oil-free setup so you can run paint guns and not oil stuff with your blower?

    2012 Mustang GT Premium 6-speed

  9. #9
    Administrator TDSP's Avatar
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    They DO make deoilers, but I've never seen one small enough for that kind of setup...

  10. #10
    you saw nothing....
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    leave the lines dry and just oil the tools before use with tool oil, motor oil , or ATF least that always worked for me

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