What Is an Air Receiver?

An air receiver is an essential element of any compressed air system. Also known as compressed air tanks, and air reservoirs, air receivers are essentially temporary storage tanks that allow your compressed air system to cope with fluctuations in demand. Depending on it’s configuration, an air receiver can provide many benefits, including reduced energy usage, improved workplace productivity and significant cost savings.

This guide details everything you need to know about air receivers so that you can decide how to choose the most suitable solution for your compressed air system. At Anglian Compressors, we’ve been installing, repairing and maintaining air compressors and receivers since 1977. If you have any questions or need advice, don’t hesitate to contact us for a no-obligation chat.

How Air Receivers Work

So, what is an air receiver? Air receivers serve as storage tanks for compressed air before the air is directed into the piping system, or used by equipment. In simpler terms, air receivers act as intermediaries between the air compressor and the fluctuating pressure demands of the system.

While it’s technically possible to run an air compressor system without an air receiver, doing so is often more expensive. With a compressed air receiver, your air compressor has to go through loading and unloading cycles between uses, which means it has to work harder to meet changes in demand. 

Also, compressors are more susceptible to wear and tear without the use of a receiver, potentially resulting in higher maintenance costs while reducing the lifespan of your valuable equipment.

Real-World Applications for Air Receivers

Now that you know what air receivers are and how they work, let’s look at some of their most common uses:

Manufacturing Plants

Air receivers are essential in manufacturing facilities where compressed air is used to operate machinery and pneumatic tools. By ensuring a constant supply of compressed air, air receivers can improve workplace efficiency and reduce wear and tear on compressors.

Construction Sites

In the construction industry, air receivers are used to store compressed air for powering pneumatic tools such as jackhammers, paint sprayers and nail guns. Air receivers allow you to switch between tools easily without overburdening the air compressor.

Automotive Workshops

Garages and workshops frequently use compressed air for tasks such as cleaning, inflating tyres and operating air tools, such as impact wrenches. Thanks to air receivers, automotive workshops can count on a constant supply of compressed air, and keep up with high demand during busy periods.

Chemical Processing

Industries involved in chemical processing use compressed air for various applications, including mixing chemicals and controlling reactions.


In medical facilities, compressed air can be used to operate medical equipment such as breathing apparatus and specific surgical tools. It goes without saying that having access to a reliable source of compressed air is crucial in environments such as hospitals.

Food and Drinks Manufacturing

In the food and drinks industry, compressed air is used for tasks that include pneumatic conveying (transporting food from one processing stage to the next), cleaning, packaging and blending. You can also adjust the amount of air inside the packaging to maximise the lifespan of the food.

What Is an Air Receiver
What Is an Air Receiver

Different Types of Air Receiver

The type of air receiver you’ll need largely depends on your compressed air requirements and the space available for it’s installation. Here are some of the main types of air receivers and their best uses:

Tank-Mounted vs. Standalone Air Receivers

When air receivers are described as tank-mounted, it means they are integrated or mounted directly under or onto the air compressor, as a single unit. This configuration is typical for smaller air compressors (typically up to 26kW or 35 HP) where space is limited. On top of saving space, a tank-mounted compressor is often straightforward to install.

On the other hand, larger air receivers may not be tank-mounted due to weight, stability and safety concerns. These receivers are usually installed near the air compressor as a standalone tank. Unlike tank-mounted solutions, installing a standalone air compressor with a separate condenser can take longer. However, because they’re available in a vast range of sizes, standalone receivers may be more suitable for your workplace.

Vertical vs. horizontal configurations

The choice between a horizontal and vertical configuration is often based on spatial considerations and the specific requirements of the compressed air system. Horizontal configurations are ideal in areas with low ceilings, where they can be installed against the length of a wall for maximum stability.

Vertical configurations may be more suitable if floor space is limited, but height is not a constraint. Also, vertical receivers often have a natural advantage in terms of condensate drainage. The vertical orientation allows water to accumulate at the bottom of the tank, making it easier to drain moisture from the system.

Benefits of Using an Air Receiver

As mentioned above – it’s technically possible to use an air compressor without an air receiver. However, you may want to use an air receiver for the following reasons:

Enhanced System Stability

An air receiver helps maintain a stable air pressure throughout the compressed air system. This stability reduces the likelihood of pressure drops negatively impacting your production processes. In industrial and commercial environments where air compressor equipment reliability is crucial, air receivers are a smart investment.

Optimised Compressor Operation

With an air receiver installed, the air compressor can operate in a more controlled and efficient manner. The storage capacity of the receiver enables the compressor to run in load/unload cycles, reducing wear and tear while optimising its performance.

Cost Savings

As air receivers help you improve the efficiency of your compressed air systems and reduce energy usage, they can help you minimise your operating costs.

Extended Equipment Lifespan

Air receivers act as a buffer between your compressors, and fluctuations in pressure, minimising unnecessary loading and unloading cycles. This not only conserves energy but also helps extend the lifespan of the compressor and associated components, reducing maintenance and replacement costs, as well as business downtime.

Emergency Shutdown Capability

In the event of an emergency or maintenance requirement, the stored compressed air in the receiver can be crucial for safely shutting down production processes and systems.

Improved Condensate Management

Most air receivers allow moisture to settle at the bottom of the tank, making them easy to drain. By giving you the ability to minimise condensation, air receivers can prevent water-related issues, such as corrosion in equipment that uses compressed air.

Flexibility in Air Demand

Air receivers enable you to meet fluctuating demands for compressed air. With a constant supply of stored compressed air, you can easily accommodate short-term peak demands. This maximises the operational efficiency of your workplace, minimises downtime, improves your customer service, and – in turn – bolsters your bottom line.

Enhanced Pressure Control

As air receivers act as a pressure stabiliser, they can keep pressure fluctuations within your compressed air systems to a minimum. This is crucial for applications where consistent pressure is essential for optimal performance and product quality.

Air Receiver Maintenance and Safety Tips

Here’s some crucial advice to help you keep your air receiver and compressed air systems in top shape for as long as possible:

Draining the air receiver tank

If your air compressor doesn’t have a built-in dryer or lacks a draining system, moisture can build up in your air tank. This untreated, wet, compressed air can damage your equipment and compromise the quality of your products. At Anglian Compressors, we recommend draining your air receiver daily, though you might have to drain it numerous times per day depending on how frequently you use it. You might want to invest in a time drain, float drain or electronic drain valve, to make the task easier.

Choosing the correct pressure

The pressure in your tank should align with the output pressure of your compressor. For instance, if your fixed-speed compressor delivers a maximum of 125 psig (8 bar), the air receiver should be rated at a minimum of 150 psig (10 bar). Variable speed drive (VSD) compressors, typically rated up to 175 psig (12 bar), may require a 200 psig (14 bar) air receiver.

Every air receiver needs a pressure relief valve, to release at a given pressure. It’s essential to note that having higher pressure doesn’t result in more airflow; in reality, higher pressure leads to a decrease in flow. Knowing the minimum and maximum pressure settings for machines using compressed air is vital. Use pressure regulators either outside the air receiver, or where the air is being used.

Need Help Selecting an Air Receiver? Contact Our Experts

At Anglian Compressors, we’ve been one of the UK’s leading suppliers and installers of air compressors and receivers for decades, and we’ve been a premier distributor for Atlas Copco since 1977. If you need help choosing the most suitable air receiver for your compressed air systems, don’t hesitate to give us a call for advice and a no-obligation quote.

If you’d like, we’ll be more than happy to send a knowledgeable compressed air professional to your site so that we can recommend a solution based on your unique requirements. Contact us today, and we’ll gladly provide more information.