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About a year and a half ago, I started the project of my tractor garage and my solar panels. When I did those, there was another small project hidden in there that was waiting to happen. That project was getting and installing an air compressor.

I'm on that project now. It's not going as smoothly as I'd like, but that's how it goes. Let me take a few posts to bring you all up to day on where things are, and then I'll need some help on the air compressor side.

First, a comment on human nature: :empathy3:

In the world of computers, you know the difference between hardware types and software types? If you ask how the project is going, the software person will tell you everything they think they have working. The hardware guy will tell you everything that is wrong or broken. It's a fundamental difference between hardware and software. Now I do both, but I tend toward the hardware side. As such, I like to point out everything that is wrong with a project.

BTW, I claim salesmen and marking types are like software people, and tractor owners are like hardware people. But that's not the point of this thread, so lets get on with it :flag_of_truce:.

Here are the two buildings, the tractor garage and the inverter shed for the solar project. Now you all know what a tractor garage is, but the inverter shed hold the big electronics box that takes the 8 KW of DC and turns it into AC and puts it out on the grid. I have the inverter and the associated AC wiring in a small 6x8 shed.

I put a 3" PVC drain pipe and a 2.5" electrical conduit between the garage and the shed. The goal was to have the air compressor not be in the garage. Here's a shot of the two buildings.

Stay tuned, more to come, I'll let you know when I'm through singing... :dance:

Pete
 

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Now inside the tractor garage, the 3" PCV comes up toward the top of the building. This conduit was to hold the air hose. If I'd been thinking clearly when I did this, I would have put a 1/2" copper line in a 1" black polyethylene (PE) pipe between the buildings. In the long run, it would be better than a hose in a PVC pipe.

Now if you look at the electrical conduit, it comes down from the ceiling with a long run that goes to the breaker box in the garage. There is a small gray box to help with the wire pulling, and from that you see a 3/4" conduit that comes down to a switch box. This will be the switch to turn the compressor on from the garage.

It's hard to see, but under the switch box is a quick connect for the air. There are three of these in the garage. They come down on 1/2" copper pipe. At the top of the garage, the three copper pipes are connected by pex pipe. I know it would be hard to get back at the walls as the garage got done, and new it would be hard and time consuming to work all the system in copper, so I did the connects with pex. It's a compromise. No one is every happy with a compromise. It will work, but, I'm not sure I'm happy now. It saved a ton of time and money during the garage construction though.

Here is a picture of the conduits in the garage when the walls were open, and of the switch and air connection now.

Pete
 

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Now out in the inverter shed I have a 30 amp twist lock outlet that is switched from inside the tractor garage. I also have the 1/2" air hose coming out of the white conduit. Here is what they look like.

Both conduit came up a little crooked. Unlike the conduits in the garage, I had no walls as a reference point when I put in these conduits. And during fill in and compaction they shifted. And my picture of the outlet is a bit crooked. It's all off slightly, but it will work. There is another pull box, and a conduit stub in case I want to pull another circuit for something from the garage.

The other conduit and box to the right of the white PVC pipe is the sensing for the solar panels. The little funny horizontal run goes to yet another box, and it has a conduit that goes to the panel and connects to a current transformer for the solar. But I digress.

The 30 amp twist lock was a Cooper brand. When I was tightening it up on the #10 stranded THHN wire, the screw slipped as it started to strip out. I was not torquing that hard, and the wire was not compressed much. I'll have to go back and replace it with something that works, probably a Hubble. Cooper brand from Lowes- what was I thinking...

I ran 4 wire so I'd have a neural in case I ever needed it. One extra wire now could save trouble later.

As you can see, I have about 5' of airline out at the shed, enough to find it's way to the right place on the compressor. The open side of the shed will be finished with one half being a wall with screen, and the other side being a screen door. That way there is enough air that the inverter and compressor will stay cool, but it is all closed up to bees and wasps. I hate those bees and wasps... The open side is the north side of the building. Wish I'd made the shed a bit bigger, but I think whatever size you make any building you wish it was a bit bigger when you get to using it.

Pete
 

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Looks good so far Pete:good2:
 

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Now the hose is a mess and a hack. But, it's were I ended up. I couldn't find a 75' air hose anywhere so I had to use a 50 and a 25. I connected them together, coated it with "liquid electric tape" and then when that was just a bit soft wrapped it in electrical tape to protect the seal. I could also have used self vulcanizing tape, sometimes called "coax seal". Now this hose and the splice will be in the 3" white drainage PVC so it will be wet. I hope the seal will last as long as the hose does. The fitting is a hydraulic hose fitting, I've had bad luck with the brass plumbing parts from Lowes.

When I did the 3" PVC and had to make either 90 degree or 45 degree turns, I used 22.5 degree turns and connected about 4" between them. You've probably seen that for this type of pipe there is a normal 90 degree and a "wide sweep" or "big sweep" part with a bigger radius. Well, using the 22.5 degree fittings like this game me a "huge sweep". This meant I could pull the splice through a 90 degree sweep, and then later a 45 degree sweep without any problems. I did have to rig a bushing on my fish tape so it had a big bump on it and it would push through this chain of fittings OK. Unfortunately, I did not take pictures of this. I was working fast while the building crew was there, since I only had a day from when the post were in and I knew where the wall would be to when they would put up the walls.

So here are pictures of the splice, and a picture of how it comes up out of the white pipe in the ceiling of the garage and connects to the pex that feeds the three copper tubed drops with quick connects. After I took this shot, I spray painted the pex white so it would not be exposed to UV. UV degrades pex pipe with time and make it brittle.

The picture of the connection between the 1/2" air hose and the pex is confusing- the big conduit is the 2.5" one from the breaker box. The little conduit is one that has a coax and power for a security camera. FWIW, I used the 2.5" conduit so I'd have something big to get from the breaker panel on the north wall of the shop to the south wall of the shop. If I every put in a welder, it would run in this conduit. Same for if I every put in a heat pump to heat and cool the place.

Pete
 

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Ok, so, now I've got power (well, I still need to change out that silly Cooper outlet to a good Hubell one) and air hose. With the grunt work done, its time to buy the compressor :dance::yahoo::good2:.

What to get :dunno: ?

Well, I'm leaning toward a 3 HP dual stage from Tractor Supply. It's about a grand. I don't have a repair shop, I don't have a welder, so this should be OK for most of the stuff I'll do. I've agonized over this, :banghead:, but it is consistent with the level of things I do. What I lack in tractor repair equipment I make up for on my electronics work bench, but that's another story.

Now here's where I need help:

Various threads here have talked about problems with moisture in air systems. I plan to have the drain for the tank where I can get to it OK. I'll might drain it on the concrete. I thought about a drain in the pad, but it's so flat where the building is there is not much hope there. I could drill a hole in the wall and run a tube to the outside for manually draining the tank. Ideas?

There has also been talk of dryers for air systems. I know there are some high dollar ones out there, but are there any that are in the "weekend warrior" class. Something between nothing and a "RandyM - Do it right the first time" without being too wrong. I know my air line in the PVC is an imposable to drain line, that seems to be yet another trade off of this compressor not in the garage system. But if I drain the tank on the compressor regularly and then have some sort of dryer, will that be good enough? I'm thinking air tools down the road, right now I use air for tires and cleaning/blowing stuff off.

Ok, so there's the project and what I've done. Tear it up all you can, it's the only way others can learn. Can this project be salvaged? I've been living with a single stage belt-less noisy 25 gallon $200 special air compressor that is still going after 18 years. I hope I can have yet another piece of infrastructure around the place that will outlive me.

TIA, let 'er rip....:hide:

Pete
 

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Compressor Drain

Pete, here is what I do to drain my compressor. Cheap and simple crack the valve and the pressure empties the water right into the bucket.
 

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I think you should have just used PEX, probably 3/4 to feed the air to the shop...no splice and less restriction. Surplus center also sells good rubber hose by the foot so you could have made the length you needed, that's how I fed my pole barn.
 

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Are you planning on doing any paint, or sand blasting? If so, it is absolutly crucial that you get as much water out of the system as possible otherwise you'll find issues with painting and sandblasting.

A quick and dirty way is this, as close to the compressor as possible. Some guys use a copper manifold, with a drain at the bottom, before it even gets to the filter.

http://www.harborfreight.com/desiccant-air-dryer-97686.html

Check out:

http://www.garagejournal.com

Many, many discussions on running compressors, lines, filters, you name it.

...Now here's where I need help:

Various threads here have talked about problems with moisture in air systems. I plan to have the drain for the tank where I can get to it OK. I'll might drain it on the concrete. I thought about a drain in the pad, but it's so flat where the building is there is not much hope there. I could drill a hole in the wall and run a tube to the outside for manually draining the tank. Ideas?

There has also been talk of dryers for air systems. I know there are some high dollar ones out there, but are there any that are in the "weekend warrior" class. Something between nothing and a "RandyM - Do it right the first time" without being too wrong. I know my air line in the PVC is an imposable to drain line, that seems to be yet another trade off of this compressor not in the garage system. But if I drain the tank on the compressor regularly and then have some sort of dryer, will that be good enough? I'm thinking air tools down the road, right now I use air for tires and cleaning/blowing stuff off.

Ok, so there's the project and what I've done. Tear it up all you can, it's the only way others can learn. Can this project be salvaged? I've been living with a single stage belt-less noisy 25 gallon $200 special air compressor that is still going after 18 years. I hope I can have yet another piece of infrastructure around the place that will outlive me.

TIA, let 'er rip....:hide:

Pete
 

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Kenny, when this hose blows I'll get the custom length from Surplus Center. I kinda liked the fact that the hard to get to section had a 250 PSI rating (but don't know what temperature that's at....:unknown:). This whole project has a "when you're done you know how to do it" aspect to it, more than most. I plan to run everything at 90 PSI.

Dellwas, tnx for the links. Various web searches on air compressor and distribution systems put them in a class with Oils, R1 vs. F4, and Hydro vs. Gear. I guess if I ever do an painting or sand blasting, I'll up the drying system better. I will give the Horror Freight dryer a shot.

My hope is that the combination of a two stage compressor and the big tank, coupled with occasional use and not for long periods of time means that the tank will stay cool and most of the water will come out there. Long periods of continuous use seems to change the game here.

The other factor affecting choices is that this compressor is in essence outside (i.e. not in a shop with HVAC and controlled humidity). So a quick drain after each use will have to happen. Randy, I'll need to have my drain system so that water can't sit in the pipes so in the winter it won't freeze. Any water left at the bottom of the tank should be small enough that it can't break anything when it freezes. Again, drain after each use although in the winter time with lower humidity there should be less water accumulation.

And if all this fails, well, the compressor moves into the garage where it won't go below freezing during the winter.

Tnx for feedback!

Pete
 

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The other factor affecting choices is that this compressor is in essence outside (i.e. not in a shop with HVAC and controlled humidity). So a quick drain after each use will have to happen. Randy, I'll need to have my drain system so that water can't sit in the pipes so in the winter it won't freeze. Any water left at the bottom of the tank should be small enough that it can't break anything when it freezes. Again, drain after each use although in the winter time with lower humidity there should be less water accumulation.
Pete, my setup sat in a freezing climate for years until the building was finished. You are correct keep it drained. Once the water stops becoming a solid stream just crack the valve a little more for a little longer and presto. You may have some residual left but not enough to cause a problem.:good2:
 

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tnx for the cold weather advice, Randy.

Spent today rounding up stuff. Got the dryer from Horror Freight that delwas posted, and ordered a Wix Aqua Filter set up. Horror Freight did not have spare desiccant, I'll have to try there again. It took 3 auto stores before I found one that carried the Wix line and would even look up what I was talking about. Guess the economy is dong better than I thought....:unknown:

Next I went to Tractor Supply Co. and looked at two compressors:

One was a 3 HP 60 gallon tank, 11 CFM at 90 psi. Web site says 8,000 hour pump, the store sign said 5,000 hour pump. Sign in store says dual stage, web doesn't say. Only one "finned thingie" in the air, but it looks like it could have 2 cylinders in it. Web site is:
http://www.tractorsupply.com/tools/air-compressors-air-tools-accessories/air-compressors/ingersoll-rand-60-gallon-air-compressor-3496111

The other was a 5 HP 60 gallon 18 CFM at 90 PSI with 8,000 hour pump, web site says single stage sign at store says dual, same rectangular "finned thingie". Web site is:
http://www.tractorsupply.com/tools/air-compressors-air-tools-accessories/air-compressors/ingersoll-rand-5-hp-60-gal-single-stage-air-compressor-3301332

So I'm thinking these are single stage with lots of miss-labeling, especially since:

The web site shows a two stage unit 80 gallon tank, with two cylinders with fins. It's a 7.5 HP, 23 CFM, 175 PSI max, killer unit but it's $2,000.

Now the motor on the 3 HP unit shows a current draw of 15 amps. The motor on the 5 HP unit shows a current draw of 21 amps. So there seems to be a problem with HP to current conversion here. Neither match a conversion from HP to watts. But I'll believe the motors labels. And speaking of electrical confusion, the switch I put in the garage has a 30 amp rating. But it then has stamped into it "2 HP max". Another HP to current dilemma.

Our fire station has the 3 HP unit, it has been in service since 2003 and is used to keep the air brakes pumped up. It is set at 100 PSI. So I know these units will have good life.

So my next step is to figure out this 30 Amp vs 2 HP problem. The 3HP unit is $600, the 5 HP unit is $850. Seems like for an extra $150 you get a lot of margin in the whole system, which means more life and if I go in directions I can't see now, I might have what it takes.

On both units, it looks like a 1/4" (or smaller?) threaded plug on the bottom for the water drain. I suspect I'd put in a 90 degree, come out where I could get it, put in a valve, and then take that to just outside the inverter shed.

Another problem: I've got these dryers to connect up. I could not find short little 1/2" hose lengths (like in the 3 or 5 foot long lengths) to help out here. I want to go from the tank to the Horror Freight unit 1st, then I can bolt the Wix on to that, and that will connect to my hose line to the garage. So I need a short little hose to get from the tank to the 1st filter. What am I missing? Time for a Surplus Center custom hose?

Pete
 

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Ok, so, Leviton has a line of "industrial" switches for motor starting that are rated 30 Amps. They are then rated at 2 HP for 120V, and 5 HP for 240V.

The switch that Lowes is selling however is a 30A switch with a 2 HP rating at 120v, and _still_ a 2 HP rating for 240 V. It's labeled "Professional", a distinction or grade that does not exist on the Leviton site. The lowes switch on the Leviton site is considered an "industrial" grade AC switch (but not a motor starting switch).

I point this out in case anyone wonders why I have a complete and total loathing for all people in marketing :rocket:.

So it's back to the electrical supply house to get a _real_ switch.

I will be returning the 30 amp twist lock with the stripped out screw to Lowes. It cost $24. A real Hubble receptacle was $43 at the electrical supply house. So the Lowes stuff is too cheap and deceptively specified. The electrician house charges what an electrician charges after his mark up to protect the electrician. Why does the entire world conspire to take advantage of the people who buy their products? Why are these companies all amazed when there is no customer loyalty?

On the plus side, the 5HP compressor is looking like the winner...

Pete
 

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Pete:

Here is my nickel's worth.

Go with the larger unit as it has more CFM, and think of it like a tractor where few ever gripe about buying too much HP.

You could have saved yourself a bunch of installation grief by just running 3/4" or 1/2" type "K" soft copper tubing in the ground instead of the hose in the conduit. There are three grades of copper tubing for water/air lines; type "M" that is the thinnest wall thickness, type "L" which a little thicker, and type "K" which has the thickest wall. Any of those copper tubing types will handle more pressure than the average air hose ever will and it won't rot or be chewed on by mice. For all I know mice might find your air hose in the conduit a tasty snack if they get in there. I use type "K" soft for buried lines, and type "L" rigid for exposed interior/exterior lines.

Short lengths of hose are called "whips" and I've gotten them from MSC Direct. I like Coilhose Pneumatics brand.

I have a small 1/4" ball valve on my little upright Sears compressor that I crack open after each use as I sometimes go weeks without using my compressor to drain what little water I get in the system. MSC Direct and others have timed drain valves with manual override that run on 120VAC. For a while, MSC had them on sale for under a $100 for the 1/4" version, which should be adequate. If you intend to keep the unit pumped up at all times, one of these should save you the headache of trekking out to the shed on a regular basis to drain the tank.
 

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Ok, so, Leviton has a line of "industrial" switches for motor starting that are rated 30 Amps. They are then rated at 2 HP for 120V, and 5 HP for 240V.

The switch that Lowes is selling however is a 30A switch with a 2 HP rating at 120v, and _still_ a 2 HP rating for 240 V. It's labeled "Professional", a distinction or grade that does not exist on the Leviton site. The lowes switch on the Leviton site is considered an "industrial" grade AC switch (but not a motor starting switch).

I point this out in case anyone wonders why I have a complete and total loathing for all people in marketing :rocket:.

So it's back to the electrical supply house to get a _real_ switch.

I will be returning the 30 amp twist lock with the stripped out screw to Lowes. It cost $24. A real Hubble receptacle was $43 at the electrical supply house. So the Lowes stuff is too cheap and deceptively specified. The electrician house charges what an electrician charges after his mark up to protect the electrician. Why does the entire world conspire to take advantage of the people who buy their products? Why are these companies all amazed when there is no customer loyalty?

On the plus side, the 5HP compressor is looking like the winner...

Pete
I feel like the student teaching the teacher here, But I have to wonder why you are trying to switch that large load with a switch...Why not use a contactor? Then it would be easy to turn it OFF/ON from your main building with a simple 120v circuit. You could even get a piloted switch (one with a light in it) to show when it's ON. Also, hardwire the compressor and forget about a $43 plug/receptical.

On the short hoses: Go to DHH (I wrote Surplus Center before-but I meant DHH, sorry) and get some bulk lenght and barbed fittings, at least 1/2".
 

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You're welcome, and I have that dessicant filter, but haven't gotten around to putting it in yet. I have a Speedaire that puts out 34 CFM. I don't use mine every day, but still get moisture in the lines, and I have a water filter and regulator on each drop, you won't get it all dropping out into the bottom of the tank. That's why I"m putting the dessicant at the start of the run. Gotta get to it soon, got some major sandblasting to do on my F-350, and it's getting nice here.

Dellwas, tnx for the links. Various web searches on air compressor and distribution systems put them in a class with Oils, R1 vs. F4, and Hydro vs. Gear. I guess if I ever do an painting or sand blasting, I'll up the drying system better. I will give the Horror Freight dryer a shot.

My hope is that the combination of a two stage compressor and the big tank, coupled with occasional use and not for long periods of time means that the tank will stay cool and most of the water will come out there. Long periods of continuous use seems to change the game here.

The other factor affecting choices is that this compressor is in essence outside (i.e. not in a shop with HVAC and controlled humidity). So a quick drain after each use will have to happen. Randy, I'll need to have my drain system so that water can't sit in the pipes so in the winter it won't freeze. Any water left at the bottom of the tank should be small enough that it can't break anything when it freezes. Again, drain after each use although in the winter time with lower humidity there should be less water accumulation.



Pete
 

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The other was a 5 HP 60 gallon 18 CFM at 90 PSI with 8,000 hour pump, web site says single stage sign at store says dual, same rectangular "finned thingie". Web site is:
http://www.tractorsupply.com/tools/air-compressors-air-tools-accessories/air-compressors/ingersoll-rand-5-hp-60-gal-single-stage-air-compressor-3301332

So I'm thinking these are single stage with lots of miss-labeling, especially since:

The web site shows a two stage unit 80 gallon tank, with two cylinders with fins. It's a 7.5 HP, 23 CFM, 175 PSI max, killer unit but it's $2,000.

Yep, you are correct, the 849.00 Compressor is a single stage. TSC does have a 2 Stage for 999. which has the same motor as that $849 single stage.

I'm still debating between the 999/2 stage and the 849/1 stage. Spoke with a salesman at a local air power supply shop...all they sell is compressors and air powered doo-dads (never seen an air powered flashlight before, :lol:). Long story short, he didnt answer anything. But honestly tried to steer me towards the single stage...said for 99% of people, single stage is the way to go.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Cad Man, you are every so right on the copper line. I got too caught up in having pipe from the building to the shed in case I wanted to do something and forget to cover the one thing I know I wanted to do. Whenever I bury a copper line like that (for example to the generator or into the house) I put it in a black PE pipe wrapped in yellow tape.

Even in utopia there's myopia. :laugh:

I'll probably not leave it on all the time (for now), and will go with a manual drain. At the Fire Dept, we are going to put in a "drain on a timer" since that unit is on all the time. Tnx for the Whips data.

Kenny, I thought the 30 amp switch would be the cheapest way to go. A contactor is not out of the question since there is conduit to everything. My mistake was in not considering the inrush nature of the switch which raises the price. When I go to get a motor switch today, I'll price that against a contactor.

As for the outlet, I was thinking that would give me a power source outside that could be used for other things if needed. That's why I went with a 3 + ground instead of a 240 volt only setup.

I'm also going to put in a 'T' at the compressor so if something came along that needed the full flow, I could get a 50 foot 1/2 inch line and plug it in right at the tank. This would also let me do messy stuff and be downwind of the buildings. More worrying about the future...

Dave, I've seen the $1K two stage on line, there is not one in the store (I'm sure I could have them get it). These air compressor folks are as devious as Deere with the available models. The $600 11 CFM should be all I'll ever need, but for just $150 more I could get.... Then, the $850 18 CFM should be more than I'll ever need, but if I want higher pressures for just $150 more I could get.... The higher air flow would be nice for sanding, painting, and a 3/4 impact wrench (I do have the MX6 cutter). What do I need now, what might I want later ?

I want to take a stab at computing the pressure loss at a 11 CFM flow of my distribution system. That might help me decide. Agreed that I'm in that 99% home owner class of user, and as such 8,000 hours of life is more life than I'll have, a disturbing repeating trend that keeps coming up in decisions I make these days.

Note the theme here, "Sometimes I worry more about what I can't do than I focus on what I will do." :mocking:

Pete
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
Electrical update: I just got back from the elecrical supply house. They had no 5HP 30A double pole switches in stock. They did have a 30A 5HP contator. The cost of the switch they would have to order was about $75, the in stock contactor was $60. So I went with the in stock cheaper solution. I'm _guessing_ that it's just hard to get all that capacity into the form factor of a switch. Fortunately, I have that box with the conduit in it and there is enough room for the contactor. If I had known I as going to have that box serve as anything other than a pull/access box, I would have made it a 20" box to meet code, the large box size being dictated by the 2.5" conduit (which really could have been 1" conduit for what I'm using it for, in which case my 9" box would have been fine). So there's what you could do (a switch) and what you should do (stock and cheaper contactor). Live and learn. This is also an example of why sometimes conduit is your friend.

Back to air stuff, I'm looking ant DHC and MSC, and can see where you can get hose cut to length. What's not clear is how you get the end fittings (1/2 inch, NPT). Are the push in fittings pointed to on the same DHC page the way to go (150 psi max)?
I've also see barbed brass (at MSC) where you push the hose on and use a hose clamp, but they seem to all be to air quick connect fitings?

Yeah, stupid questions but I've never had to make an air line before :unknown:.

Pete
 

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Electrical update: I just got back from the elecrical supply house. They had no 5HP 30A double pole switches in stock. They did have a 30A 5HP contator. The cost of the switch they would have to order was about $75, the in stock contactor was $60. So I went with the in stock cheaper solution. I'm _guessing_ that it's just hard to get all that capacity into the form factor of a switch. Fortunately, I have that box with the conduit in it and there is enough room for the contactor. If I had known I as going to have that box serve as anything other than a pull/access box, I would have made it a 20" box to meet code, the large box size being dictated by the 2.5" conduit (which really could have been 1" conduit for what I'm using it for, in which case my 9" box would have been fine). So there's what you could do (a switch) and what you should do (stock and cheaper contactor). Live and learn. This is also an example of why sometimes conduit is your friend.

Back to air stuff, I'm looking ant DHC and MSC, and can see where you can get hose cut to length. What's not clear is how you get the end fittings (1/2 inch, NPT). Are the push in fittings pointed to on the same DHC page the way to go (150 psi max)?
I've also see barbed brass (at MSC) where you push the hose on and use a hose clamp, but they seem to all be to air quick connect fitings?

Yeah, stupid questions but I've never had to make an air line before :unknown:.

Pete
Good news on the contactor, I think I only paid about $30 for the one I put on my dust collection system, but I got it online after shopping around...I think it's a muck better solution than a switch.

I used the barbed fittings from DHH: http://www.discounthydraulichose.com/Brass_Hose_Barbs_s/96.htm

And this hose: http://www.discounthydraulichose.com/Heavy_Duty_Red_Air_Hose_p/1145-hose.htm
 
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