Air Motor vs Electric Motor: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to choosing a motor, electric motors are the first that come to mind. But if you are looking for a motor with more torque and energy efficiency, look at an air motor.

Choosing the right type of motor all depends on your use and environment. Electric motors are useful for small projects and DIY workshops. Air motors are great for factories, manufacturing facilities, and other industrial uses.

This article provides everything you need to know in order to decide between an air motor vs electric motor. Find out what the pros and cons are for each, and which is best for your needs.

Air Motor VS Electrical Motor

Choosing between an air motor vs electrical motor is a decision for industrial manufacturing facilities. The choice is often in regard to an industrial mixer. Industrial mixers churn a wide variety of liquids and chemicals for use in manufacturing processes.

When you are mixing a ten-thousand-gallon vat of liquid, it makes a big difference which kind of motor you are using. The torque, speed, energy efficiency, and mixing environment play key roles in determining which motor you should use.

The wrong motor will slow down the manufacturing process and cause inefficiencies on the work floor. The proper motor will speed up your process and improve overall operating performance.

To pick the right motor, consider the following features:

Applied Torque and Power Output

The greatest advantage of an air motor vs electrical motor is the torque. An air motor allows you to adjust the torque output depending on your needs. Air motors feature a dynamically generated torque load.

Electric motors get their power, either, from an Alternating Current (AC) or Direct Current (DC) motor. Electric motors are powered by a battery or a 12-volt electrical outlet plug. Some electric motors feature multiple speed settings, but the torque from the motor remains fixed.

Unlike an electrical motor, air motors increase or decrease motor torque to meet precise mixing requirements.

The most common types of air motors for industrial processes are a rotary vane motor and Gast air motor. These air motors create torque by varying the air pressure turning the motor. The more air that is let through, the faster the motor spins with less torque. As the pressure increases, the motor spins slower with more torque.

20 pounds-per-square-inch (psi) of air pressure produces about 2,500 revolution-per-minute (rpm) of the motor. This creates about one horsepower of output. The maximum horsepower output for most air motors is around 4. To spin the motor at the same rpm rate, the motor increases the psi to 100.

An electric motor does not have this versatility. If the torque is overloaded the motor simply jams and is often damaged. An air motor compensates for increased torque requirements with more air pressure until the need is met.

Energy Efficiency

Electric motors are more efficient than air motors. An electric motor provides air pressure directly to the sealed motor box. An air motor relies on external air compression that travels to the motor box.

Air motors require tubes, elbows, and fittings that leach little bits of air. Even with these small decreases in efficiency, air motors provide many times the output power as electric motors. The additional power, however, comes at the expense of less energy efficiency.

The energy efficiency of an air motor vs electrical motor makes a big difference for a business’s bottom line. The additional operating costs of an air motor can end up costing a business around $1,500 extra as opposed to an electrical motor. Overall, an air motor can experience around a 20 percent loss in energy efficiency.

Precision Speed Control

The speed at which your motor can run is variable on an air motor. By increasing air pressure to the motor the speed and torque respond in kind. Electric motors only offer a feature for variable speed control at an upcharge.

Air motors work to produce precision results with every use. You can count on the same production quality over the lifecycle of the motor. Electric motors are not as reliable and will decrease in efficiency, over time.

Environmental Factors

One of the biggest considerations to make in your air motor vs electrical motor decision is the environment in which you mean to use it. Some environments are hazardous for electrical motors. Air motors are the first choice when working in an environment where corrosion could take place.

The design of electrical motors ensures that the units are explosion-proof. This casing requires motor housing to be placed very tightly together, with little room between parts. The casing of these motors ends up collecting moisture and corroding the moving parts of your electrical motor.

An air motor is reliant on pressurized air, instead of moving parts. Air motors are safe to use in wet environments. Electric motors need environmentally controlled housing if they are to be used outdoors.

Motor Size and Unit Weight

The size of your motor depends on the unit it powers. Air motors are much lighter than electrical motors and easier to transport.

Electric motors include a power source and motor housing all in one unit. Since air motors connect to an external power source, they are much lighter and easier to relocate. And, the power output of an air motor produces more horsepower than that of its electric counterpart.

Final Thoughts

If your torque and power requirements are variable, an air motor is the right choice. On the other hand, electrical motors are much more energy efficient, but at a loss of versatility.

The only reason you benefit from an electrical motor is if your usage is static and environment controlled.

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