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How Does an Air Compressor Safety Valve Work

Complying to the ASME relief valve standard, these valves are adjusted to achieve their full discharge capacity when the system pressure hovers within a 10% margin above the predetermined set pressure.
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    In the world of air compressors, ensuring safe and efficient operation is critical. At the heart of this safety framework lies a simple yet crucial component – the air compressor safety valve also known as pressure relief valve. This key safety device plays a crucial role in preventing overpressure incidents that could compromise both equipment and safety. Picture this: when the system pressure surpasses set pressure limits, the safety valve rapidly swings into action, automatically opening to release excess air until the pressure reduces to normal level. In this exploration, we dive into the workings of the air compressor safety valve, explaining its mechanisms and its vital role in diverse industrial settings. Join THINKTANK as we uncover the key aspects of how these valves operate, safeguarding not just machinery but also the integrity of operational environments.

    in situ testing principle of spring operated safety valves
    in situ testing principle of spring operated safety valves

    The Basics of Air Compressor Safety Valves

    In the world of air compressor systems, air compressor safety valve embody simplicity in their design, functioning as spring-loaded mechanisms that automatically respond to heightened pressure conditions. As the system pressure escalates beyond the preset limit, the valve disc rapidly lifts from its seat, facilitating the controlled release of compressed air into the atmosphere. Complying to the ASME relief valve standard, these valves are adjusted to achieve their full discharge capacity when the system pressure hovers within a 10% margin above the predetermined set pressure. Crucially, they exhibit a full shutoff capability when the system pressure dips below 90% of the set pressure value, aligning with strict safety measures.  

    typical opening characteristics of a spring operated srv
    typical opening characteristics of a spring operated srv

    Precision Mechanism of Action

    An air compressor safety valves or pressure relief valves prevent excessive pressure buildup to ensure the safety of an air compressor system. Here’s how it works:

    different type of relief valves
    different type of relief valves

    1. Basic Functionality

    The primary function of a safety valve in an air compressor is to automatically release air if the pressure within the compressor tank exceeds a predetermined safe level. This helps prevent potential risk such as tank rupture or compressor failure due to overpressure.

    pressure relief valve and control valves
    pressure relief valve and control valves

    2. Set Pressure

    Each safety valve is designed to open at a specific pressure known as the “set pressure.” This is the maximum pressure that the air compressor is designed to handle safely. The set pressure of the valve is typically a little higher than the maximum operating pressure of the compressor.

    piston pilot operated safety vavle
    piston pilot operated safety valve

    3. Spring-Loaded Design

    Most air compressor safety valves are spring-loaded. A spring inside the valve is calibrated to provide a force that keeps the valve closed under normal operating pressures. The force exerted by the spring is balanced against the pressure of the air inside the compressor tank.

    conventional type safety valves
    conventional type safety valves

    4. Pressure Exceeds Set Point

    When the air pressure in the tank exceeds the set pressure of the valve, the force exerted by the pressurized air overcomes the force of the spring. This causes the valve to open, allowing excess air to escape. The released air decreases the pressure inside the tank.

    5. Automatic Reclosing

    Once the pressure in the tank drops back below the set pressure, the spring force pushes the valve back into its seat, sealing it closed. This automatic reclosing ensures that the air compressor can continue normal operation without manual intervention, provided the overpressure condition has been resolved.

    6. Venting Air

    When the valve opens, it releases air in a rapid, often audible burst. This venting of air not only reduces the pressure but also serves as an audible warning that the system has reached or exceeded its maximum safe pressure.

    7. Regular Testing and Maintenance

    Safety valves should be tested regularly to ensure they open at the correct set pressure and reseal properly. Over time, valves can become stuck or corroded, which may hinder their operation.

    safety valves supplier
    safety valves supplier

    Common Causes of Overpressure in Air Compressor Systems

    A. Factors Leading to Overpressure

    • Inadequate system maintenance, including irregular checks on drain valve and air tank
    • Fluctuations in demand and usage, influenced by the efficiency of pressure switch
    • Malfunctioning pressure regulators causing unintended spikes
    • Accidental valve closures impacting pressure levels
    • Improper installation of components, including air tanks and pressure switches

    B. Role of Safety Valves in Mitigating Overpressure

    • Automatic pressure relief mechanism, safeguarding against drain valve failures
    • Quick response to sudden pressure spikes detected by pressure switches
    • Prevents damage to compressor components, including air tanks
    • Safeguards against potential system failures, especially in the absence of functioning pressure switches
    • Ensures optimal performance and longevity, with regular checks on drain valves, air tanks, and pressure switches
    general design of a spring operated srv
    general design of a spring operated srv


    In summary, the air compressor safety relief valve stands as a crucial safety measure, automatically releasing excess pressure to safeguard against potential equipment damage or accidents caused by overpressure. This crucial component plays a pivotal role in maintaining optimal system functionality and ensuring a secure operational environment. Regular maintenance checks on associated elements like drain valves, air tanks, and pressure switches contribute to the longevity and reliability of the safety relief valve, promoting an efficient and safe air compressor system.

    Picture of Will Don

    Will Don

    After earning my bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Zhejiang Normal University in 2008, l was fortunate enough to begin my career with Siemens, Fisher, and YTC, focusing on control valve accessories. Over the past dozen years, l've poured my heart and energy into understanding technology and fluid solutions for control valves.
    Now, as the marketing director for THINKTANK, a trusted branch of the Taiwan STONE valve group, I can't help butf eel proud of how far we've come. Our knowledge isn't just reaching professionals like engineer and valve distributors; it's also inspiring the next generation of automation college students.
    l genuinely hope you're enjoying our articles and finding them helpful.Your thoughts, questions, and feedback mean the world to me, so please don't hesitate to reach out to marketing[at] Whether you're a seasoned expert or just curious about the field, I'm here to connect, share, and learn together.

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    I am the author of this article, and also the CEO and marketing director of THINKTANK, with 15 years of experience in the industrial valve industry. If you have any questions, you can contact me at any time.

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