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Rotary VS Reciprocating Air Compressor: Differences And Others

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When you’re in need of an air compressor and you’re stumbling around the market to decide which one is suitable for you or which one to buy because there are a lot of compressor types and kinds. The first two options that come to you are rotary compressor and reciprocating air compressor. They are the most common types among the different kinds.

The characteristics and working mechanisms are different for both of them and as a result, they give different results as well. Now, if you’re willing to buy one for yourself, which one will suit you? What are the purposes for both of them?

This is basically a rotary vs reciprocating air compressor article and in this article, we’re going to study both the compressor type and their tasks. Later, we’ll take a look at a little comparison as well. So, let’s start!

Outlet pressure

Compressors are meant to provide you compressed fluid or gas naturally by taking them from outside. What the compressor does is it compresses the air with its mechanism tools like a piston, shafts, and others and it gives an output of high-pressure compressed air. The most common types of compressors are reciprocating and rotary.

In the case of outlet pressure, you’ll get high-pressure air from a reciprocating compressor and you’ll get low-pressure air from a rotary air compressor. The maximum pressure can be 1000 bar for a reciprocating compressor while the rotary compressor can only provide you with 10. The pressure is pretty higher for the reciprocating compressor than the rotary one.


Compressor capacity

The compressor capacity refers to the air delivery rate. It indicates how much air can your compressor deliver on average. There’s a big difference in compressor capacity as well. The compressor capacity for a reciprocating compressor is pretty lower while the rotary compressor can provide you with a lot.

If you need a lot of compressed air with low pressure, you can go for a rotary compressor and if you need a little amount of air with high pressure, you can go for a reciprocating compressor.


Nature of discharge

It means how your compressor will deliver compressed air through the outlet. For this fact, the nature of discharge for a rotary compressor is continuous. It’ll keep delivering air and won’t stop or take a break while the nature of discharge for a reciprocating compressor is pulsating.

You’ll get air for one stroke with the reciprocating compressor and you won’t able to get another stroke as soon. But the difference for the rotary compressor is, it’ll provide you with a continuous air supply.


Compressed air quality

The air quality is pretty important when you’re using it for a specific purpose. The air quality is contaminated for a reciprocating air compressor while a rotary compressor can provide you with clean and fresh air.

For the reciprocating compressor, the air goes through the cylinder and there’s oil inside. Besides, the pistons have lubrication and oils. As the air passes, it gets mixed with these lubes and oils. As a result, you get contaminated air output. A rotary compressor provides you air with a rotation mechanism that’s simple. For that, the air remains clean and uncontaminated.


Maintenance requirements

When it comes to maintenance, every machine requires maintenance. Without proper maintenance, it’s pretty impossible for anyone to keep the machine long-lasting. In the case of compressor maintenance, a reciprocating air compressor requires high maintenance. The mechanism of a reciprocating air compressor is pretty complicated.

There are a lot of parts in a reciprocating compressor as well. It has connecting rod, crankshaft, piston, rings, cylinder, and other things that require proper and regular maintenance. While the rotary type of compressor is pretty simple and it has simple parts that require low maintenance.


Operating speed

In terms of operating speed, a reciprocating compressor works slower than a rotary compressor. As it has connecting rod and pistons, the operation of a reciprocating compressor is pretty complicated. On the other hand, the operational speed of a rotary compressor is fast and pretty simple.

It comes up with a solid motor and a fan that works faster than a reciprocating compressor. The speed of the fan depends on the motor.


Compressor design

The compressor design for a reciprocating compressor is complicated and bulky. It contains a lot of parts in it and they work in a complicated manner. The size of a reciprocating compressor is bigger as well.

The design for a rotary compressor is pretty simple as it’s solid and simple. The motor and the fan do fine. They are simple and if you think about the size, the size is pretty smaller than a rotary compressor.



The parts of a reciprocating compressor require separate lubrication that’s complicated while the lubrication for a rotary compressor is pretty simple.


Vibration and operation effects

A reciprocating compressor vibrates more than a rotary compressor. The sound of a reciprocating compressor is higher than a rotary compressor as well. It’s a bit bothering at the same time.


Initial cost

The initial cost is higher for a reciprocating compressor. While you’re buying a compressor, the main fact is the money you’re spending. As the price of a reciprocating compressor is higher, you must think it’s suitable for you or not.

A rotary compressor is simple and costs pretty much lower than a reciprocating compressor.



In the article on rotary vs reciprocating compressors, we tried to show you the main differences between these two types of compressors. Now, the question is, which one is suitable for you?

If you’re looking for a compressor for your home workshop and self doing projects, a reciprocating compressor is all you need. It’ll serve you compressed air of a certain amount and you can get it high pressure as well.

If you’re buying a compressor for commercial purposes and you need a continuous operation, you need to buy a rotary compressor. They’re designed to work for a long time and they’ll provide you with continuous air.



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