View Full Version : Animatronics and air compressor questions

11-24-2009, 05:36 PM
Hey everyone,

I wanted to get some info from you guys who use many animations in your haunt. Do you typically use large compressors like 60 gallon ones in on location and run line to the animations all around your show? Or do you use a smaller compressor for each animation? Would love to hear you how you guys do it with the big shows and tons of animations.

Thank you all!


11-24-2009, 05:42 PM
We use 3 80 gallon compressors in one location and 11 resivoir tanks put by various animations that require more air. Air is piped thru manifolds to diffrent locations around the haunts and dispersed from there.

11-24-2009, 05:48 PM

Thanks for the info. So where do you buy 80 gallon tanks, and what exactly do you mean by manifold, is that some sort of tubing? Sorry, I'm inexperienced doing this stuff...


Allen H
11-24-2009, 05:54 PM
We use a similar set up at SCREAMS. for our manifold we use PVC pipe (High pressure) that runs the air pretty close to the animation and an airline runs from there. Each house has two 60 gallon or so compressors. We also have air tanks near the animations that require more air.
Allen H

11-24-2009, 05:57 PM
Sounds interesting. Any pics or sources as to what would be needed to do this? Like connectors, manifold tubing sources, appropriate type air line for doing this, etc. Do you guys keep the compressors in a corner so they are not as loud blocked off?


Jim Warfield
11-24-2009, 06:17 PM
except in the fall I only run one 30 gallon compressor because as I take people through the house only one display activates at a time and there is usually plenty of time between actuations for the compressor to re-establish the needed air pressure.
I have 1/2" galvenised steel pipe in the house for air lines and when I bought it pipe and fittings Menards sold me a Chinese product that would not seal because the taper on the pipes was non-existant so the fittings would not really tighten the way necesarry to seal like they are supposed to do no matter what kind of pipe thread I used or how tightly I pulled the wrenches.
Eventually they sealed via a crud build-up..nice!
I installed numerous "T"s in the line as traps for water and crud and I open them to flush out the lines to keep moisture from the controls for the displays and this has worked very well over the years.
Use at least a 6" long nipple straight down from the "T" to give the water and any crud a place to accumulate before you drain it. Screw a cap or a valve on the end of the nipple.
I used automotive quality rubber air hoses to send the air to the further reaches of the backyard and keep a spare on hand for a quick fix if they ever fail (haven't yet in 10? years, open every night 363 nights a year.
I installed my compressor inside a small building to limit it's racket and there is a screen opening above the door to allow air and heat to disperse.
I am installing a second, small air compressor in the backyard to power a new air-hungry display I almost have done.
This compressor will double as sort of an effect when it runs whereas I installed it in my wrecked car"s engine compartment. Go ahead, make all the rattley mechaincal noise you can!
"Listen to that! The old car just came alive!"
This compressor is a pancake design (the air tank) like a roofer might use for his nail gun. I think it was on sale for $100.oo when I bought it.

11-24-2009, 07:23 PM
In the past we used PVC (plastic) tubing but since I heard a nightmare story of a pipe exploding at another haunt and sending peices flying we have changed out to steel.
It cost more but worth the peace of mind to know it wont explode.

You can buy 80 gallon compressors at Lowes, Home Depot and Menards plus many other discount stores.

The size of the tank is not as important as the amount of cfm's it produces. The higher the cfm's the better and more efficient the compressor will be.

More Cfm's = more air = better efficiency = less run time for the same amount of energy.
I hope this helps.

Jim Warfield
11-24-2009, 07:36 PM
There is high pressure pvc. I had no place I knew of then to buy it, the steel pipe was more available to me.
I spent 15 of my adult years in the heating and air conditioning field, doing alot of pipe work.

11-24-2009, 08:16 PM
Everything you ever wanted to know about pneumatics:


The Mad Hatter
11-24-2009, 11:31 PM
At our haunted house we use a screw compressor. this is a $15,000 medical grade compressor. It creates a constant flow of 200 psi, so it does not need a tank. The benefit of this is that it is whisper quiet, delivers and insane amount of air, and is only 3 feet by 3 feet by 4 feet tall. These compressors are built to last forever, and release cooled and clean air. One downside is that it is heavy and takes 2 people to pick up and move. we run one large air hose down the hole haunted house, and have smaller air hose connected to that and goes to each room. we have a few air resivour tanks in rooms where insane amount of air is required.

-Frank Balzer

11-25-2009, 07:55 AM
Very, very helpful thank you. So is there a good brand that seems reliable for compressors that you've used?

And Greg, is there a CFM starting point you recommend when shopping for compressors?



11-25-2009, 12:53 PM
If you arent sure what you are doing, I would seriously recommend you find someone who does and can help you on site. Since most large animatronics in our business run at rather high pressure, any kind of mistake during design and install could have serious consequences. I had a staff member almost knocked out cold when a loose fitting came out at 80 psi and smacked them in the face.

Just a quick summary though...

Standard large belt compressors 60 ~ 80 gallon:
Pros: Lower price, decent cfm, not much maintenance
Cons: High utility cost, could overheat, pressure drops

Screw Compressor:
Pros: Steady supply of air and near constant pressure
Cons: Very very expensive

If you have the money, I'd suggest buying a screw compressor. If you are a small startup haunt, I'd buy 1 or 2 belt driven vertical compressors, depending on your CFM reqs. Just my 2 cents.

11-25-2009, 05:51 PM
DA I PMED you.