In manufacturing and maintenance industries nowadays, the workers and engineers face quite a few different challenges, or, actually, one single challenge in different forms. How do I ensure maximum production? How do I reduce the costs? What type of improvements will be the most optimum? All these are just to get to one output, the plant maintaining an optimum performance (with peak efficiency and as low as possible cost. So, they modify and customize the process, plant, tools, and machines according to their need to ensure the best possible outcome at the lowest possible cost.

stage of air compressors

An air compressor (compressed air to power work tool) is an essential tool in any workshop with a wide range of applications. They are used for a variety of applications, such as running different air-powered tools. There are various categories of air compressors, and these categorizations are done in multiple ways. They are classified based on tank size, CFM (cubic feet per minute) output, horsepower, and many other things. These categories are created to use in different operations and to complement specific requirements of any particular function. Reciprocating vs rotary, fixed speed vs variable speed? Oil-flooded vs oil-free, you can choose the air compressor technology that best matches your needs and works and improves overall operation. Among them, there is a category of air compressors based on the compression stages. Basically, this classification is done based on how many times the atmospheric air gets compressed between the inlet valve and the air tool nozzle after being taken in. According to this, there are two types of air compressor.

types of air compressors

Difference between a single-stage air compressor and a dual-stage air compressor

what’s the difference between a one-stage and two-stage air compressor? Which is the better one, single-stage or two-stage air compressor? What is the advantage of a single-stage air compressor? What is the advantage of a 2 stage compressor? If you are looking for answers to these questions, then we are pleased to inform you that you are at the right place. After going through this article

As the name suggests, a single-stage air compressor compresses the air only once, and a two-stage compressor compresses the air two times. And, this difference in compression stages is the biggest and the most apparent difference between a single-stage compressor and a two-stage compressor. However, this is not the only one.

Let’s get into more details.

Single-stage compressor

The atmospheric air is sucked into the cylinder through the filter by the action of both the inlet valves and the downward movement of pistons. The inlet valves are closed once there is enough air in the cylinder. This signals the crankshaft to rotate, which pushes the pistons upward. This movement compresses the air and, at the same time, pushes it towards the exit valves. This pressurized air of approximately 120 PSI (pound per square inch) is then deposited inside the storage tank to be used when it’s needed. Single-stage compressors are also called piston compressors.

single stage air compressor mechanism

Dual-stage compressor

The process of inhaling and compressing air is almost similar in both the two-stage unit and the single-stage unit. The difference is that in a two-stage unit, the air goes through the second phase of compression. So, the air is not released in the storage tank right away after the first phase of compression in the two-stage compression process. Instead of that, the air is further subjected to the second phase of compression of approximately 175 PSI implemented by a small piston inside the second cylinder. After this, the double-pressurized air is then deposited in the storage tank to be used later, just like the single-stage compressor. In the dual-stage air compressor, the air is doubly pressurized, which results in double energy.

double stage air compressor mechanism

Air compressor pumps

The air compressor pumps or cylinders have different configurations in a single-stage machine and a dual-stage air compressor system. Both of these machines have two cylinders for balancing the air. The pistons for compressing the air are located in these cylinders. However, in a single-stage air compressor, the pistons will have the same physical dimension. On the other hand, in a dual-stage air compressor, one compression cylinder will be bigger than the other. That’s because it has one large piston that does the first-stage compression and a smaller piston that does the second-stage compression of the two-stage compression. The first piston implements a lower pressure level, and the second piston executes a higher amount of pressure.

Also, in a two-stage compressor, the two cylinders will be joined by a cooling tube. The purpose of this cooling tube is to lower the temperature of the compressed air for the second stage of compression.

Intermittent VS Continuous operation

Another significant difference between a single-stage machine and a dual-stage unit is that a single-stage unit is ideal for intermittent use, not for ongoing applications. On the other hand, the dual-stage unit is the opposite. It is designed for handling continuous use.

Difference between single-stage compression and two-stage compression in practical applications

Different types of air compressor applications will require different levels of air compressor size, power, and mechanism.

Single-stage compressor


Using single-stage machines is sufficient for typical woodworking. Woodworking is a tool-intensive operation that needs pneumatic tools for doing tasks like sawing, nailing, drilling sanding.

woodworking with air compressors


metalworkers have to do tasks like shearing, grinding, riveting, ratcheting, and single-stage air compressing machines that can be used to power the pneumatic tools required for these tasks.

metalwork with air compressors

Food Industry

The level of your operation will be the deciding factor for the food industry. These operations involve tasks like mixing, cooling, frosting, or powdering. Suppose you need an air compressing device for working in a bakery or the in-house kitchen. In that case, you can probably accomplish the necessary tasks with a single-stage compressor. But you will need dual-stage air compressors for industrial-level operations like mass production and packaging in a factory.

compressed sir systems in food industry

Dual-stage compressor

Auto Shops

An automotive plant has to run various types of heavy-duty pneumatic tools for tasks like living, screwing, painting, and most of these works need higher amounts of air pressure. So, sing-stage air compressors will not be sufficient for auto maintenance and assembly plants.

uses of air compressors in auto shops

Beverage industry

The overall purpose of beverage plants is to bottle beverages for mass distribution. This involves tasks molding, filling, sealing, and beverage manufacturers need two-stage compressors for powering the pneumatic tools required for these tasks. So, dual-stage compressing machines are ideal for beverage processing plants.

air compressor  used in beverage industry


Pneumatic tools are also used in the military field for the production and maintenance of aircraft, tanks, and other large pieces of equipment and performing tasks like cutting, shaping, assembling, fastening, etc. Just like any factory manufacturing process, dual-stage air compressors are needed to generate the necessary air power to operate the pneumatic tools and machinery required for these types of tasks.

air compressors for  making military tools

Which is the better choice?

Anyone who wants to buy an air compressor will definitely have this question in mind. If we just compare the output performance of the single-stage models and the two-stage ones, then the two-stage compressors will appear to be better. The two-stage models are more efficient than the single-stage ones; they can deliver more CFM than the single-stage models, and also they can run cooler. But that doesn’t mean that you just decide that the dual-stage compressor is the go-to option for you. A single-stage machine is energy-saving, they weigh much less, and they also cost less.

So, we’d say that a bit of rephrasing this question is necessary. You should be asking which air compressor technology will be the preferable option for you and better suited to your work for maximum efficiency. Because if you are not using high-powered equipment or working on something that will not require the amount of power the dual-stage compressor produces, then the energy consumption of a two-stage compressor will just be an added cost for you and without any benefit.

Which one is better suited?

Well, that depends on the work you’ll be doing.


If you are doing jobs that need handheld air-powered tools that require 100-120 PSI, then a single-stage air compressor will be sufficient, and you can get it at a cheaper price.

But, if you will be using air-powered equipment that needs higher air power to run, or you will be running large-scale operations like factories or construction works, then using a two-stage compressor will be ideal for you since two-stage compression can produce higher power than single-stage compression.


If you don’t need a higher level of airpower and the operations required for your works can be done with a single-stage air compressor, then buying a dual-stage unit will be a waste for you. They cost more, and you’ll be wasting airpower.

However, this doesn’t mean that using a single-stage air compressor will save you money in every case. If you are running an automotive shop, there’s a great possibility that using single-stage compressors will increase the amount of compressing machines necessary to run the plant, and you’ll have to buy more air compressors to handle the overall requirement of your plant, which will increase the cost compared to the dual-stage air compressors. Furthermore, the dual-stage air compressors need maintenance at less frequent intervals, which will complement the cost-cutting of the operation.

So, you should consider the total CFM of tools you will be using and ensure that the air compressor can handle the workload.


Air compressor is an indispensable tool needed in various fields and for various applications. But, you need to understand what type of compressor you need and what type of compressor is appropriate for your work.

Maybe you are an individual tradesman or a small crew of tradesmen who does works like framing, sheathing, roofing, or trimming. Then single-stage machines will be sufficient for you. Or maybe you are a large construction crew, and you need air compressors that can provide large amounts of air with high pressure for extended periods. Then the two-stage air compressors will be the preferable option for you. Maybe you don’t need high pressure but require a larger tank for higher amounts of air supply or vice versa. These types of situations must be considered before choosing an air compressor model to buy, be it for your home applications or professional workshop.

To understand these concepts, you need to understand the differences between different types of air compressors, such as the differences between their working mechanism, their level of pressure, or their amount of air supply capabilities.

After reading this article, you will develop a clear idea about the single-stage and double-stage air compressors, their working mechanism, their similarities, and their differences, and this knowledge will be helpful for you which type of air compressor between these two will be best for you and your work, and ensure maximum efficiency at lowest possible cost.

Thank you for reading and best of luck.

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Hi, and welcome to Toolented. My name is Michael D. Sanders. I am a Mechanical Engineer by degree, who is a blogger by passion, and this combination of knowledge and passion is what brought Toolented to life. On my blog website, you will find necessary information about your needed automotive tools, reviews of your potential choices, and comparisons between different types of tools. To learn more click here.

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