What is the Difference Between Piston and Rotary

The pressurized or compressed air contains high kinetic that can be utilized to achieve certain objectives in different applications. Normally, this kind of hardware is utilized in practically every sort of engineering, processing, machinery assembling, or manufacturing activity around the world.

The applications of the compressed air extend from blowing up tires to aiding the capacity of the hardware.

Generally, air compressors are divided into two main types. These piston air compressors and reciprocating air compressors.

What is the difference between the two air compressors? Which type of air compressor should I buy?

Read on as we guide you on the difference between piston compressor vs rotary compressor.

Definition of Piston vs Rotary Air Compressors

Two Stage 160KW Screw Air Compressor portable compressor for mining

To know the difference, let’s define these two types of air compressors:

Piston-Type Air Compressors – these are usually compared to a vehicle motor. They utilize continually moving pistons to pump air into a chamber.

Every one of the pistons has a single direction valve that will assist with sending the air into the chamber so it tends to be compressed.

Rotational Screw Compressors – this type utilizes two coordinating helical screws or rollers, which go to make a pocket between them. That permits the air to be moved into the chamber where it will be packed. As the screws turn, the volume tends to diminish.

Pistons vs Rollers -Air Compressors

As we have seen, the key difference between piston vs rotary is these two components; piston and rollers or screws.

What is the difference between the two?

A reciprocating air compressor has a piston move downwards, diminishing weight in its cylinder by making a vacuum.

This difference in pressure powers the cylinder entryway to open and acquire gas.

At the point when the cylinder returns up, it expands pressure, consequently constraining the gas to flow out. The constant continuous movement is known as a reciprocating movement, hence the name.

Rotary compressors, then again, use rollers. They sit somewhat askew in a shaft, with one side continually contacting the divider.

As they move at high speeds, they achieve a similar objective as the reciprocating compressors- – one piece of the shaft is always different from the next shaft.

This means that the gas enters at low pressure and exits at high pressure.

Duty Cycle: Piston vs Rotary Air Compressors

Another difference between piston vs rotary air compressors is in the areas of the duty cycle.

What is the duty cycle? This is the time-frame that an air compressor will take to operate continuously without stopping due to overheating. They also operate within that frame without breaking down due to wear and tear.

Any piston air compressor should have a significant duty cycle. In most cases, the duty cycle of a piston compressor ranges between 60% to 70%.

This explains why most piston air compressors tend to be oversized so as to cover the issue of the duty cycle.

The large size will allow the compressor to shut down and cool at a fast rate before it can resume operation.

However, the duty cycle of these reciprocating air compressors can be an issue when there is a high demand for compressed air. They may not be capable to supply the compressed air that will meet the demand.

On the other hand, rotary screw air compressors have a 100% duty cycle. They can operate continuously to meet the demand for compressed air.

How is this possible? These compressors have a fluid that facilitates this. It performs various roles which include; lubricating the pump and removing the contaminants.

Heat and Moisture; Piston vs Rotary air Compressors

Low Pressure Screw Compressor

Piston air compressors are designed to operate at high internal temperatures. In most cases, it varies between 300F to 400F.

Rotary air compressors, on the other hand, operate at a very low-temperature range. It can vary between 170F to 200F.

The temperature difference between these two types of air compressors is quite high, right? You cannot ignore these figures.

In terms of moisture, the hotter the compressor, the higher the capacity to hold water. This directly means that piston air compressors are capable of holding large volumes of water. They also take longer to dry than the rotary air compressors.

Due to the heat and moisture issues, the piston air compressor may not be an ideal choice for harsh environmental conditions.

This is a contrast to a rotary air compressor as it can work in all sorts of harsh conditions.

Oil and Lubricant Effect

Piston air compressors have rings and valves which tend to wear with time. This means that the oil lubricant can easily get through the valve together with the airstream and get to the targeted area of application.

This effect is usually known as oil carryover of the air compressor.

At any given point a piston air compressor will always have more oil than a rotary air compressor. This is an undesirable feature especially if you are expecting to get clean air.

Rotary air compressors don’t wear down with time. This means that the parts remain intact at all times hence the lubricants will not sneak easily.

They are constructed to supply oil-free compressed air. The lubricant won’t get downstream.

Energy Efficiency: Piston vs Rotary Air Compressor

The energy efficiency of an air compressor is how the device utilizes the energy that it is supplied with.

When it comes to comparison, the rotary air compressor delivers more air per energy supplied than the piston compressor.

Energy efficiency can have a direct impact on the cost of running the air compressor.

Maintenance: Piston vs Rotary air compressor

Whether you are buying pistons and rotary air compressors, you will have to maintain them regularly.

How much money and effort will you need in order to maintain each type of air compressor? Which air compressor is expensive to maintain?

Piston air compressors are easy and cheap to maintain. You only need to lubricate a number of components such as belt drive and replace air filters.

Although this may sound cheaper, you may be forced to replace some components that are always subjected to wear and tear.

Such expenses can end up raising the cost of a piston air compressor by a big margin.

On the other hand, a rotary screw air compressor tends to attract a significant amount of maintenance. However, the cost is not very high.

Overall, the difference in maintenance cost between piston air compressor vs rotary air compressor is not too much.

Noise and Vibration: Piston vs Rotary Air Compressor

Low Pressure Screw Type Air Compressor

Which one is louder between piston vs rotary air compressor?

Piston air compressors are known for being noisy. This noise is also accompanied by vigorous vibrations.

The noise can be too much to the extent that you can hear it even when you are some miles away. For this reason, piston compressors are usually stored in separate rooms.

Rotary air compressors, on the other hand, tend to operate with minimal noise. They also don’t have vigorous vibrations. For this reason, you can use a rotary air compressor in the same room where you are working.

The Cost: Piston vs Rotary Air Compressors

Are our rotary air compressors expensive than the piston air compressors?

The answer can be yes and at the same time no. To understand this, you should look at various aspects of the air compressor cost.

Start by looking at the price of air compressors generally, rotary air compressors are always expensive than piston air compressors.

However, what if you consider the cost of installing an air compressor in your facility?

For a piston air compressor, you may be forced to construct a large facility that will house the compressor. This is can make it expensive to install the compressor.

You don’t need any kind of special building to install a rotary air compressor.

Do you know that the quality of output air can also affect the cost of having a compressor? Low-quality air that is contaminated with oil and other contaminants.

This can degrade the lifetime of the air compressors at a faster rate making it expensive to maintain.

The energy consumption of the compressor will also affect maintenance.

The table below summarizes the difference between piston air compressor vs rotary air compressor:

Rotary Screw Air Compressor Advantages

Is it advisable to buy a new rotary screw air compressor? Here are the advantages that you stand to gain from this type of air compressor:

Safe to use – Rotary screw air compressors are amazingly safe and convenient to use given that they convey air seamlessly for the intended purposes. They are additionally protected, and instances of mishaps with the machines are practically nonexistent.

-Capacities to operate at extraordinary climate conditions – Rotary air compressors can work at high temperatures or in low conditions to your benefit. The machines can likewise work in zones where different types of energy and compressors are restricted may be due to safety issues or temperatures levels.

-They are designed to produce more force – And since their current airflow rates are amazingly high, rotary air compressors can power a wide range of sophisticated equipment.

They are simpler to maintain – Many of the advanced air compressors in the market have fewer parts that require support. Indeed, some rotary screw machines have up to 70% fewer of parts, which thusly brings down support costs drastically.

They run discreetly in spite of their high airflow – Rotary screw air compressors are commonly quiet operators, with a considerable lot of them having noise-barring innovations. That and the way that they are not gigantic in size makes them advantageous to be put away anyplace and till give a conducive workplace.

They are acceptable energy conserves – Rotary screw machines are quite effective in consuming energy, and they create less heat dissipation than ordinary air compressors.

They use less oil than other oil-injected air compressors. What’s more, they have the least oil carryovers.

They are intended to last – Rotary screw air compressors are intended to serve you for a long time, from the start while having almost no limit decrease.


– High initial cost of investment. The good news is even if they come at a high price, the issue is resolved by the high performance of the compressors.

You should also keep in mind that they tend to attract a low cost of installation.

Piston Compressor Advantages


-The low initial cost of buying the compressor

-Low maintenance cost since it does not come with complex parts that are hard to replace

Tends to deliver high volumes of airflow

Disadvantages of Piston Air Compressor

-Has high oil content. This feature makes it unsuitable for quite a number of applications.

– Very noisy. Piston air compressors tend to be very noisy. You cannot store them in a room from where you are working


Air compressors have gotten one of the most fundamental instruments in the present occasions for businesses, workshops, carports just as homes.

The expansion in their market demand has offered a route to the creation of different types of this machine in an enormous assortment of sizes just as easy to use models.

For instance, we have just seen the two types which are spin air compressor vs rotary air compressor

From the advantages and disadvantages, you can choose the one that will suit your application.

In case you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to contact reliable rotary compressor manufacturers for advice.


Rotary screw vs reciprocating air compressors https://www.vmacair.com/blog/rotary-screw-vs-reciprocating-air-compressors-performance-differences/