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Running Compressed Air Lines in a Shop

Want to add a compressor to your shop or garage? Learn what the best pipe materials are for a compressed air line— and what not to use.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Choosing the right pipe

First of all, don't use PVC pipe. If it breaks under pressure, the plastic will shatter and send pieces flying like shrapnel. Use copper instead. It's available at most hardware stores and home centers. Solder it using the same fittings as you would for water supply lines.

If you don't want to solder, use galvanized or black steel pipe. Measure the pipe runs and buy exact lengths; hardware stores will cut and thread the ends for you. Unlike gas and water lines, air compression lines don't require perfect joints, so don't worry if they leak a tiny bit.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Air compressor
    • Air hose
    • Adjustable wrench
    • Soldering torch
    • Tube cutter

You'll also need a wire brush for cleaning copper joints

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • 1/2-in. copper pipe and fittings
    • Flux
    • Solder

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 7 of 7 comments
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January 30, 5:54 PM [GMT -5]

I find it interesting to see a 90 degree fitting. For compressed air you should use two 45 degree fittings as using 90 degree fittings causes a loss in pressure. Also you don't want any air leaks from your soldering as this too will lower air pressure and decrease the effectiveness of your tools. We all can't afford the top of the line compressors or tools and sometimes that loss of air is just enough to make the difference in getting the job done. Any leak also makes the compressor work harder and longer shortening the life of the compressor.

December 28, 4:26 PM [GMT -5]

What the gentalmen is saying about the copper thickness is correct there are three types L,M,+MBT L is the heavyer gaguge and is the only copper allowed in plumbing useage (also BT) m copper is used for heating applications and is a thinner wall tubing.

December 28, 4:22 PM [GMT -5]

Using soder to join copper is not allowed by AMSE code standards. Soder is a filler material and will crack under vibration or strain. The only way to join copper is by brazing the joints. There are some PVC products on the market that are approved for presureized gas.

August 15, 8:23 PM [GMT -5]

If you have a work shop in the basement, this is a great way to get air down their too. Run one of those lines to the basement and you now have air to clean, cool and power small air tools.

February 16, 5:27 PM [GMT -5]

A very worthwhile project. One thing that should be added to a compressed air line system is a drip leg. Most commonly seen on the gas line for a gas-fired hot water heater, boiler or furnace, a drip leg is a very low-cost upgrade will usually catch condensation and loose debris inside the lines before it reaches the tool. Google "drip leg" to see illustrations.

January 23, 8:29 AM [GMT -5]

you would be better using cooper if you want to use a oil lubricator on that line the oil chemical wont break the plastic compound of that hose , it did happen to me once the hose almost blew up under pressure .
But the article doesn't mention that you have to use the heavier type of copper there is two type of copper pipe one with a ticker wall construction use that one, its very easy to solder , you pre-solder the whole line one your bench and then install it over head to the sealing of your shop

January 15, 7:51 AM [GMT -5]

I like the idea of having air around the shop without running hoses everywhere. But I think I would rather go with a kit like this: http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200367525_200367525
It seems easier to install and is specifically made for running air.

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