Large lubricated air compressor

Air compressors can revolutionize the way your operations function, leading your business to get more work done at a higher level of quality. Fluid Aire Dynamics offers a wide range of air compressors to meet the different needs of various industries and companies.

One choice you can make when deciding on an air compressor is whether you want a lubricated air compressor or an oil-free air compressor. What is the difference between the two, and which is right for you and your business?

In This Article

What Is a Lubricated Air Compressor?

The general mechanism of an air compressor is a piston or rotary element (e.g. rotary screw or vane) that draws in air, which is compressed into a storage tank. Naturally, since the piston or rotary element needs to move consistently and smoothly for this to work, it generally needs to be lubricated.

In a lubricated air compressor, there is lubricating oil which keeps the piston or rotary element running smoothly without damaging the mechanism. The lubricant also helps to dissipate heat and maintain air compression efficiency.

What Is an Oil-Free Air Compressor?

An oil-free air compressor is a type of compressor that uses pre-lubricating materials like Teflon to coat its compression elements instead of oil. Some oil-free compressors may also use water in place of oil for the lubricating and cooling process. These alternate materials protect the pump and allow the mechanism to move smoothly without the need for any oil-based or synthetic lubrication.

Atlas Copco oil free reciprocating air compressor

Is an oilless compressor better than a lubricated one? The right choice depends on your application.

What Are the Differences Between Lubricated and Oil-Free Air Compressors?

The differences between oilless and oiled air compressors are vast, even beyond the presence or absence of oil. Explore the advantages and disadvantages of oiled and oil-free air compressors in several key areas, from life expectancy to cost.

Life Expectancy

When you need equipment to last a lifetime, consider a lubricated compressor over an oil-free one. The oil in lubricated compressors offers protection against the constant friction of parts sliding against one another, leading to a longer life span with fewer repairs. An oil-free air compressor’s life expectancy can be much lower.

Maintenance Needs

While oil-free compressors tend to require more major repair work during their lifetime, lubricated varieties need more regular maintenance to stay in good condition. In time, lubricated compressors need oil changes. They also need more filtration monitoring to keep the oil from affecting downstream equipment or causing excess contamination.


Since they don’t need any room for oil, oil-free compressors are generally smaller, lighter and more portable. If you need your air compressor to move around your production area, it may make more sense to invest in an oil-free model.

Climate Requirements

While lubricated compressors function best in warmer climates where increased temperatures keep the oil running smoothly, oil-free compressors are better suited to colder climates where cool, dry air can fuel your operations.

Air Quality

The quality of the air moving through these machines is essential. If your operations follow strict guidelines and contamination requirements, an oil-free compressor is the way to go. The air in lubricated compressors is prone to oil contamination. This contamination may not be a concern in some industries, like automotive, but it could bring major consequences for others — like food processing, pharmaceuticals or electronic production.

Noise Emissions

Lubricated air compressors offer lower noise levels during production. These models are quieter than oil-free compressors because the oil dampens the sound of parts colliding.

Energy Usage

Lubricated compressors require more energy to move oil and parts through the machine. An oil-free compressor minimizes energy usage, which can save you money and reduce your environmental impact.

Environmental Impacts

Due to the risk of oil contamination and higher energy requirements, lubricated compressors take a larger toll on the environment. If your operations need to meet certain environmental protection regulations, consider whether an oil-free compressor will be better suited for your applications.


Because lubricated compressions are generally more complex machines with more parts than oil-free compressors, they come at a higher price. However, that upfront investment can offer you a more durable unit that stands up to the test of time.

How to Choose Between an Oil and Oil-Free Air Compressor

As you explore compressor options, be sure to factor in these considerations:

  • Application: In the case of oil air compressors versus oil-free ones, how you plan to use the equipment is the most important factor. If you work in an industry that requires clean, dry air with little risk of contamination, you need an oil-free compressor. In operations where oiled air is not an issue or may even help your processes, choose a lubricated model.
  • Budget: Are you willing and able to make an upfront investment in a lubricated compressor? If you’re new to compressors, you may want to start with a cheaper, oilless model to learn how they work and how often you need one. If you choose this option, though, know you may end up spending more in repair and replacement costs down the line.
  • Uses: How often will you use your compressor? Is it something you need for constant, everyday operation, or will you only take it out every once in a while for minor projects? With how long oilless compressors last, they’re more suited to infrequent use, whereas oiled compressors are valuable in regular, heavy-use situations.

Trust Fluid Aire Dynamics for Lubricated and Oil-Free Air Compressors for Your Business

Whichever type of air compressor is right for you, Fluid Aire Dynamics has it, and we are ready to deliver it to you right away. If you’re not sure which type of air compressor is the right fit for your industry or business, just get in touch with us, and we’ll help you figure it out. We can help you determine all of your air compression system needs.

To find out more or for a free estimate on air compressors for your business, contact us today.