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Learn How to Make Fancy Controls for an Air Compressor Today

by | Dec 5, 2023 | How To

If you’re looking to elevate your air compressor’s performance and customize its controls, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of creating fancy controls for an air compressor, whether you’re using a Quincy 5120, a screw compressor, or any other type of air compressor.

Key Takeaways:

  • Enhance your air compressor’s performance by customizing its controls
  • Understand the basics of air compressor controls before diving into customization
  • Choose the right components such as PLC controls and pressure transducers
  • Optimize control strategies for improved efficiency and longevity
  • Coordinate multiple compressors for smooth and efficient operation

Understanding the Basics of Air Compressor Controls

Before diving into the process of making fancy controls, it’s important to have a basic understanding of air compressor controls. These controls typically include pressure switches, unloaders, and safety measures like monitoring oil pressure and discharge temperature. By familiarizing yourself with these components, you’ll be better equipped to design advanced controls for your air compressor.

Pressure switches play a crucial role in controlling the compressor’s operation. They monitor the system’s pressure and trigger the compressor to start or stop based on the set pressure levels. Unloaders, on the other hand, relieve pressure from the discharge line when the compressor reaches its cut-out pressure, preventing it from running against a closed valve. This helps maintain system stability and prolong the life of the compressor.

In addition to pressure switches and unloaders, air compressor controls also incorporate safety measures. These measures include monitoring oil pressure to prevent damage to the compressor’s moving parts and monitoring discharge temperature to avoid overheating. By ensuring these safety measures are in place, you can prevent potential damage and ensure the longevity of your air compressor.

air compressor control panel

Table: Air Compressor Control Components

Control Component Description
Pressure Switch Monitors system pressure and controls compressor start/stop
Unloader Relieves pressure from the discharge line, reducing the load on the compressor
Oil Pressure Monitor Ensures proper lubrication of the compressor’s moving parts
Discharge Temperature Monitor Prevents overheating of the compressor by monitoring the discharge temperature

In summary, understanding the basics of air compressor controls is essential before embarking on the journey of creating fancy controls. By familiarizing yourself with pressure switches, unloaders, and safety measures, you’ll have a solid foundation to design and build advanced controls for your air compressor.

Choosing the Right Components for Your Air Compressor Controls

When it comes to building fancy controls for your air compressor, selecting the right components is crucial. The choice of components can significantly impact the performance and functionality of your control system. Let’s explore some key options:

PLC Control

The Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) system is a popular choice for air compressor controls. Specifically, the Click PLC system offers flexibility and ease of use. With its intuitive programming software, you can easily design and customize control logic for your air compressor. Whether you need to monitor pressure, temperature, or other variables, the Click PLC system provides a reliable and efficient solution.

HMI (Human Machine Interface)

To enhance control and monitoring capabilities, consider integrating a Human Machine Interface (HMI) system into your air compressor controls. An HMI allows for intuitive interaction with the control system, providing a user-friendly interface for operators. With features like real-time data visualization and touch-screen control, an HMI system adds convenience and efficiency to your air compressor operations.

Pressure Transducers

Accurate pressure readings are essential for effective control of your air compressor. By incorporating pressure transducers into your control system, you can ensure precise pressure monitoring and control adjustments. These transducers convert pressure into an electrical signal, allowing for real-time monitoring and control optimization. Choose pressure transducers that are compatible with your air compressor’s pressure range and provide accurate measurements.

By carefully selecting the right combination of PLC control, HMI systems, and pressure transducers, you can design a powerful and reliable control system for your air compressor.

Air Compressor Control System

Component Features Benefits
PLC Control Flexible programming, customizable control logic Ease of use, efficient control
HMI (Human Machine Interface) Intuitive interface, real-time data visualization Convenience, efficient monitoring
Pressure Transducers Accurate pressure readings, real-time monitoring Precise control, optimization

“By selecting the right components, you can build a powerful control system for your air compressor, ensuring optimal performance and efficiency.”
– Air Compressor Expert

Optimizing Control Strategies for Improved Performance

Optimizing the control strategies of your air compressor is crucial for achieving enhanced performance and efficiency. By implementing specific techniques, you can ensure that your compressor operates at its best, minimizing energy consumption and reducing maintenance requirements. Here are some key strategies to consider:

1. Addressing Short Cycling with Unloaders

Short cycling, which occurs when the compressor frequently turns on and off in quick succession, can lead to excessive wear and reduced efficiency. To combat this issue, you can incorporate unloaders into your control system. Unloaders work by venting a portion of the compressed air when the pressure reaches a certain level, allowing the compressor to continue running without building up excessive pressure.

2. Setting Motor Run Time Limits

Setting a motor run time limit can help prevent unnecessary wear on your compressor and extend its lifespan. By defining a maximum run time for the motor, you can ensure that it doesn’t operate continuously for extended periods when not required. This strategy helps to conserve energy and reduce the risk of overheating or other mechanical issues.

3. Monitoring Key Parameters

Monitoring essential parameters such as oil pressure, head temperature, and discharge temperature is crucial for maintaining safe and efficient operation. By regularly monitoring these parameters, you can identify any abnormalities or deviations from optimal conditions and take appropriate actions to rectify them. This proactive approach can prevent costly breakdowns and ensure consistent performance.

Parameters Optimal Range
Oil Pressure 40-60 PSI
Head Temperature 160-180°F
Discharge Temperature 180-200°F

4. Defining Control Range Band

Defining a control range band allows you to achieve precise control over the pressure output of your compressor. By setting a specific range, such as 5, 10, or 15 PSI, you can ensure that the compressor maintains consistent pressure within the desired range. This helps to prevent excessive pressure fluctuations and provides more stable and reliable performance.

By implementing these optimization strategies, you can significantly improve the performance and longevity of your air compressor. Each technique is designed to address specific aspects of control and operation, ensuring that your compressor operates at its optimal level. Remember to regularly monitor and maintain your control system to maximize efficiency and minimize downtime.

Coordinating Multiple Compressors for a Smooth Operation

When you have multiple compressors in your system, it’s crucial to coordinate their operation to avoid inefficiencies and maximize performance. This involves setting up proper on/off setpoints, ensuring effective pressure control, and utilizing the right components for coordination.

Optimizing On/Off Setpoints

Setting appropriate on/off setpoints is essential for smooth operation and energy efficiency. By utilizing a dead band, you can prevent unnecessary cycling and reduce wear on your compressors. The dead band is a range in which the compressor stays off or on to maintain pressure stability. It helps avoid rapid cycling and ensures the compressors are only activated when needed.

To determine the ideal setpoints, consider your specific system requirements and load demands. Factors like air consumption, pressure fluctuation, and compressor capacity should be taken into account. Consulting with a professional can provide valuable insights into optimizing on/off setpoints for your particular setup.

Effective Pressure Control with Pressure Switches and Transducers

Pressure switches and pressure transducers are key components for maintaining accurate pressure control in a multiple compressor system. Pressure switches are typically used for on/off control based on the setpoint, while pressure transducers provide continuous monitoring and feedback.

Pressure switches should be installed at strategic points in the system, such as the main header or air receiver, to ensure appropriate pressure control. Pressure transducers, on the other hand, offer more precise pressure measurements and can be used for coordinating the operation of smaller compressors with the main compressor.

Choosing the Right Components for Coordination

When coordinating multiple compressors, it’s important to select the right components that complement each other and work seamlessly. This includes choosing compatible pressure switches and pressure transducers that integrate well with your control system.

Working with a reputable compressor manufacturer or consulting with a control system specialist can help you identify the most suitable components for your specific setup. They can ensure compatibility and provide expert guidance on optimizing the coordination of your multiple compressors.

By implementing effective coordination strategies, you can achieve a smooth and efficient operation of your multiple compressors, minimizing energy consumption and prolonging the lifespan of your equipment.

Adding Smart Control and Remote Monitoring Capabilities

If you want to take your air compressor controls to the next level, you can add smart control and remote monitoring capabilities. By integrating these advanced features, you can enhance the convenience and efficiency of controlling your air compressor.


One option for smart control is to use a smart plug, which allows you to connect your air compressor to devices like Alexa for voice control. With Alexa control, you can easily turn your compressor on or off and adjust its settings using voice commands, providing a hands-free control experience.


In addition to smart control, you can also leverage mobile apps to monitor and control your air compressor remotely. By downloading a dedicated mobile app for your compressor, you can check the current status, adjust settings, and receive notifications right from your smartphone or tablet. This enables you to keep a close eye on your compressor’s performance even when you’re away from the equipment.


To ensure safe and easy operation, it’s recommended to add a magnetic contactor and a disconnect switch to your control setup. A magnetic contactor acts as a power switch for the compressor, allowing you to easily turn it on or off. The disconnect switch, on the other hand, provides a quick and safe way to shut down the compressor in case of emergencies or maintenance requirements. These components enhance the overall control and safety of your air compressor.

Alexa control for air compressor

By incorporating smart control and remote monitoring capabilities into your air compressor setup, you can enjoy the benefits of seamless control, convenience, and enhanced performance. Whether you prefer voice control with Alexa or mobile app control, these modern technologies offer a new level of flexibility and efficiency in managing your air compressor operations.

Exploring Commercial Control Solutions

If you’re looking for a ready-made control solution for your air compressor, there are commercial options available.

One popular choice is the Sullair standalone controller, specifically designed for air compressors. This controller offers advanced features and allows for precise control of your compressor’s performance.

Additionally, many compressor manufacturers offer integrated controllers as part of their product lineup. These integrated controllers are designed to seamlessly work with their compressors, ensuring optimal performance and compatibility.

When considering commercial control solutions, it’s important to research and compare different options to find the right controller for your specific needs. Consider factors such as functionality, ease of use, and cost to make an informed decision.

“Commercial control solutions provide convenience and reliability for air compressor operations. Whether you choose a standalone controller like Sullair or an integrated controller from a compressor manufacturer, these solutions offer advanced features and precise control.”

Sullair standalone controller

Table: Comparison of Commercial Control Solutions

Controller Features Compatibility Price Range
Sullair Standalone Controller Advanced control features, user-friendly interface Compatible with Sullair air compressors $$
Compressor Manufacturer Integrated Controller Customizable control options, integration with compressor Specifically designed for respective compressor brand $$ – $$$

This table provides a brief comparison of the Sullair standalone controller and integrated controllers from compressor manufacturers. It highlights the key features, compatibility, and price range of each option, allowing you to make an informed decision based on your requirements and budget.

Upgrading Components for Long-Term Reliability

When it comes to ensuring the long-term reliability of your air compressor controls, upgrading certain components can make a significant difference. By investing in high-quality replacements, you can enhance the performance and durability of your control system. Let’s take a closer look at some key components that you may consider upgrading.

Pressure Switch

The pressure switch plays a crucial role in regulating the operation of your air compressor. Upgrading to a more reliable and durable pressure switch can provide better accuracy and responsiveness. Consider replacing your current pressure switch with a higher-quality option, such as the renowned brands that specialize in air compressor components.


Contactors are essential for controlling the power supply to your air compressor motor. Upgrading to a more efficient and robust contactor can improve the overall performance and longevity of your control system. Look for contactors that are specifically designed for air compressors, ensuring compatibility and optimal functionality.


The receiver is responsible for storing compressed air and delivering it to your air tools or equipment. Upgrading to a receiver with proper plumbing and adequate capacity can enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your air compressor. Choose a receiver that is designed to handle the specific requirements of your air compressor system.

Coalescing Filter and Dryer

To maintain high air quality and prevent contamination, consider upgrading your filtration system with a coalescing filter and dryer. These components effectively remove moisture, oil, and other impurities from the compressed air, ensuring clean and dry air supply. By improving the air quality, you can protect your equipment and prolong its lifespan.

Upgrading these components can significantly improve the reliability and performance of your air compressor controls. By investing in high-quality replacements and ensuring proper installation, you can enjoy a more efficient and durable control system for your air compressor.


Troubleshooting and Maintenance Tips

Even with fancy controls in place, it’s important to perform regular maintenance and troubleshoot any issues. By staying proactive, you can address problems early on and ensure the smooth operation of your air compressor.

One common issue is switch failure, which can disrupt the functioning of your control system. If you encounter switch failure, it is recommended to replace the faulty switch with a higher-quality component. This will help maintain the reliability and performance of your air compressor controls.

Another issue to be aware of is pitted contacts. Over time, the contacts in your control system may become worn or corroded, leading to poor electrical connections. To prevent this, regularly inspect and clean the contacts, and consider replacing them if necessary.

A sensor circuit that detects extended periods of non-cycling can also be a valuable addition to your control system. This circuit can automatically turn off the compressor when it detects that it has been running continuously without any breaks. By implementing this feature, you can prevent unnecessary wear and tear on your compressor and save energy.

“Regular maintenance and timely troubleshooting are key to maintaining the optimal performance of your air compressor controls.”
– Air Compressor Maintenance Expert

Lastly, monitoring cycling detection is crucial for efficient compressor operation. By analyzing the frequency and duration of compressor cycles, you can identify any irregularities or potential issues. This information can help you make informed decisions about optimizing your control system and improving overall efficiency.

Remember, proper maintenance and troubleshooting are essential for keeping your air compressor controls in top condition. By addressing issues promptly and ensuring regular upkeep, you can maximize the lifespan and performance of your equipment.


Congratulations on completing your journey to make fancy controls for an air compressor! With the knowledge and insights gained from this article, you are now equipped to take control of your air compressor’s performance and customize it to your unique needs. Whether you decide to go the DIY route or explore commercial options, the possibilities for advanced air compressor controls are endless.

By following the step-by-step process outlined in this article and carefully selecting the appropriate components, you can create a customized control system that elevates the efficiency and functionality of your air compressor. With DIY air compressor controls, you have the freedom to experiment, innovate, and optimize your setup according to your specific requirements.

For those looking for simplicity and convenience, commercial solutions such as integrated controllers offered by compressor manufacturers can provide a turnkey solution. These options may come at a higher cost, but they offer the benefit of professional expertise and proven reliability.

Whether you choose to build homemade air compressor controls or opt for custom solutions, the key is to prioritize advanced control strategies that optimize performance, enhance safety, and ensure longevity. So, take the next step today and unlock the full potential of your air compressor with advanced and customized control systems!


What are the basic components of air compressor controls?

The basic components of air compressor controls include pressure switches, unloaders, and safety measures like monitoring oil pressure and discharge temperature.

What are some fancy control components for air compressors?

Some fancy control components for air compressors include PLC controls like the Click system, HMI (Human Machine Interface) systems, and pressure transducers for accurate pressure readings.

How can I optimize my air compressor control strategies?

You can optimize your air compressor control strategies by utilizing unloaders, setting motor run time limits, monitoring oil pressure and temperature, and defining a control range band for precise control.

How do I coordinate the operation of multiple compressors?

To coordinate the operation of multiple compressors, you can install pressure transducers on the main header or air receiver, set on/off setpoints with a dead band, and ensure proper coordination between smaller compressors and the main compressor.

Can I add smart control and remote monitoring capabilities to my air compressor?

Yes, you can add smart control and remote monitoring capabilities to your air compressor by using a smart plug and connecting it to devices like Alexa. You can also use a mobile app to monitor and control your compressor from anywhere.

Are there ready-made control solutions available for air compressors?

Yes, companies like Sullair offer standalone controllers specifically designed for air compressors. However, these solutions may come at a higher cost, so it’s important to research and compare different options from compressor manufacturers.

How can I upgrade the reliability of my air compressor controls?

You can upgrade the reliability of your air compressor controls by replacing components like pressure switches with more durable options, adding a contactor and receiver with proper plumbing, and installing a coalescing filter and drier for better air quality.

What troubleshooting and maintenance tips are recommended for air compressor controls?

It’s recommended to replace components like switches with higher-quality options, add a sensor circuit to detect extended periods of non-cycling, and perform regular maintenance to address issues early on and ensure smooth operation.